Amber Heard interview: Drive Angry 3D, Nicolas Cage, John Carpenter, The Rum Diary and strong female roles in horror

Amber Heard natters to us about Drive Angry 3D, working with John Carpenter, The Rum Diary, and the legend that is The Cage...

Amber Heard’s beauty is a known quantity, yet, piece by piece, she’s moving herself into a position of strength in Hollywood, due to her seemingly smart choice of roles and her dtermination to avoid being pigeonholed. By her own admission, she’s keen to add more depth to the characters she plays, to help dispel the stereotypical portrayal of a pretty blonde, adding independence and empowerment where she can, an ambition that few of her peers can lay claim to, sadly.

It can be difficult sometimes to work out in advance how passionate an actor is about any given role, or film, so I was absolutely thrilled that Ms Heard beat me to one of my own questions, which was an attempt to see how much she championed the much maligned horror genre. Especially as she’s had roles as the titular star of contemporary slasher All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, a cameo in Zombieland, as well as being in The Stepfather remake and, more importantly, working with geek hero John Carpenter on this year’s The Ward.

In town to promote Drive Angry 3D, we caught up with her towards the end of the day. Yet, she was still full of enthusiasm, dropping some interesting points about her own interests and views, leaving us full of even more questions about her relationship to horror and how she intends to shape her future career. Here’s hoping she can follow in the contemporary footsteps of someone like Angelina Jolie, who is able to flick between genres with ease and strength.

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What was it that attracted you to your character, Piper, in Drive Angry? Because I’ve been keeping track of your career since All The Boys Love Mandy Lane and it does seem like you’re picking stronger roles quite carefully.

Thank you. Well, in my career I’ve tried my best and ultimately sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve tried my very hardest to pick roles based on the merit of the character, based on the merit of the script and the story I wanted to tell. I’ve always picked to be part of a movie because I wanted to be that character and I wanted to tell that story.

I haven’t picked a movie because I thought it would be big, or make me popular, or give me a lot of fans and because of that, I’ve had a lot of small movies, lot of indies, lots of small parts that wouldn’t be seen, or won’t be seen by a lot of people. But I’ve made the story I wanted to tell.

And this movie had it all. It had a truly bad ass, strong, female character. It had great a great writer, a wonderful writer, Todd Farmer and [he and] Patrick Lussier, the director, had done a 3D movie before, so I was working with someone I could trust and a writer that was wonderful, opposite Nic Cage, who I’ve been a fan of forever.

So, I had all of these elements and I had a story that could be told and people would probably go and see. So, I had it all.

The icing on the cake is that I [laughs] get to wear a pair of cowboy boots and drive a 69 Charger and every single word out of my mouth, basically, is a cuss word. [laughs] And I get to do it all while saving the world with Nic Cage. I had everything I wanted in this one. It’s kind of raised the bar for me. It’s gonna be difficult to get the next one. [laughs]

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And was the physicality of it appealing?  I remember you in Never Back Down [she looks slightly ashamed and grimaces, to show she knows it wasn’t her finest hour] and wondered if you’d ever wanted to be a part of the action?

Yeah, I mean, I never really wanted to be a part of that action. It just seemed a little- MMA fighting is something I can’t relate to. But this is different. This is fistfights. This is bar brawling, and I grew up in Texas and fistfights and muscle cars were part of the gig! So, for me, it was easy to tap into that place, wear the Daisy Dukes and have a potty mouth. I’m fine!

And I love Piper, because she’s just this like unbelievably independent, feisty, strong willed young woman, who is a character unto herself. She doesn’t need to hitch a ride on the male character for support, or for development of her character. She doesn’t need to kiss somebody. She doesn’t need to make out with anyone. She doesn’t need to wear a bathing suit!

And the fact that she does this whole thing in Daisy Dukes is all the better, because she is this bad ass chick.

Absolutely. I interviewed William Fichtner the other week, who seemed like a lovely man.

I love him.

When he switches on that intensity, was that intimidating in any way?

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Yeah! Y’know he gets very intense on set, but I think he’s a wonderful man and we got to spend some time together and I think he’s so talented. He was the biggest surprise for me in the movie. When I watched the movie I had no idea, really, what he was bringing. It’s just an element that is so not obvious.

It’s almost easy to overlook when you’re on set and you’re participating and you’re busy with your own lines and own reactions. But he’s brilliant in the movie. I mean, he did something with the character that I could’ve never expected, could never have been written. He was so wonderful in that part. He was the biggest – He’s one of my favourite parts of the whole movie.

I, like you, am a big Nicolas Cage fan.  How was that as an experience?

I loved working with him. It took me all of one day to find out why he is the star, the legend that he is. You find out quickly and he’s a real pro, so prepared, so lovely to be around, y’know? He doesn’t have to be, but he’s a great person.

I like to describe him as a mix between crazy and zen. [I laugh at her accuracy and point out what a great analogy that is of Cage.] It’s something. But he brings it. He adds something to these normal, typical hero roles that no one else could bring, because he has a perfect mix of those two elements that works so well.

And did you draw from him as an actor?

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I think part of my job, as an actor, is to respond to the other characters and the way they are and I think I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t affected by him!

I just saw The Ward the other week.

Oh, yeah!

And being a big horror fan, I’ve noticed that seemingly every other role you have is in that genre.

Yeah, I can’t help it!

Are you a horror fan?

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Yeah, I’m a horror fan, but I also like making horror films. They’re a lot of fun to make. You get to have a lot of freedom and often with a supernatural element, or there’s-  There’s often a lot of leeway and a lot of creative liberties that you can take in a horror film. And they lend themselves to great female roles, and in an industry where there are no female roles to really sink your teeth into, horror offers that.

That’s fantastic to hear you say, as, being a horror fan for years, that was one of my questions. That horror, I think, is often overlooked as a genre, because people associate it with the cliché of a girl running away from a killer, screaming. But when you actually look at horror properly, especially in something like A Nightmare On Elm Street and others, it’s where a lot of strong female characters are based.

Yeah! I mean that’s why I wanted to work with John Carpenter. I felt like he knew how to direct strong women and didn’t take from their strength. Jamie Lee Curtis. I mean, perfect example of John letting a strong woman be a strong woman and lead his movie.

John let me lead that movie, The Ward. He trusted me to do that. He didn’t need a male to overshadow me, or babysit me, or let me piggyback on his-  He was not afraid of a real woman, or strength in a woman and whether the movie turned out – It doesn’t matter how it turned out. I got to play the character I wanted to play and tell the story I wanted to tell and I did with somebody, John, who’s a [Amber and I in unison] legend.

And how did you come to be involved? Did you he pick you, or did you audition?

No, I didn’t audition. He asked me to be in the movie and I met with him and I did a lot of research on him. I was already familiar with his work, as a horror fan. I could’ve called myself a fan of his, but I wouldn’t tell him that!

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But we met and I was excited by my character, Kristen, having something to do in that movie and that always gets me, if I have something to do.

Just a last quick couple of things. There’s been rumours of Con Air 2 by the director and it occurred to me, as more of a suggestion than anything, that it would be ripe for a strong female role. And as you’ve worked with Nicolas Cage, and his daughter in the first film would probably be about your age now-

I like how you think!

It was more of heads up.

Thank you!

Would that appeal?

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Yeah! Maybe.  Maybe Yeah! I’ll say this: I will work with Nic Cage any day.

Awesome. One last quick question. On your next project, you’re working with Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhart. Can you talk about it at all?

Yes, it’s called The Rum Diary. It’s based off the novel of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson and Bruce Robinson is the director and he did Withnail & I. He’s an artist, a legend unto himself. I think he’s a brilliant artist and a fantastic director and I was excited to work with him. I also felt like the integrity of the original material would be protected in his hands.

Johnny Depp is the perfect and only person who I would trust with Hunter S. Thompson’s work. And as a friend, as a personal – somebody who has a personal and intimate connection with Hunter S. Thompson, I felt like Johnny Depp was the only person to do this movie and I was literally just honoured. Honoured to be a part of that story and be chosen by people who really, really know the material and really know the human behind it.

Amber Heard, thank you very much, indeed!

Drive Angry 3D is on general release now.

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