Amber Heard: Pretty Girl Makes Good
Words: Robert Brink / Missbehave March 2008
Actress Amber Heard is hot. She's also agnostic, fascinated by the death penalty, equally into bowling and libraries, and is going to be a star.
"I need to look at your wardrobe on Xanax," twitters 21-year-old actress Amber Heard as she approaches the stylist and his racks of clothes, before effusively hugging him. She eagerly fingers a bubblegum pink pair of patent leather shoes. "I love a man with a great pair of heels," she remarks and moves on to ogle other fineries. Heard has bed head, and from the looks of her, you'd swear it was about 8 AM on New Year's Day. But we're all smiling—about eight of us, as she grabs a coffee and perches on a stool. "I love my gays!" Heard squeals while gesturing to the room. She bobs her head in time to the tugs of one of the aforementioned homosexuals. He's pulling insistently on the matted knots while another commandeers her feet for a pedicure. Yet another grooms her brows and with every third pluck, her eyes spring tears but so goes the strife of a budding starlet.
Austin-born Amber Heard is suitably ecstatic. 2008 is looking exciting with three movies coming out in 2008, starting with Never Back Down with the Oscar nominated Djimon Honsou, then Pineapple Express with Seth Rogen, then The Informers, the Bret Easton Ellis movie with Winona Ryder. The actress' star is rising which not more than three years ago seemed impossible to everyone in the Lone Star state. Her family was adamantly against her pursuit, citing odds, probabilities and the cost of mistakes so the bullheaded actress skipped town and just left for L.A. She hasn't looked back.
Today, on her first cover shoot, Heard happily basks in the attention and in a coyly exaggerated Texas accent regales them with stories of going to the shooting range with her dad and again apologizes to her beauty swat team for her hair. They, however, are far more interested in exalting her soon to be "it girl" status, and that she was the "belle of the ball" at a recent fashion party. It was among this melee that we conducted our interview and by the time it ended, she was changed from the undeniably beautiful but tired Amber to the scorching hot version you're about to see in these photos. Maybe it's cause I'm a guy but if you'd undergone this transformation, dude, you'd love your gays, too.
You transitioned from modeling to acting, how did you make the leap?
My father persuaded me to take classes, and my first agent in Austin paid for them. I'd always wanted to be an actress. I did it in high school and fell in love with it, but I was distracted by the modeling industry because I wanted to travel and get out of my hometown. It was the easier ticket.
Friday Night Lights was your first movie; it must have been comforting that it was a football movie based in Texas.
Yes, there was an honesty to the character that made it easier for me to connect with. But after I did that I was ready to get the hell out. [Laughs]
Did you always want to move to Hollywood?
Not specifically Los Angeles. I love Texas and my hometown, but a lot of the reason I do this job is because I want to travel—do what I love, but travel.
Did the prospect of leaving high school to pursue acting scare you at all?
It's not scary at all. In retrospect, I think, "God I don't know how I did that." But now that I'm mature—well more mature [laughs]—I know how silly it must have sounded to everyone else. But at the time, the more people kept telling me not to do it, and that I should be scared, the less I cared. I just did it. It was the right time, and I knew I wasn't making a mistake. Turns out I was right.
Wow, you say that so decisively.
Well, I headed out to L.A. during Friday Night Lights and met with an agent that I'm still with. I told my parents I was leaving the day before I got on the plane. I left the next morning and haven't looked back once.
That's pretty ballsy. You moved your sister out here afterwards, too didn't you?
I made sure she graduated high school, then I put her on a plane, moved her, and put her in school. I'd been in L.A. about two years and felt there were more opportunities out here—not just in acting. You have access to so much more in a city like Los Angeles. Austin, on the other hand, it's felt like the place that people go to when they're comfortable and settled. To be honest, I care for my sister more than anybody else on this planet. I wanted her with me for selfish reasons also.
Do you get to spend time with her given your schedule?
I'm always working and traveling. When I'm not traveling I'm working and when I'm not working, I'm traveling. I just immersed myself in the job. And then I don't stop working, ever. I love it. If I do get some free time, I am an avid reader. I read all the time.
What are you reading right now?
A really great book by Christopher Hitchens called The Portable Atheist, US News about some discoveries on some secrets of Christianity, and a book about Pakistan.
I saw your profile on the website "Friendly Atheist." So, that's your thing huh? I mean, that you're um… practicing atheism?
Ha. Yeah, that's a great oxymoron. No, I'm not a practicing atheist. I'm a practicing human and I know how that sounds but I'm learning everything I can about being human. I was raised in a strict Catholic environment but the only thing I feel comfortable saying that I know is that I can't know. I will never prescribe to an organization that claims to tell me how to do anything. I'm not anti "higher power" so you could call me agnostic. Whatever, call me anything but I will never be a "religious" person.
There was an open letter on the site asking you to be the Atheist spokeswoman. Pretty goddamn funny.
You have to love the irony—an organization based on the belief system of telling you not to believe in any organization based on belief systems...
Do you think if you weren't raised in that crazy Catholic environment you'd feel the same? Anyone I know that grew up Catholic is so against it now.
I'd like to thank the way I was raised for giving me enough knowledge about organized religion to make the adult decision to live the rest of my life without it. I don't think you can believe or not believe in anything unless you know a lot about it. I know Christianity, especially Catholicism, like the back of my hand. And my education has given me the freedom to know that it is completely absurd for me to believe it.
Since you're not walking with Jesus, who do you hang out with out here? True friends, industry acquaintances, or do you have trouble mixing work with a social life? Amber, do you play well with others?
I've lived here for like three-and-a-half years—maybe longer, and [laughs] I don't really have many friends. I don't have time to make a bunch of fair-weather friends. I'd rather have a few great friends than a bunch of people that I call "friends." It's a pretty popular practice in L.A.
Do you want to be famous?
It's my goal as an actress to have a performance that the audience likes. And I imagine that if I become "popular" or "famous," or whatever you want to call it, that it's partly because people enjoy the work that I do. But a lot of times when people become famous there's too much other bullshit that goes with it and sadly it pulls them off track. We all know who these people are—girls, especially young ones. I don't want to be those people.
How hard is it not to be?
It's hard. You have a lot of opportunities to stray away from your career. It's easy to get distracted in a place like L.A. This is an industry for distraction.
Does it bother you to read about yourself?
No. I'm an actress. I've chosen roles because I appreciate that they're a written character and unlike myself. I choose and take on roles that are nothing like me so there is nothing a stranger could say about me that I would take seriously.
But that's not how things work these days, especially with tabloids and TMZ and all that. They're not talking about your performance they're talking about you.
Again, if I'm going into this line of work, there's a certain part of me that I'm ready to give and show the world. The things that I want to keep private—and I do have a private life—I will try to make it so that no one will write about it.
What role has presented the largest challenge?
I did a movie called All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and it's as far from myself as you can get. It takes focus, concentration, and understanding to prepare for taking on someone else's life that's nothing like you. My character Christie in The Informers is completely different from how I really am, too.
I read somewhere you once had to drop 25 pounds for a role. Has that been one of the most physically grueling things you've had to do for work?
It's my job. I'm happy to change how I look, whether it's my hair or my weight, for my characters. I hate to diet, but you have to take on the character properly.
You have to be strong and very careful. This industry is based on rejection. Build thick skin—it's important. I guess it's important no matter what industry you're in, but especially this one.
So now you're the "hot girl."
I get pigeonholed into a look or character. Now all I want is to escape that. I want to do ugly or hard-to-swallow roles because it's always more interesting. Everything is based on looks. I hate that everyone is so jaded and cynical that people think you can understand someone based on how they look.
Mandy Lane has been completed and gotten rave reviews at film festivals, but is only just being released. How frustrating was that?
It's hard. It's like you've worked on a project or a painting that even you can't see.
Does that dissuade you from selecting larger roles in smaller movies like The Beautiful Ordinary versus smaller roles in larger films?
If all of small, independent, art house, low budget—but artistically fulfilling— movies were all the best ones, then, that's all I would do for the rest of my life. And I would be poor. But it's whatever script that I most connect with at that time.
How did you end up getting the role in The Informers?
I read the script and halfway through I called my "representatives" and said "Yeah, this might be a go." By the time I'd finished it, I was 100 percent on board. People were nervous for me because the movie is so strong and based on a book that was hard to swallow for a lot of people. But I loved the story and nothing could've stopped me from doing it.
Yeah, people have problems with Bret Easton Ellis. He wrote American Psycho, which was banned in Canada. Did you read The Informers?
No. I was told I shouldn't and I've heard the book was more graphic, more intense, more violent, and much darker than the screenplay.
But it's shot so beautifully and it's great. I'm really excited about it.
Let's talk about your comedy.
I'm really excited about Pineapple Express. It was the most fun set I've ever been on.
The Missbehave girls are obsessed with marrying into director Judd Apatow's crew. Burst their bubbles; give us the real dirt on them.
[Laughs]. Like I said, I have a very small group of actual friends. But Seth [Rogen], Judd [Apatow], Jonah [Hill], and Michael [Cera] are every bit as great off screen as they are on. They're amazing. And hilarious. Honestly, they're just all the funniest people I've ever been around.
Is there anyone you fantasize about working with one day?
I got to work with Niki Caro a couple years ago in North Country. That was the one director who before I became an actor I said I would do absolutely anything to work with. I also love Tony Scott. There's so many good directors I can only hope that someday I'll have the opportunity.
How about actors or actresses?
I really appreciate Hillary Swank and Charlize Theron... women who I look up to and admire. Of course I wouldn't mind working next to a couple good looking guys either [laughs].
Ha. So other than acting with hot dudes, why else did you want to be an actress?
Movies are powerful. And these days, they're so effective at getting messages across. People don't read anymore. If I can be in movies and influence people… I can only dream of some day moving people the way I've been moved by film. I just want to do good work and I want to be a good artist. I saw Whale Rider recently and whole movie is brilliant but something about that performance…
Let's do James Lipton rapid fire. Best professional advice you've ever gotten?
Peter Berg, a director and friend said that I was in the position to do what I love and that I just had to go for it. Commit. He said, "Don't listen to anything anybody says and go for it." I think it was the way he said it. But the advice changed my life.
Something about you that people don't know?
My bowling skills. I don't wanna brag or anything but they're crazy.
Reading about religion. I'm fascinated by every religion out there because it's changed the whole world. Religion shapes government and starts wars. I'm obsessed with the non-fiction section of the Beverly Hills Library.
Whoa. I haven't heard the library mentioned in ages.
The day before yesterday, I spent five hours there. Read a little about the death penalty. The Supreme Court has reviewed the constitutionality about lethal injections for the first time since the 1800's or something. So now I'm obsessed with the death penalty. I get into these topics, like that or whatever random thing it is and I spend hours in the library learning about it.
Any kind of alcoholic beverage [laughs]. Um, no, I'm kidding.
Last movie you saw?
Atonement [making suicidal, wrist slitting motions].
I take it you didn't love it?
Hated it. I loved Juno. That was the last movie I will admit to watching. I love that movie. I think it's brilliant and hilarious.
Ha. Last thing you broke?
I'm the biggest klutz in the world. I've never met a more klutzy person. I break anything I touch. Whether its bones or high-heels or cars or things I hit with cars. I'm not kidding. I break everything … or lose it. If it's not lost… well… if it's lost it's probably safe. If I haven't lost it, I've broken it.
Most horrifying or surprising thing you've experienced in Hollywood?
Nothing surprises me in this industry anymore. I don't think I've been surprised since the moment I got to Los Angeles—or after about a week of being there. Hell, I'd love to be surprised.
Last lie you told?
The previous 45 minutes of my life.