Drive Angry 3D – Amber Heard interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
AMBER Heard talks about playing an ass-kicking girl with a heart alongside Nicolas Cage in Drive Angry 3D and why her ability behind the wheel of a car even terrified one of the film’s stunt-men.
She also talks about her career to date, working her way up from the bottom, and why a series about the Playboy clubs of the ‘60s is next for her.
Q. What was the appeal of playing Piper in Drive Angry?
Amber Heard: Well, what’s not to like? Piper is… I like to describe her as a small town diner waitress with a bad attitude and a heart of gold [laughs]. She is this badass, cowboy boot wearing, Daisy Duke sporting, Charger driving, pistol-packing mother-f**ker who takes no shit from anybody. She’s strong-willed, independent and a fiercely tough girl. I never read a character like this. It’s truly unique to even find a character in a movie like this, so for a woman like myself it’s a rarity that I just could not pass up. I think it took me all of one scene of hers to realise I was going to do this movie. Todd Farmer, the writer, wrote such a brilliant character I could not resist.
Q. You’re much more than a damsel-in-distress. I mean you get to kick some serious ass and drive cars…
Amber Heard: It’s another reason why I like it so much. She’s no damsel-in-distress. She doesn’t piggy back on the male characters. She’s not there to support him [Nicolas Cage] or develop his character. She’s her own. In fact, I save Nic more than he saves me. And yet I still got to carry the heart of the movie. I still get to be sensitive and I still get to be the woman of the film. So, I’m the heart of the movie and I get to kick ass, and that was special.
Q. It’s a good relationship that you have with Nic Cage as well. I mean, he becomes more paternal towards you rather than going down the traditional route of making you the love interest…
Amber Heard: It is paternal… it’s sensitive and sweet and it’s almost stronger than a romantic relationship, which is more expected. The movie could have been a male-driven movie for the male audience only, but I think women will really like it too, and will be drawn to it, because of the female character, because Piper is a girl that any girl would want to watch.
Q. I gather you’re pretty handy behind the wheel of a car?
Amber Heard: Yeah, I love my cars. I am a hot rod gal.
Q. Did you get to do a lot of driving on the set?
Amber Heard: I did. They did a little stunt training with me, where I got to go off to a parking lot and officially learn how to do all the stuff that you’re not supposed to learn to do. I did fish-tailing and spinning and all this stuff. But they quickly realised that I didn’t need help learning to do that… I had it pretty much covered.
Q. Didn’t you take the stuntman for a ride at one point and then get told not to do it again?
Amber Heard: [Laughs] I did. I scared the shit out of him. Everyone teased him afterwards. He’s a very well known, very respected stunt co-ordinator. He did the stunts for Gone in 60 Seconds, his name is Johnny Martin, and he’s the best of the best, and I took him out for a spin and people teased him forever afterwards because they say his face was up against the glass of the passenger window like [gestures fear and shock]. He spent the whole time screaming and people were cracking up.
Q. What did you do?
Amber Heard: I just showed him what I could do. I took him for a little spin.
Q. So, what was the toughest stunt you performed?
Amber Heard: Physically, when the cultists carry me out of the church kicking and screaming I was really kicking and screaming. I went up to Patrick [Lussier, director] on the day we were filming and I said: “It’s written that they just kind of carry me out. But what if I really make it hard for them to carry me out and really put up a fight?” He said: “Go for it!” So, I checked: “Should we run this by the stunt guys?” But I don’t think we did. I think they just got surprised.
Q. Did you kick any of them accidentally?
Amber Heard: I did! I kicked several of them by accident and hit them. But they were OK, they’re tough guys. They took it just fine. But it took all of them to hold me down because I was really kicking and screaming. But after you do that a couple of times, it is exhausting being a cultist victim. We must have done 20 takes because you have to get it from all these different angles. So, by the end I was so bruised up – I had bruises all over my ribs and arms and I was so exhausted. But there’s something to be said for that.
Q. Did you have to shoot some of the action scenes differently because of the 3D – because this was shot in 3D as opposed to being converted, wasn’t it?
Amber Heard: Well, only when we were trying to play into the 3D element. This is a film that doesn’t try to pretend it’s not 3D. We are exploiting the third dimension. We love it and it’s all a part of the experience of watching this movie. But that was cool for us as actors because we got to actively participate in how it was going to be viewed. So, for the first time you’re on set and you actually thinking: “Well, how is this going to be taken in the audience?” And that’s something actors tend to try not to think about. For me, for instance, I spit blood into the camera or I would throw a punch into the lens… you know, girly stuff like that! And I would be doing these things so that people in the fourth row of the audience would feel the effect of it – whether dodging the bullets or blink.
Q. How was hanging out with people like Nic Cage and William Fichtner on set?
Amber Heard: William is the biggest surprise for me of this movie. He’s so talented and so wonderful and he did so much with his character [The Accountant]. I just couldn’t have even expected it. You could not write this the way he did it. He did such an amazing job. Nic is a phenomenal actor and a wonderful person and it takes you all of one day to realise why he is the legend that he is. It becomes apparent in one second why he is the king of this genre because he’s so good at it. He brings this undescribe-able element to this hero of action films… the hero character. He brings something so different to that role. You don’t need these chiselled arms, or this weird kind of good looking hero kind of guy – not that he isn’t. But he’s so much more. I like to say that he’s the perfect mix of zen and crazy.
Q. And how was it to see the crazy in person?
Amber Heard: It’s crazy. But it’s fun. I mean, we don’t take ourselves seriously and this movie certainly doesn’t take itself seriously. So, it lends itself to being really enjoyed – both on set and off it. We had a great time.
Q. How do you go about picking your projects? Is it story first or sometimes the chance to get to work with people you admire?
Amber Heard: For the most part I pick movies based on the merit of the script, and the merit of the script only. Ultimately, that’s why I’m here – I want to tell stories. But you can see that in my movies – some have been hits and some have been great but have never seen the light of day, such as All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. You know, through the things that I’ve done it’s apparent in my career it’s apparent that I’ve chosen them based on the project and not on how popular I think I’ll get off of it, or how big it will be and how much money it will make me. I’ve kind of stayed true to why I got into this job.
Q. How much do you learn from being on a set with someone like John Carpenter [who you recently worked for on The Ward]?
Amber Heard: You know, every time I do a movie I’m doing it because it’s a step up from the last one, or it offers me something else that I didn’t have in the ones previous. I didn’t know anybody when I got into this industry, I came into it when I was 17 as an extra and I’ve had to work my way up from the bottom, from the very bottom. I’ve had no help, no contacts, no money and just had to really work. So, every step, every movie I’ve done has been along that trajectory. It’s been an honest one and one that I’ve had to work my ass off to get to. Each one is a learning process.
In terms of John Carpenter, I wanted to work with the master of horror. I find myself in the horror genre a lot. So, I thought that if I’m going to do this I might as well work with the best of the best. We had a lot of fun working together. I was really honoured to work with him… or that’s what it felt like. But I don’t think I told him that! I had to play it cool.
Q. Finally, are you doing the Playboys pilot?
Amber Heard: I am. I start filming the pilot in late March, I think.
Q. What can we expect from that?
Amber Heard: Oh, it’s so cool. It’s like The Sopranos meets Mad Men meets Moulin Rouge. It’s got a musical element that could only take place in the ‘60s where the best music of all-time was made. And it has all the elements of the ‘60s that are so famous to us today. You know, women’s lib and the civil rights movement and all these other elements play into a very, very rich and textured crime drama centred around the Playboy clubs of the 1960s.