Interview: Amber Heard On Portraying Chenault in THE RUM DIARY

"She's the kind of girl that will sneak out of a party and go skinny dipping by herself in the ocean. I kind of liked that about my character. She's a rebel. She's a rebel, she just doesn't look like it."

Following on from our Bruce Robinson odyssey, we were given the chance to meet Amber Heard, one of the stars of 'The Rum Diary' (my review HERE). Given that she's just about the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, and we've heard she more than backs that up in terms of grey matter, we just had to go and meet her for ourselves. If only to see whether she truly is some sort of superwoman. Whether she is or not, you can judge for yourselves... Q. What attracted you to the film and how did you get involved? Amber Heard: I did not think about it for too long, let's put it that way. It was a beautiful story, written by one of my favourite authors, told by Bruce Robinson - who's a genius, in my opinion, opposite Johnny Depp - didn't hurt, it was shot in Puerto Rico €“ not a bad thing. I didn't have a long list of cons in this case. I also liked my character. I liked Chenault. I liked the juxtaposition €“ I liked that she looks like this archetype of a leading lady, this 1950s housewife-in-the-making, the kind of iconic symbol of a woman at that time, this commodity or something that represents the elite status or rather, what the elite status strives to obtain in life or what they value in life. She looks like that, superficially and represents all these things very well on the surface, but yet is not that underneath. She's flawed and kind of vulnerable and fiercely independent and rebellious and I relate to a lot of those qualities, and that she's not what she looks like. So I was turned onto the character as well. Q. Are you aware that €“ according to Bruce Robinson €“ you had the part when you walked in the room? AH: No. Damn that Bruce Robinson! I swear. I'm plotting some sort of revenge for that, because it was such a gruelling process they put me through. But I'm charmed, I'm charmed, of course. It's sweet. Q. Bruce gives you a hell of an entrance, coming up through the water. How was that scene to film? AH: It was very difficult to film that scene, actually. It's a very deep, very cold bay that I think the US Navy uses for some sort of practice of some kind. The water is murky on a good day but it was also raining and it was our third attempt to film there because we kept getting rained out, and so you can imagine, the water was just...uncomfortable. Bruce told me that they had a diver down there to kind of ward off any creatures that were dangerous and I said, 'You have *a* diver, like ONE diver?!? What is he going to do if a shark comes?€ Anyway, later, not far after filming that, we were on the boat and we were standing on the edge of the boat smoking and looking on at the bay at night and there were lights hitting the water and we just kept seeing glimpses of these creatures swimming past the boat. I was mortified that I was swimming in there, pretty much naked, just a few nights before that. I said, 'If I had seen what I see now, we would have had to rewrite that scene to something else' because it was not friendly-looking, what was down there... Q. A lot's been made of the fact that this is a story of a young Hunter S. Thompson and it's a tricky territory with such a well-known figure. As a fan of his writing, how do you think Bruce and Johnny approached that and pulled that off? AH: I think what makes this movie so great is that it didn't set out to change the book, it didn't set out to compete with the book, it just meant to augment an already wonderful perspective on life. And I've made movies that were adaptations before and I've been kind of frustrated by the process because, you know that old axiom, 'It's never as good as the book' €“ it's often true because nothing competes with your own imagination. I feel like Bruce did so well because he didn't try and compete with the book, he didn't try and set any new rules €“ there's an innocence and a sweetness to the book and I think he kind of did that while still protecting the absurdity of the subject matter. Q. Bruce talked about you being a metaphor for the American Dream in the film and you talked about emerging from the water like you had to be some kind of vision, so there's a kind of otherworldly quality to your character at the start and you're seen as this almost angelic figure. Does that create a lot of pressure as an actress? AH: No, I mean, I never €“ if I think about it for a moment, the way I'm being perceived by others, on set or off set, then I lose me and that's not something I take with me to work, it's not something I think about on a regular basis, especially if I try to attempt a performance and I'm thinking about how I'm being perceived, then no, to answer your question, it's not something I think about so much. I am aware that the way I look puts me in a certain category and that people tend to categorise me in a certain way based on how I look, but beyond that, no. Q. It was more that Bruce talked about your character as being like a metaphor for something else, that Kemp sees your character a certain way and you're almost the embodiment of the American Dream for him, so it was more about embodying that on screen. AH: That's kind of what I was saying when I said I liked Chenault, my character, because on the surface she looks like epitomises not only the American Dream but the class system, I guess the elite class that owns that dream. I mean, we're kind of seduced by it too in the audience, in the beginning of the movie, we're seduced by the cars and the beautiful music and the women and the beaches and the parties and there's a certain €“ I think €“ a certain seduction that we all kind of fall into at the beginning and the fact that Chenault is very much a part of that system at the beginning. She's the thing that men like Sanderson value in life, just like that car or the jewel-encrusted tortoise, those things that represent a certain system, represent what men like Sanderson strive to achieve and strive to own. She represents that on the surface but is not on the inside, she's the kind of girl that will sneak out of a party and go skinny dipping by herself in the ocean. I kind of liked that about my character. She's a rebel. She's a rebel, she just doesn't look like it. Q. How difficult or easy is it for you to constantly be a character actress in a leading lady's body? AH: It's damn near impossible, because the parts aren't there. We categorise women in one of two ways and if you're seen as beautiful or sexy then your only options in terms of character descriptions are beautiful, sexy, cute €“ and that's it, actually. And that affords you a certain amount of opportunity but that opportunity ultimately leads to a spark, never a flame. In the other category there's so much more to do €“ you can be seen as witty, intelligent, independent, you can be seen as a bitch, you can be seen as vulnerable, you can be seen as smart or funny and we might take you seriously as a politician or as a writer or as whatever as a character actress and you can be all these things, yet you can not be beautiful or sexy. If we see you as sexy, you are out of that category. And because we compartmentalise women and our female characters in that way, it's incredibly limiting. I very much want to be in the latter category where I feel there's opportunity for a flame, a real fire. I want to be able to create characters for as long as I can and I want to tell stories for as long as I can but unfortunately I'm not given those opportunities because I'm often boxed into the former category and I will continue to try and blend the two as best I can. I don't know if I'll be successful, but I'll try. Q. Does that mean that you'd perhaps follow that path of maybe producing your own material? AH: Yes, I'm developing something right now that I don't know if I even will be acting in and it would be wonderful to see this movie come to life, but it will be my third movie to have produced. And yes, that would be great. I think that's the only way to get these good parts for women is to just make them yourself, I guess. Q. Do you have a favourite scene in the film? AH: I love the dancing scene. Also, it's my character's fall from grace. The book exposes a little bit more tragic of a... but I think they steered away from that in the movie because they wanted to not take advantage of that moment. I think we get it and we get what happens and that's enough, but I loved the dancing scene. It's her fall from grace. Q. Bruce said he was very sorry he was made to cut the dancing scene in half, but was there anything else that was cut out that you were sorry to see go? AH: Oh, really? You know, I haven't seen the latest edition of the movie. But we had so many €“ I mean I was making this movie at one point and I'm in the car with Johnny Depp, in this '58 Corvette convertible, driving up the coast of Puerto Rico on a beautiful summer day and we were listening to the radio and driving ourselves €“ we weren't on a picture car, we were just driving - and I thought, 'No matter how this comes out, this is great, I like this scene.€ Q. Did you get behind the wheel? Because I remember you terrorised the stunt man on 'Drive Angry'... AH: Yeah, I did not. They did not let me anywhere near the steering wheel of that car. And that's probably a good thing €“ I would have done significant damage to it. Q. Are there any actresses who careers inspire you for the future, particularly in light of the 'category switching' you talked about? AH: I think part of my frustration is that there is one, really two references that people always fall back on. I don't even need to say these women's names €“ you know them. Charlize Theron in 'Monster' and Halle Berry in 'Monster's Ball'. But both of them had to abandon the characteristics in category one in order to be appreciated for the character actresses that they are and had always been. 'Monster' did not make Charlize Theron a great actress €“ she's been one, it's just no parts allowed her the opportunity to showcase it. I think that's a perfect example of the frustrating reality that I work in. They both had to take all sex appeal away from their characters in order to be respected and seen in a serious light and that's frustrating. Q. Is there any sense that that might be beginning to change? People point to Kathryn Bigelow winning the Oscar and the success of female-driven films like 'Bridesmaids', which came from Kristen Wiig, and even 'The Help' this year. AH: I'm so optimistic €“ I went and saw that movie €“ 'Bridesmaids' €“ I went and saw it twice and bought my ticket and went with all my friends to show support for a project that I am so glad did well. But we still make up like one, maybe two percent of the directors and until we make up a bigger or I guess a more significant majority or proportion of the film-makers or until we have a larger stake in the perspective makers, then we won't accurately accomplish that representation. Amber Heard can be seen in 'The Rum Diary', which is out in the UK and the US now.
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