AMBER HEARD’S whirlwind journey from TEXAS to TINSELTOWN reads like a riveting Hollywood fairy tale—don’t forget the part where she marries Johnny Depp. Here, the 29-year-old BOMBSHELL reveals the confident and PENSIVE woman behind those COME-HITHER eyes.
If there’s one thing you should know about the actress Amber Heard—and maybe you do already—it’s that she drives a 1968 Mustang.
Well, she doesn’t drive it that often, because she’s regularly on set somewhere far-flung (recently, London for work, though she prefers to sleep in her own bed at home in L.A.) and sometimes it’s in the shop (as it was at the time of our interview). And from time to time she takes out a rental car so she’s not such an obvious paparazzi target, which is something that’s only magnified since she married Johnny Depp earlier this year.
“Classic cars are for me the most interesting things in life,” she explains. “They’re difficult but they’re full of character.
But Heard, 29, is partial to the Mustang, which she had restored, probably in part because it reminds her of growing up in Austin. “Classic cars are for me the most interesting things in life,” she explains. “They’re difficult but they’re full of character. They have their own quirks and problems. You have to have enough guts to wing it. But in order to adequately love and respect them, you have to fight them.”
In a lot of ways, the Mustang is like the gorgeous, freethinking actress herself, who has proven, over her years—from Guess model to the short-lived NBC drama The Playboy Club, to her recent nuptials—that she plays by her own set of rules.
In her teens, after the death of a close friend, she declared herself an atheist, decided she couldn’t twiddle her thumbs in Texas, and moved to New York City to pursue modeling, which eventually led to a small role in the movie Friday Night Lights. Fast-forward a decade later and, of course, she returns home a couple of times a year to see family and ride horses with her dad: “I couldn’t wait to leave when I was young and got out as soon as I could, but as you get older you can appreciate these things a bit more.”
When she was cast opposite Jesse Eisenberg in 2009’s Zombieland, she made director Ruben Fleischer promise that she wouldn’t be a sexy “cleavage zombie,” but a “true zombie” who was both “ugly and gross.” The following year, at a GLAAD event, she announced she was bisexual, and for some time dated female Hawaiian photographer Tasya van Ree. And in February, after a yearlong engagement, Heard married Depp, whom she met while making 2011’s The Rum Diary.
“I’ve never shied away from anything I want to do because it’s difficult,” says Heard. That includes learning how to pirouette and plié for her latest role, as a ballerina in 1920s Copenhagen in Tom Hooper’s new film The Danish Girl. Though many of her dancing scenes have been edited out in service of the movie’s storyline, Heard is still happy she took eight weeks before filming to train.
“It was actually fun, and it helped establish the physicality of the character,” she says. “I’m an actor, not a dancer. My interest is in the performance. There was always talk that those scenes weren’t going to be in the movie, but I wanted to do it regardless.”
In the film, which hits theaters this month, Eddie Redmayne plays the painter Einar Wegener, one of the first gender reassignment surgery patients. Wegener’s wife, Gerda, played by Swedish actress Alicia Vi-kander, struggles with the loneliness and confusion that results from her husband’s desire to switch genders.
When Heard first came across the script, someone told her the project “wasn’t right for me,” she recalls, “so I knew I had to go for it.” Heard plays a dancer named Oola who poses for Gerda Wegener, also an artist, and when she’s late for a sitting, Einar puts on Oola’s shoes and stockings…and the plot thickens.
“I’ve lived under a microscope and I do know what it feels like to be different, and worry that who you really are isn’t going to be accepted.”
“As a woman, I don’t know what I would do if I was married to that man, but I don’t know what I would do if I was Eddie’s character, either. But that’s kind of the point,” says Heard, who was particularly affected by the narrative. “I’ve lived under a microscope and I do know what it feels like to be different, and worry that who you really are isn’t going to be accepted.”
As far as relationships go, “it opened up a whole other can of worms,” she goes on, thinking about “the limits of romantic love. After a certain amount of years of marriage do you automatically become ‘friends’ with your partner?”
That The Danish Girl has just as strong roles for women as it does for its male actors was of additional importance. Women, she explains, “are so grossly under-represented in this medium.” Most parts for actresses, she continues, are relegated to “narrow limited boxes, and you’re either sexually viable or you’re not. But until we start taking up our pens and our cameras and find a way to do it ourselves and prove that the system is outdated, then nothing will change.”
Doesn’t she think her husband, one of Hollywood’s most important power players, could help make changes for women in the movie business? Is that something they talk about?
“Yes,” reveals Heard, choosing her words carefully for fear of divulging too much about their relationship. “I think that it takes people like him who have the ability to change and challenge this very old and tired system. And I think he and I are looking for our own ways to do that. I want to see him get behind the camera and direct.”
Heard says she’s not quite ready to do that herself. For the moment she’s more interested in finding female-driven projects, “stories that don’t demean and demoralize women into these objectified roles, and more adequately represent female life in our minute complications and edges.”
And, alluding most likely to a recent essay by Jennifer Lawrence, who complained about gender pay disparity on American Hustle, Heard adds, “when I make those movies, I will pay women as much as I pay my male actors.”
Until then, you might spot her driving around town in that Mustang, which she refuses to relinquish, no matter how challenging it may sometimes be.
“We’re in a love-hate relationship, but I won’t give up my baby,” Heard says. “I want my freedom.”
Photography by FRANCESCO CARROZZINI.
Written by MARSHALL HEYMAN.
Styling by SAMANTHA McMILLEN.