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NOTE: The following article contains adult language.
Actress Amber Heard greeted the press at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills dressed in a demure ensemble that her Drive Angry 3D alter ego, Piper, probably would never wear. Despite that, Heard readily admitted the tough-as-nails, gun-slinging action heroine isn’t so different from who she is in real life.
“I’m from Texas, so guns and fistfights and muscle cars, it’s all part of the gig,” she said. “And I’m happy to say that I didn’t have to reach too deep to access some of my more rowdy sides.”
Directed by Patrick Lussier, the gloriously gory Drive Angry 3D follows Nicolas Cage as John Milton, a man who escapes from Hell to save his infant granddaughter from a cult leader (Billy Burke). Along the way, Milton meets up with Piper and her ’69 Charger, and the two characters form a tight familial bond as they destroy anything unlucky enough to get in their way.
For Heard, best known for her roles in Pineapple Express and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, the chance to portray Piper was appealing on a number of levels. “I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to play this character because it is such a unique, cool take on what we typically think of as the leading female — the leading lady — in an action movie,” she said. “It’s not the romantic lead. She’s not a damsel in distress. She is a feisty, strong-willed, independent, potty-mouthed, Charger-driving motherfucker.”
Although she dishes out as much destruction as any of her male co-stars, Heard was acutely aware of how vital it was for the audience to connect with her character. In fact, that dichotomy was a big part of why she was eager to tackle the role: “I think that the fact that I have the burden of carrying the heart of the film and the sensitivity of the character, as well as having to throw punches and spit blood — I think that’s a mixture I’m not going to get anywhere else, so I took it!”
The proud owner of a ’68 Mustang, Heard is also an admirer of the American muscle cars so lovingly showcased in the film. When pressed about which of her automotive co-stars she preferred working with, she immediately answered, “You know, I am a fan of the Charger. I know the Chevelle is a classic and a beautiful machine. It’s well-made, but I like the Charger because it’s a little bit more muscle-y.”
The allure of working in an intense 3D action film directed by Lussier, whom Heard referred to as “one of the pioneers of the medium,” was another reason she was excited about the role. “I was interested in doing it, conceptualizing it in 3D — not converting it. That was a pull. And to be a part of that was interesting and certainly drew me to the project even more,” she said, before quipping, “But, they had me at ’69 Charger.”
She noted that the 3D format did subtly change aspects of the actors’ performances. “For me, in this role, I found myself spitting blood into the camera, punching into the lens and doing things that would play into how the audience is going to perceive it — how the audience will participate in viewing it,” Heard said. “And it’s really, to be honest, this is not the kind of movie that you just watch. You don’t just view this movie, you experience it, and I think the 3D element is what makes that possible.”
When the conversation turned to Cage, Heard was enthusiastic in her praise of his work as an actor and as a collaborator. “He’s respectful and sensitive and kind of crazy, but just the right amount of crazy,” she said. “It’s a good mix between Zen and crazy, that’s what I like to describe Nicolas Cage as.”
Watching the film, it’s astonishing how many of the difficult stunts Heard clearly performed herself — about 90 percent of the shots, by her proud estimation: “I have to say that I had my ‘movie moment,’ where I realized how crazy my job is, when I was jumping from the back of an RV filled with satanic cultists onto the hood of a speeding ’69 Charger with no windshield driven by none other than Nicolas Cage, in order to save the world and I realized: I’m making a fucking movie! This is my job. It’s crazy. My job is crazy.”
Drive Angry 3D opens nationwide today.