Exclusive Interview: Amber Heard - All The Boys Love Mandy Lane
19th Feb 08
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is the dark, 70s styled post-modern slasher that has divided genre audiences since it exploded at Sundance back in 2006. Whatever your opinion on the movie, everyone seems to agree that lead actress Amber Heard gives a stand out performance as the eponymous heroine and has breakout star written all over her.
We caught up with Amber when she was in town recently to promote the UK release of Mandy Lane and she proved to be a delightful interviewee- – a beautiful, straight talking Texan, funny and sharp as a tack. She praised London for it’s ‘beautiful architecture’ and ‘delightful’ inhabitants and bestowed fashion kudos on your interviewer for his choice of ‘sexy’ footwear.
Clearly a lady of taste then. Anyway, read on to find out if all the boys loved Amber at school, the best way to stay in character on set and why Amber thinks modelling is ‘vacuous and horrible’. Warning, this interview inevitably contains spoilers.
EMB: Congratulations on your role as Mandy Lane. How did you get involved in the project?
Amber Heard: Well I had just moved to LA from Texas, and was starting out in my career. I got sent the script and, to be honest, on first glance it didn’t seem like the kind of thing I would necessarily want to kick off my film career with. Generally horror films are not my thing. I do get a lot of those kind of scripts handed to me but I don’t really watch them.
Of course as soon as I read Mandy Lane I just fell in love with the script and the character.
It’s not your average horror film, and it’s a rare opportunity to get offered a part like Mandy – amazingly well written. I met with the director (Jonathan Levine) and we just clicked instantly. His ideas and my ideas about the character connected really well, and I knew it was going to be a powerful collaboration.
Click on the image for the high-res version.
EMB: Speaking of collaboration, one of the films strengths is the way it creates – very quickly – a believable set of teenage characters. But your character stands alone in a way, separate from the rest of the group. How was it maintaining that on the set – keeping the distance, the aloofness?
Amber Heard: It’s difficult on any set because normally you sign up to a film and then get uprooted and relocated to a random place. In the case of Mandy Lane I was lucky because it was shot in my hometown.
You usually become close to the people you work with, especially on set, because it’s such long time, and a small group of people. You all stay at the same hotel and you stick with the same people day and night for the duration of the film. Under normal circumstances that creates a dynamic that is almost like an extended family.
In the case of this film, I chose to be isolated from the rest of the cast, in a social aspect, because I wanted to maintain a sense of genuine disconnect, in the same way that Mandy is disconnected from the other kids
EMB: So you effectively put up a barrier like Mandy does in the movie?
Amber Heard: While we were filming I stayed away yeah. I stayed in my room and didn’t really interact with the cast and crew. . I wanted to stay consistent within the character so I isolated myself as much a possible. I’m good friends with the cast now of course, well the ones I didn’t kill! (laughs)
EMB: When you were given the script to read were you told about the twist upfront?
Amber Heard: No. But in the script there are indications and hints along the way that don’t come across while you’re watching the film.
So I got an indication when I first read it very early on that my character had something distinct going on. It’s more like I could tell something was kind of off - but I liked that!
EMB: You’re never quite sure about Mandy – she has a kind of passive way about her, while still retaining a distance and a power. Was that the attraction - to play a character who is immediately an enigma?
Amber Heard: Absolutely! That was what was so beautiful about the way the character is written. Mandy is so dynamic and it’s very rare to find a character that is both dynamic and a woman - and not clichéd or obvious way. You just never find it in Hollywood films – the female characters are either the girlfriend, the stepping stone character, the pretty girl next door and so on. Its hard to find a really inspiring a deep character who is allowed to be female – and also beautiful.
It was really important for me in interpreting Mandy that I maintained a sense of her being an enigma and not give anything way .The most important thing was to not be obvious in the portrayal and to challenge the preconceptions of the audience.
EMB: Were you drawing on your own experience of high school in any way? Did all the boys love Amber Heard?.
Amber Heard: I didn’t spend much time in high school. I myself was pretty distant when I was there. I had a close group of friends but I left school, literally, to act.
Of course everyone knew the Mandy Lane character – the girl that all the girls want to be like and all the boys want to be with. And everyone can identify with that character regardless of who they were at high school, whether you were the jock or the popular girl or the nerd or whatever, everyone knew that girl.
EMB: There is something about the film that taps into that universal feeling of dread that most of us feel at some point while at high school.
Amber Heard: You do learn very quickly as a woman, as girl in fact, the energy that is put out toward you, especially from men. And you learn very quickly that a lot of that energy can make you very uncomfortable. It’s like the opening scene of the film there is a real sense of discomfort in Mandy, a genuine one, as all the eyes, the gaze is directed exactly at her. She has almost an insecurity about the power she possesses It’s the power that a lot of women in high school possess, that I possessed when I was there. You learn where that power and - as you say dread - exists where it comes from. That first scene pretty much sums that up strange mixture of insecurity and power.
EMB: You modelled as a career before becoming an actress. Did the objectification of in the industry provide any inspiration for your role as Mandy? Models are invited to be gazed upon, in the same way that Mandy is looked upon and admired in the film.
Amber Heard: It’s interesting that you made that connection. I wasn’t a model for very long, thank God. I tried modelling in New York, in Miami and in Austin and I can honestly say it’s the least fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. I mean it was better than catholic high school. But that's not saying much!
Truly it’s a horrible industry – horrible for the girls who are part of it, who admire it, the girls who fall victim to it.
It was totally unfulfilling and pretty vacuous. I actually think modelling is the quintessential example of society’s broken image of women. Luckily I didn’t have much experience to draw from but it certainly teaches you about objectification, so in that sense it maybe did inform the performance a little, but I never considered myself much more than an object when I was doing it.
For me, acting and the opportunity to act, has given me much more of an understanding about what it is to be an artist than modelling ever did.
EMB: You’ve certainly been kept busy since Mandy Lane (Amber has a total of five films out in 2008 including the Brett Easton Ellis adaptation The Informers with Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke and the late Brad Renfro, and Judd Apatow’s latest The Pineapple Express)
Amber Heard: Thanks! I’m really excited about this year.
EMB: The Informers is a favourite book of mine. Can you tell us a little about the film?
Amber Heard: The Informers is the film I’m probably most excited about. I just finished the shoot. It’s dark, gritty and real and it’s everything that mainstream society will hate and I love that! The cast is amazing, everyone has been really committed to the project from the beginning. I can’t say too much but if you’re a fan of the book or a fan of Ellis you are going to love it.
EMB: Thanks for talking to us Amber and all the best for 2008.
Amber Heard: Likewise. Thank you.
For more information, visit the Mandy Lane appreciation site on myspace at www.myspace.com/welovemandylane featuring all manner of images, clips and trailers.