Looks like I have a new name to add to my list of Not Straight Actors. Over the weekend, Hollywood actress and Austin native Amber Heard went public with the news that she is gay while attending a GLAAD event with her new girlfriend. I said in my previous blog post that if some closeted Hollywood A-lister came out, I’d be offering up my applause. Amber Heard isn’t A-list yet, but she’s got a chance to get there, which in some ways is even more deserving of recognition.
Some actors come out of the closet and I think, “Duh!” The news about her made me go, “Whoa!”, and it wasn’t because she was Number 13 on Maxim‘s Hot 100 list this year. I was surprised because I’ve only ever seen her play straight characters, and I never thought to ask myself whether she was faking the hetero. Now it turns out she’s really good at faking it. (I was similarly surprised at Neil Patrick Harris coming out. His performance in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, where he snorts coke off a female hooker’s ass, had me fooled.) Some gay actors simply can’t play straight. My surprise is a testament, of sorts, to her acting talent.
(Am I cynical enough to post a sexy photo of Amber Heard just to improve our site’s web traffic? Not only am I going to, I’m not even going to feel the least bit bad about doing it.)
Amber Heard has done good work in good movies and undistinguished work in bad movies. My favorite performances of hers are in comedies, which is always an encouraging sign. She was the high-school girl dating Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express, and yes, the movie does realize that their relationship is icky. She also had a small but memorable bit in Zombieland as a girl who takes refuge from the zombie apocalypse in Jesse Eisenberg’s apartment. They both fall asleep on his couch, and when he wakes up, she’s a zombie. She plays a pretty convincing zombie, too, I must say. Most recently she turned up in The Joneses as a stealth marketer (disguised as a high-school girl) with a taste for older men. She’s got the lead role in this thriller that’s out next February, and she’s slated to star opposite Johnny Depp in a movie adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary. So we’re going to see more of her. I’m interested to see what she can do with roles that are more substantial than the ones she’s been given so far.
Interesting side note: She came out in an interview with AfterEllen.com, a pop culture website geared toward lesbian audiences. AfterEllen has a sister (brother?) website geared toward gay men called AfterElton.
What’s significant about all this is that Amber Heard has come out of the closet before establishing herself as a star. This either means that she thinks being openly gay won’t keep her from stardom, or that she’d rather live openly than stay in the closet and conform to some outdated expectations about what a star should be. Possibly it means both. Either way, Amber Heard has stepped up and provided an example to other gay kids. That makes her better than hot. That makes her cool.