Bella Heathcote, who appears this spring in Tim Burton’s film adaptation of ABC’s gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows, says, “I’m playing Victoria and Michelle Pfeiffer plays my employer. I acted opposite Johnny Depp, which was surreal—it was like stepping into another world.” It’s true, she did, and for the 24-year-old Australian, playing make-believe in the vampire odyssey alongside one of the world’s biggest movie stars marks a career turning point. Her post-Shadows resume says as much. She’ll next appear in Sopranos creator David Chase’s directorial debut, the coming-of-age tale Not Fade Away, followed by a role in Killing Them Softly, opposite another Hollywood alpha male, some guy named Brad Pitt. Here she is on her breakout role, growing up, and falling in love.
How did you start acting?
After school, I went to drama school. I got an agent after that, and it kind of worked itself out.
How did you start working the US?
I basically got my manager, came over, and auditioned for it. Luckily, it went well and I got a small role for the film called In Time. And once I got that, everything else started to come,it was great. Once people see that someone is willing to take a risk, things really start flowing. Dark Shadows came straight after that, so I was really lucky.
How did you first hear about Dark Shadows?
I heard about Dark Shadows through my agent sometime late last year, but I didn’t know that Tim Burton was casting for it. I met with the producer in L.A. and at the end of January I flew over to London. I had an audition with Tim and within a couple of days I had the part. It all happened really quickly.
What was working with Tim Burton like?
It’s like stepping into another world. It’s their well-oiled machine. He’s got a system and a great group of people around him, and it’s just like a family. It’s a really good environment to work in and he is great.
Did anything very extraordinary happen when you filmed?
I’d be giving away a major part of the plot so I cannot tell the whole thing, but there was a particular set that we worked on that was very intense. It was great fun, but there were some pretty challenging moments in there.
When you think about getting older, what’s one thing that you really dread?
I do not actually dread anything. I feel like I’ll be far more comfortable with my own self when I’m older. For most people I know, aging only makes them better. So I have quite a bit to look forward to. I think you become more aware as a person and of who you are. When you’re young, you don’t have as much control, but when you’re older… I don’t know, maybe it’s my idealistic view of the age.
Do you remember the first time you rebelled against your parents as an adolescent?
Sixteen was a very turbulent age. It was me and my father, I feel sorry for him now. It was about going to parties and kissing boys for the first time. But that whole year was quite a rebellion. I was really just experiencing everything for the first time. It was my first kiss, the first time I really failed at something, all those things parents don’t like at all.
What was the first thing/person you fell in love with?
I remember the first film I fell in love with. It was a French film called The Girl on The Bridge with Vanessa Paradis. I just thought she was the most extraordinary creature I’ve ever seen. I was 12.
How do you know that you’re in love with something or someone?
Strangely, it’s something that becomes a part of you, a part of your consciousness. It applies as much to film as it applies to other human beings.
If there were a movie about your life, whom would you want to play you?
I think I’d be absolutely horrified if they were to make a film of my life. Watching something that encapsulates my life is out of my realm of imagination. It’d be so strange.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
That’d be a cup of red wine and some dark chocolate, or lying in bed and watching movies all day. Just to spend the day not leaving the house.
Have you been very enthusiastic about a band/film/actor/movement lately?
I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg recently, and I don’t understand how I could live the 24 years of my life without seeing it. It’s the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen. I don’t even like musicals but I loved that film.
What scared you the most as a kid?
I think I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was really little, and I was very scared of vampires for a while. I also watched IT when I was 4. My parents left me in my brother’s care and he let me watch it. That scarred me for life, so I’m also scared of clowns.
What are you most competitive about?
Probably Scrabble. I get really competitive about board games.
Styling by Cat Wennekamp.