Aggressive, too. When Heard found out Borte was looking for someone to play the daughter of Demi Moore's and David Duchovny's characters, "I said, 'Hold on, you're not gonna cast this without me,'" she recalls. "I wrote a letter to the director and I made sure I met with him." A similar strategy landed her opposite Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary, in which she plays Chenault, Hunter S. Thompson's fictionalized wife, in an adaptation of his loosely autobiographical book. "I was looking for the American dream girl, a kind of young Catherine Deneuve with a lascivious edge," says the film's writer/director, Bruce Robinson, "and Amber is exactly that." All this fits with Heard's career plan, supplementing the sexualized-teenager roles with meatier parts. "I fought really hard for it, which makes me feel really good," she says.

Between The Rum Diary, which she just finished shooting, and John Carpenter's thriller The Ward, which comes next, Heard will soon be something approaching a household name. But today the men at the table next to us are staring only because of how she looks in her striped black-and-white top and tight black pants. If she weren't walking Pistol, she'd be in heels as big as Texas, she says, but instead she's wearing vintage Keds; her lips are painted cherry red, just like the 1968 Mustang she tools around town in. Heard doesn't want to talk about who she's dating except to say that she's "in love with Salvador Dalí," which is both true—she's engrossed in a biography of the surrealist painter—and the kind of savvy dodge that has kept her personal life out of the tabloids (so far). But she drops her guard when her vague, gender-neutral responses prompt me to inquire whether her independent streak extends to, um, dating women. "I'm open to whoever," she says. "I think it is absurd to assume that I have to look in a certain category. A person should make choices—about who they want to marry, who they want to spend time with, who they want to fuck—based on a variety of options, and I hope that one day people will be more open-minded about that. It's silly to look in one category or another. I would never imagine a mate based on a certain sex or race."

Pistol cares about none of this, of course. As the pooch snaps up the last of her cheese, she spies a pint-size skateboarder approaching along the path. Before Heard can put down her plastic flute of wine, the dog leaps to attention. "Sit down, Pistol!" But Heard knows very well that there's no stopping her now.