Heathcote: Oz actress learns on the job

10 Actors to Watch 2012: Bella Heathcote

David Chase was there. So was James Gandolfini. And Steve Van Zandt. So naturally, Bella Heathcote decided to get up to speed on “The Sopranos.”

The 24-year-old Australian actress, who appeared as Johnny Depp’s love interest in Tim Burton’s campy-vampy “Dark Shadows,” followed that up with an appearance in Chase’s upcoming and long-awaited debut feature “Not Fade Away,” a coming-of-age tale set in the early 1960s about boys forming a rock band.

Gandolfini plays a supporting role, though, natch, not as Tony Soprano. Van Zandt plays music off screen in producing the soundtrack, but not as Silvio. Still, Heathcote wanted to do her homework on the seminal HBO series.

“I had heard about it but hadn’t seen it,” Heathcote says. “When I began playing the role, I would come home and watch ‘The Sopranos’ all night.”

Heathcote, who began acting in the Aussie soap “Neighbours” — “I definitely learned a lot there. It was like a military academy” — raves about the experience of working with Chase, although she admits to feeling some pressure.

“It was really fun for me because it was my first big film role in the States,” she explains. “The whole time I was in a state of anxiety. I was worried I’d mess up the film. David is such a perfectionist.”

In “Dark Shadows,” she says going to work on set in England was so much fun that “I kept waiting for someone to call and say, ‘There’s been a mistake.'”

Working with Burton and Chase have been two distinct and wonderful experiences, she explains: “Tim is really funny and has a great sense of humor. It’s a really fun set. David has a really dry, dark sense of humor that I love.”

Heathcote is mulling future projects without revealing any detailed info. While nothing if officially set up, she can feel confident she has made it in Hollywood. That’s because there was a persistent rumor that the thesp had a tryst with Brad Pitt.

It was wildly false, of course, but Heathcote enjoyed the tabloid ride.

“That was just a wonderful rumor,” she says with a chuckle about her imagined liason on the set of Pitt’s upcoming crime thriller “Killing Them Softly.” “I wasn’t even on that film. Not at all.”

Lucky break: “I guess David’s film.”
Favorite film: “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”
Career I’d Like to Emulate: “Can’t answer that one. There’s too many.”