Amber Valletta Talks Gamer with Movieline, Pays Valet
Through the '90s, the Phoenix-born, Tulsa-raised Amber Valletta was the essence of the term "supermodel," one of a handful of striking beauties to inherit the title from the Linda/Cindy/Naomi generation who defined it. With a face that could radiate everything from Grace Kelly throwback glamour to an almost android-like futurism, Valletta helped sell the illusion for labels like Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein and Versace. She then moved into TV hosting work (with friend and fellow supermodel Shalom Harlow on MTV's House of Style) and eventually began to land film work. Living now in Los Angeles with her volleyball champion husband Chip McCaw and their son, Valletta struts back onto screens today starring opposite Gerard Butler in Gamer, a mind-control video game thriller from gonzo filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. We talked to Valletta about it, in a conversation that at times became hampered by the hectic, easily distractable life of a modern model, mom and movie star.
Hi Amber, how are you?
I'm good. I'm trying to stuff my face. Lunch.
What are you eating?
I'm eating a salad. Nothing interesting.
So tell me about working with those mad scientists, Neveldine and Taylor.
Oh, those guys are awesome. They're so cool. They're totally, like, new and innovative and excited. They're amazing because they write, they direct, they operate cameras, I'm sure they partially produce. I mean they're just brilliant. Visionary, like, new, modern ideas. They're very refreshing.
Did they throw you right into the fire or did you have some time to rehearse?
A lot of it was just thrown in and they just let me do what I wanted to do with the character. Um -- hold on one second, but I have to get out of a car and get a valet ticket for my car.
[She bids goodbye to a friend and tells her she'll retrieve her jacket later.]
All right, sorry about that.
I'm trying to multitask today. I have like a million -- [To someone else:] Debit! [Or possibly "Debbie!"]
Where does Amber Valletta get a salad for lunch in L.A.?
[Off:] Thanks, sweetie! [To Movieline:] Uh, where do I?
Um, well because I'm in Beverly Hills multi-tasking trying to get stuff ready for my press stuff that I have to go to New York for for Gamer, I got it at La Scala, but I'm not usually that chichi. [Off:] Oh, I'll go validate, sorry! [To Movieline:] Oh my god I'm really, really multi-tasking right now.
That's all right.
So what were we talking about? Oh, rehearsing. We didn't really rehearse a lot for my scenes. A lot of my stuff had to be ... really emotional stuff. You don't want to spend too much time, you know, rehearsing? Probably the times when it was more action, with Gerard [Butler], those we walked through just to know where the camera was going to be.
They wouldn't screen the movie for me, so could you just explain the central concept of Gamer and how you fit into it?
I play Gerard Butler's wife, and we are both in games that are like, the player controls a real human being avatar, so what you're seeing on the screen -- [to valet:] thank you -- is a real person.
So something's implanted in them?
It's like a chip implanted into them through nanotechnology. And, let's see, basically I am, well he's trying to get back to me and our child, who's been taken away from us. So my only alternative for trying to get my family back is to work in the game.
He's in the game too?
He's in a game called Players.
So you submit yourself to a different game to win him back?
Yeah. I'm in Society, you know, just to make a living, to, you know, get my child back.
I'm not entirely sure I understand. So what do you have to do in the movie?
It's my job. My 9-to-5 job. And I'm working in this game called Society.
So I go in. Clock in. Let all of the things that happen in Society happen. It's like The Sims, but a real-life version.
I see. So your game has no risk of death. But Gerard's is a first-person shooter.
We didn't ever -- [to valet:] I'm sorry, how much is this? -- we didn't actually ever question whether or not you could die in my version. I suppose in Society you probably could choke someone, or shoot someone. But that's not how the game is set up. It's purely fetishes. It's like Sims or Second Life, but, like, cranked up. It's basically the world economy has tanked, and the best job out there is Starbucks. Maybe if you're really lucky you're like, a newscaster, but that's like the biggest job. There's nothing available, so in order for my character to survive, just to make a humble living, she has to pretty much subject herself to, you know, not prostitution, but complete submission.
Sounds like a cool concept! What was Gerard Butler like to work with?
He's really intense, he's a great actor, he's funny. Both of us had really heavy parts to play, so we didn't do a lot of, like, joking around on set. Everyone wants to have some funny story, but it was pretty heavy.
Okay. Can we talk a bit about your former life? When I had first heard of you, it was back in the '90s, and you were it. You were the supermodel. Then you moved to Hollywood. Did you actively pull away from the fashion world?
I definitely pulled away. You know, I love photography, I love fashion, and I respect my creative career. But I really felt like I had done everything I could have possibly wanted to do, and I was bored. You know, that's not a good place to be in, for anybody. And I really needed to expand as a creative person. And I always acted. I acted when I was growing up. I did theater. I was always creating characters, not just "modeling." I was always trying to find a story, create a silent movie basically.
Was there a photographer that helped you develop that dramatic side to you?
No, I wouldn't say that. I would definitely say there were photographers who gave me that room, that privilege, that opportunity, but I wouldn't say anyone helped me develop it. I think that was more of who I am, and I think photographers liked working with me because we could do something like that. Steven Meisel was really [pause] -- sorry, I had to put my phone down...
[Laughs] So Steven Meisel was very into creating characters. In fact we did a Grey Gardens story, gosh, maybe six years ago. [Ed. note: It was 1999.] It might have even been longer than that. I can't even remember now. Yeah, we did a Grey Gardens story, like ages ago. And we actually shot it on film and then he printed clips from the film.
So it was a fashion spread inspired by Grey Gardens?
Yeah, it was for Italian Vogue. So it wasn't a big surprise, and someone suggested taking some acting classes, and then also a very famous director called and asked for some information on me, and I felt like the universe was trying to tell me something, if you believe those kinds of things. So it was the right time and I was ready.
And then moved from New York to L.A.?
Yeah. But that was also, you know, stuff in my personal life made that part of the plan.
So you got married in L.A., or someone lived out here?
You know, we decided where we needed to be for particular reasons, being in part because I was changing careers, but then other stuff between the two of us that made sense. You know?
I see. So it was a breakup?
All right, I'll stop asking because I have no idea what you're talking about and I don't want to pry.
I'm just saying life choices were better for us here.
I see. Together.
I get it. And you have kids now?
And it's a --
How old is he?
He's almost nine.
Well, that's all I need!
Okay! Sounds good.
Thanks so much for sitting through this ... or eating and valeting through it.
[Laughs.] Thank you for your patience.