By Emily Feimster
Many supermodels never escape being thought of as wannabes with questionable talent when they try to transition into acting. Such is not the case, however, for "Transporter 2's" Amber Valletta.
"I just see it as an extension of what I was already doing. When I was modeling, I was always trying to create characters," explains the 31-year-old beauty, who hails from Phoenix, Arizona and graduated from high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "I've always acted. As a child we used to put on plays and perform constantly, so it's not a big leap for me," she adds.
Amber began modeling in Europe at the age of 15 and gained international notoriety while still in her teens, primarily for her print work - and for being the then-girlfriend of Leonardo DiCaprio. (Hey, it never hurts to have a famous boyfriend!)
For her, the transition into film came smoothly. In her first feature, Valletta appeared as herself in Douglas Keeve's documentary "Unzipped," about fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. After a few independent films, Valletta, who served as host of MTV's "House of Style" from 1995 to 1996, landed roles opposite Harrison Ford
and Michelle Pfeiffer
in "What Lies Beneath" and Nicolas Cage in "Family Man." She then went on to appear alongside Kate Hudson
in "Raising Helen" and Ben Stiller
and Drew Barrymore
in "Duplex" (but we won't hold that one against her). It was her role as Kevin James' love interest in "Hitch" that made fans began to take notice of Amber's acting ability.
As a result of these high-profile supporting roles Valletta got the chance to test her emotional range in "Transporter 2."
"It was a lot of fun but very intense. I had a lot of emotional weight to pull so it was pretty draining, but very rewarding," she says of the movie, currently in theaters, in which she plays the mother of a kidnapped boy, and wife of Matthew Modine as the head of the U.S. narcotics agency.
So what did she do to prepare? "I trained with a coach a lot for the emotional gravity I had to deal with. There isn't anything you can do except be prepared as an actor and have stuff to draw from." Amber, herself the mother of a four-year-old son with husband Christian McCaw, says she tried to leave the emotions of her role behind when she left the set each day. She observes, "When you choose this profession, you walk down roads you don't always want to walk down."
In fact, she believes her job can be a lot more draining than people realize. "It's not always about being glamorous and acting like Hollywood stars. We work 14-hour days. Granted, there are much harder jobs out there, but there's a lot of work that goes into acting if you want to be good at it," she claims. "It's hard to just cry on cue or laugh on cue."
Adds Valletta, "We all struggle every day to find meaning in who we are, but it's even harder to create a character and their meaning and what they've been through and how you can make that come to life."
Things certainly won't be slowing down for Valletta anytime soon. She most recently wrapped the film "Man About Town" starring Ben Affleck and Rebecca Romijn. Currently she's in Los Angeles filming the romantic comedy "The Last Time" alongside Brendan Fraser and Michael Keaton.
When not filming, Valletta devotes time to protecting the environment. After being recommended by fellow environmentalist, Ted Danson, she was named the celebrity spokesperson for Oceana's Seafood Contamination Campaign. "We're trying to warn people of the dangers of mercury, especially for women and children," explains the actress. "I've known about the mercury issue for a while and had been signing petitions online and was kind of cautious about the kinds of fish that my husband, son, and I ate. When Oceana expressed interest in my being the spokesperson, I said of course. I believe saving the oceans is one the most important things."
Now that she's established herself as an actress, Valletta hopes to continue making films "for at least the next decade," but as she says, nothing is set in stone. "It's my nature not to make plans. I like to commit to things, but I like to have freedom to change and to move about."
For Valletta, life is more about finding a balance. "I just want to bring more peace into my family, myself, and my surroundings."
So what is it that she really wants to accomplish in her lifetime? "I want to try and walk lightly on the earth and to make it a better place. The rest doesn't really matter at the end of the day."