Interview Magazine, February 96

Interview - February 96

Meet the casting whiz who doesn't amble when it comes to casting away old notions of what a model is

 Twenty-six-year-old Ned Ambler is rapidly becoming the guy to call on the casting beat. In the past year alone he has cast for Calvin Klein Jeans, cK one, L'Uomo Vogue, Interview, his own upcoming movie Rock Star, and for photographers who want to shake up the formula that dictates who is beautiful enough to shoot. Throwing his net wide, Ambler draws in a range of faces that helps to broaden ideas of what is beautiful, as well as to challenge stereotypical definitions of beauty. We asked him about the state of casting and beauty today.

 Richard Pandiscio: Tell me what you did this week.
 Ned Ambler:
Yesterday morning I was asked to find a chubby girl, an Asian butch-but-cute-as-a-button clean-faced boy, a fifty-year-old leather man in great shape with a handlebar moustache, and a New York socialite. This morning I got a call to gather three hundred people for a go-see [in two days].
RP: How do you do it? NA: I have a list of people who I think will be great for a campaign and I just get on the honker. And luckily, I have a photographic memory for people. Every time I walk outside my door, I'm on, which means every gorgeous thing I'm looking for has to be stopped, Polaroided, and talked to. I go out to five or six clubs every night - in, take the Polaroids, out. No hanging around, no socializing, no chilling, nothing. To do what I do you have to be a chameleon, because I cut through millions of different circles. A lot of times I have to become what I'm casting for in order to make people feel more comfortable. The other night I had to go out all dressed in leather to get into one club, and then I had to go home and change into a shirt and tie to get into the next place.
RP: Have you noticed a change in what people are looking for this year as oposed to last year? NA: The trend line for the past year has gone something like this: from pretty-boy rockers to Irish-English faces to Italian boys to little waif boys to Avenue A punks to skate rats and snowboarders and then to old greasers. Right now it's about a regular butch guy from the Midwest - Steve McQueen.
RP: What types of faces will we be seeing on billboards a year from now? NA: It's hard to predict, because what is happening now is really pushing it in terms of what is acceptable. We've seen a lot of the same type of photography over and over lately, and there's a real emphasis on finding models who will make each campaign feel different from the next. In other words, something always has to be changing.
RP: Is the "All-American Clean-Cut Beauty" a thing of the past? Are we experiencing the revenge of the non-traditional beauty? NA: Let me put it to you this way: I did a campaign last week and the "All-American" one looked like the freak of the group. Still, I think there will always be a demand for "the ideal."
RP: Why do you think the beauty industries are becoming more inclusive? NA: Good business. People are realizing that beauty is all-inclusive, so the fashion industry is letting in more types into what has been a very closed world. In the past ten years, the design market has expanded. We've seen a rise in black fashion designers, the creation of tecno/cyber design, skatepunk design companies, and so on, and there has been a correlating shift in representation and advertising. Also, there is a freshness and an individuality in non-models that veteran models just don't have, a lot of the time.
RP: What qualities other than appearance do you look for? NA: I cast for attitude as well as looks - I look for a cinematic quality in people. Having a fun character is really important because the shoots are long and grueling.
RP: Why do you think beauty is so compelling? NA: That will remain forever a mystery. Heaven is angels and beauty, and I love to find new angels. I love to promote the fantasy by delivering a little piece of new heaven. It's like the old adage, "The grass is always greener", but really the grass is only the way the light hits it.