This Friday, Famke Janssen returns in the Liam Neeson-led hostage thriller "Taken 2." In the first movie, she didn't have much to work with, as the storyline mainly revolved around Neeson’s character looking to save his daughter (played by Maggie Grace) Thankfully, she has much more to do in the sequel. Not only does she get (SPOILER ALERT!) taken, she also gets to develop a romantic relationship with Neeson after her current marriage dissolves.
We got to talk to Janssen, who is also launching her first feature as a writer/director/producer in "Bringing Up Bobby" (out now in limited release), about "Taken 2," her role as Jean Grey in the "X-Men" movies and what shape her career will take moving forward. Also, if you ever run into the statuesque beauty, do not bring up the fact that she was a Bond Girl (as Xenia Onatopp in 1995's "Goldeneye"). She really doesn't like that.
What brought you back for "Taken 2"?
Many different things. I was very pleased to be working with Liam again, I could certainly use a paycheck after taking off three years to try and get my own movie off the ground, and it never hurts to be part of such a successful franchise.
Being part of a franchise is something you had experience with on the "X-Men" movies. What were the differences? Did you have a more concrete idea that there would be more "X-Men" movies as opposed to just one "Taken"?
No, I think even with "X-Men," Bryan Singer was really known for "Usual Suspects" and as a more independent director. He did a very different thing with the "X-Men" movies that most directors up until that point had not done with the comic book adaptations. I don't think any of us had any idea as to how it was going to turn out.
Was there any trepidation in terms of coming back for "Taken 2?"
Oh I was super excited. I don't think there was any trepidation. I'm not that lucky to have that many choices in my life and, like any other normal person, strapped for money, and there are times when I need to go back to work. This has been an incredible time, especially after taking all that time off to get my movie "Bringing Up Bobby" off the ground. Since then, I've done "Hansel and Gretel [Witch Hunters]" and "Taken 2," and now I'm shooting [the Netflix original series] "Hemlock Grove." It's just not that easy to get parts. I'm certainly not, and I don't think most actors are, to be in any position to turn anything down.
How much of the stuff in "Taken 2" was actually you? Your character spends a large part of the movie with a bag over her head.
Well, part of that was movie magic. [The person] being hung upside down was a movie double.
You've recently said that you take these bigger roles to take on more personal projects like "Bringing Up Bobby." Is this going to be the model for your career going forward?
Yeah. I certainly hope to. I'm trying to get my next movie off the ground and at the moment I'm shooting this thing for Netflix called "Hemlock Grove." And if that works out, as a set-up, then it would be ideal because it would be six months on for them and then six months off, and in those months I could pursue my dream of writing and directing and producing. So that would be great. And if that doesn't work out and we don't keep doing it, then I'll try to find a job to support it. It's really difficult to make money in the independent film world, especially as a writer and director and producer. I think I'll probably to continue to pursue a career in the independent film world because I think my sensibility is more attuned to that world than big studio films, especially with what they're making at the moment. I wouldn't want to do a "Twilight"-type movie or a comic book adaptation. It's just not my sensibility.
But you have done a comic book adaptation -- you've done three of them with the "X-Men" movies. You've also done a James Bond film. They both have these sets of intensely devoted fan bases that have their own expectations for different things. What's it like trying to appeal to those groups?
Yes. They do. I think it's probably part of my fan base regardless because I've done a bunch of those things that appeal to that audience -- "Hansel and Gretel" might fall into that. It's not bad to have a fan base, I guess. It would have been more practical for me to try to appeal to those audiences with the movies that I'm writing and directing, but who I am as a person and the types of things I want to pursue are so different than who I've been cast as in movies.
Do you have any advice for Bond girls going forward? Have any of them contacted you for advice?
No. I'm also, I suppose, object to that whole word of "Bond girl" as a woman. It's such a demeaning, silly title to give somebody. And it's definitely something that, as a woman, I have to deal with. People constantly want to remind me or an audience that I was a model or that I was a superhero or that I was a Bond girl. Any of those titles keep coming up, even now as a person who has directed her own movie. It doesn't happen with men as much. They seem to be luckier in that department. But I seem to have those things attached to my name regardless of what I do or how far away from it I am. But that's okay.
I didn't come up with the term! I promise!
No, no, you didn't. But you keep it alive.
You brought up "Hemlock Grove," which -- having read the novel -- is an amazing piece of material. Is the first season going to cover just the first book?
Yeah, pretty much. But it's becoming its own thing too. We've been shooting and these things tend to take on a life of their own. And we've been writing as we've been going along, obviously. I think it's going to be an interesting piece. I'm really excited about it. It's a great character.
Has there been any talk of you returning to the "X-Men" fold?
No. I mean, nothing is definitely over, for me at least. I'm in my own little world trying to be John Cassavettes, but I do need jobs as an actor to support my writing/directing career. If they want me, I'm ready!