For those of you under the impression that actress Famke Janssen is some sort of megasexbomb ultravixen, I have news for you: You’re right. Towering at over 180 cm in heels and still bearing the physique of a Bond girl 10 years after she appeared in “Goldeneye,” the actress is intimidatingly gorgeous.
But once she starts talking, Janssen is disarmingly down-to-earth, and quick to laugh. Janssen is, in many respects a Hollywood exception: a Bond Girl who’s actually had a career, a European who hasn’t been type-cast, and a 40-year-old who isn’t struggling to find work. Janssen agrees that she’s never been pigeonholed, but says that’s because in Hollywood, “even now, they don’t know what to do with me.’‘
Were three X-Men movies enough for you, or could you do a few more?
No, I think that’s the perfect number, a trilogy, to end it on. I can only die so many times in one movie!
Did you know from the start that you’d do three?
Oh no, it was one at a time. When we made the first one, we weren’t even sure it would get a theatrical release. Basically, we were making a movie that felt like an art movie. Brian Singer was mostly famous for “The Usual Suspects,” which had just come out. It was darker, it was different, it was set in a more normal, real environment, not the way comic books had been done in the past. We weren’t really sure if it was going to be something that appealed to people. But it did, which was a pleasant surprise, so we made number two.
So after number two, you didn’t know that you’d be resurrected in number three?
Well, we set it up at the end of number two, so there was a distinct possibility for three. But Brian Singer, the director on two, set it up, and for this one we had a different director, so we didn’t know. But the [Phoenix] story line had been very popular in the comic, so that was one indication that maybe we’d go in that direction.
What’s the difference between working with Brian Singer or Brett Ratner?
They’re such different people. It didn’t affect the movie, in the end. But in terms of their approach, Brian is an intellectual, cerebral, a very smart man, and serious. And Brett is more like a happy-go-lucky, fun-loving guy, who’s full of excitement, and has ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], y’know? Total opposites. But Brett was very aware that he was making the third in a trilogy and he wanted to stay true to what Brian had set up.
Professor X calls Phoenix “a perfectly instinctual creature.” Isn’t that what most men fear that all women are?
Perfectly instinctual? Maybe. But not like Phoenix. The thing about her is she’s instinctual, but with absolutely no control over her powers or emotions.
As an actress, how much of your work is preparation, and how much instinctual?
It’s a combination of the two. I do a lot of research on every movie. I work with an acting coach, the same one I’ve worked with since I started acting, about 14 years ago. Then when I come to set, I throw every piece of work I’ve done away. I trust that whatever I need to have will somehow find its way out, but it becomes instinctual.
When Jean Grey uses her powers, how do you play those scenes — your reactions, etc. — when you can’t see what’s going on? I mean, I assume they add the CG effects later . . .
It’s mostly in the third act where that became an issue, because we filmed the entire third act against a green screen, outside. In the pouring rain, I might add, in Canada, at night, for three months. And when you see it on screen, it’s like ‘I stood in the pouring rain for three months for how many minutes of screen time?’ [Laughs.] But that’s part of the job.
The rest of the scenes . . . there was a lot of stuff happening. In my scene with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, we really had lamps flying and couches lifting while we were shooting. So it makes it easier to play the scene when it’s really happening.
I wouldn’t have guessed that. I thought it was CG, for sure.
You wouldn’t. But like, the scene that I did with Wolverine — when I use my telepathy to fly him into a wall — Hugh Jackman’s brother-in-law is his stunt double, and they flew him against that wall. It’s amazing my mouth isn’t wide open in that shot because I thought, ohmigod, this guy is not gonna live through this! Because they yanked him so hard and so fast against that wall.
Had you ever read any X-Men comics before you were cast in the movie?
Did you read any after?
Some. I mean, I did research into my character. But there’s something, to me, in comic books that I find entirely confusing. I grew up reading literature, and you read left to right, top to bottom. But in comic books, there’s all these characters and little balloons, and I don’t know which I’m supposed to look at first. Not for me, I guess.