She’s been a Bond villain, X-Men’s Jean Grey, an alluring transsexual on “Nip/Tuck” and soon, an evil witch in “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.” But right now, Dutch actress, model, writer and director Famke Janssen is focused on the reprisal of her role as Lenore, the long-suffering ex-wife of retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). While she and her daughter (played by Maggie Grace) survived the first round of Eastern European thugs in Luc Besson’s “Taken,” the family of three faces a challenge of a different kind when vacationing in Istanbul in the film’s sequel. Janssen spoke to Metro about the new film and how she broke a rib in the name of a convincing action sequence.
You’ve remarked that the chaos of Istanbul enhanced your performance while filming “Taken 2” there. Tell us more about what happened on set.
It’s an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful place — very old, but it also has one of the fastest growing economies, so it’s just outgrowing its own size. As a result, there’s more cars than the city knows what to do with, more people, more mopeds, more wild dogs, more motorcycles. The mosques have loudspeakers on them, and they are competing with one another in terms of [broadcasting] the prayers that happen at numerous times during the day. It was a pretty chaotic experience. But that really worked in my favor for the things that we were filming.
You have quite a physically demanding role in “Taken 2.” Did you have to hang upside down, as your character does at one point in the film?
Thankfully I did not have to be hung upside down. They had a double for me to do that, which was great. I was just being dragged around a bunch. It was more that I had a bunch of stunt guys on either side who would drag me through hallways or dirty alleys or whatever. And of course [there was] the whole sequence with the scissors and knife or whatever on my face — moments like that, there’s just very little acting required. It’s just using what’s there.
Considering you’ve done a fair share of action films, including the 1995 Bond film “GoldenEye,” what’s one of the worst injuries that you’ve sustained while on set?
I’ve actually broken a rib twice. I broke my rib on “GoldenEye” and I broke a rib on “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” — the movie that comes out in January with Jeremy Renner. So I’ve experienced some injuries. On “Hansel and Gretel,” on top of everything, I had prosthetic makeup and I couldn’t see because I had contacts that covered my whole eyes, so these things are always a little challenging.
What do you think would happen in a third “Taken” film?
Maybe they could do what I already suggested for “Taken 2,” which was that Liam was going to be taken and Maggie and I would come and save him. Nobody liked that idea, apparently. I was joking by saying that, of course. I don’t know; Liam apparently is adamant about not wanting to do a “Taken 3” and the director of our last movie, Olivier Megaton, said that there was not going to be a “Taken 3.” I always say you never know.
It seems possible. “Taken 2” didn’t feel like a laborious sequel.
They were very clever about it too. It’s a sequel but it feels like a different movie altogether and time has passed. The characters have gone through some changes, the setting is different, different people get taken. It’s a fun ride.
Can you tell us more about your character in “Hansel and Gretel”?
“Hansel and Gretel” is the story of Hansel and Gretel the fairy tale — but when they’re grownups and want to go and hunt the witches that have tormented them in the past. So I’m the main witch in that story. We shot it in Berlin, and it’s coming out in January. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Aterton are Hansel and Gretel. It’s very interesting because it’s a different spin on the fairy tale in a way that nobody’s done it yet.