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Famke Janssen Biography


Home > Actresses > J > Janssen, Famke > Biography


Birth Name: Famke Janssen
Born: 11/05/1965
Birth Place: Netherlands


Born on Nov. 5, 1964 in Amstelveen, The Netherlands, Famke Beumer Janssen began modeling at a young age, becoming immediately successful in her native Holland. When work for Chanel brought her to New York City in 1984, Janssen decided to stay. Still young for a model at not yet 25 years of age, she quit to study creative writing and literature at Columbia University and enrolled in an acting workshop. The striking actress, fluent in four languages (Dutch, English, French and German), quickly caught the attention of casting directors, appearing in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (Fox, 1987-1994). Her first significant role was as Jeff Goldblum's romantic interest in the strange parenthood/psychic/serial killer drama "Fathers and Sons" (1992), which she followed up with the aptly-named, but otherwise awful TV movie "Model By Day" (Fox, 1994). Janssen then co-starred with Scott Bakula in Clive Barker's "Lord of Illusions" (1995), in which she portrayed a magician's widow, before hitting screens in her breakthrough role.

As the villainous Russian killer Xenia Onatopp, who crushes men to death with her thighs in the 17th James Bond film, "GoldenEye" (1995), Janssen took the campiest of roles and attacked it with relish, winning over audiences predisposed to ignore the thespian efforts of so-called "Bond Girls." Aware of the stigma attached to appearing in such a role, Janssen was careful with her next career steps, announcing that she would rather work with quality directors and actors than star in tentpole movies. She essayed characters ranging from a bitter alcoholic in "The Gingerbread Man" (1998) to a Russian-born owner of a gambling joint in "Rounders" (1998), to a blue-collar Bostonian in "Monument Avenue" (1998). Woody Allen cast her as a sophisticated book editor in "Celebrity" (1998), reuniting her with her "Gingerbread" co-star Kenneth Branagh, while Robert Rodriguez tapped her to be a timid high school teacher in the teen sci-fi thriller "The Faculty" (1998). This barrage of chameleonic performances forced audiences and critics to reevaluate Janssen's potential - and ability to master accents.

Although the following year only yielded one Janssen performance, as Geoffrey Rush's scheming wife in the forgettable "The House on Haunted Hill" (1999), she returned with gusto in 2000, earning rave reviews for her performance in the romantic comedy "Love & Sex." In one of her best roles, Janssen played a magazine journalist tired of fluff pieces who sharply examines her own dating history - especially her relationship and breakup with her neurotic painter boyfriend (Jon Favreau) - to find the deeper meaning of modern love. Going from strength to strength, Janssen landed her biggest role to date - the one that truly put her on a new level - playing the conflicted psychic Jean Grey in Bryan Singer's excellent adaptation of the Marvel comic "X-Men" (2000), although some fans grumbled that the part as written - through no fault of Janssen's - was a watered-down version of the original heroine. She returned to comedy in the Favreau-helmed vehicle, "Made" (2001), again showing great chemistry with Favreau and her effective range in an otherwise small role of a dysfunctional mother. In the kidnapping thriller "Don't Say a Word" (2001), Janssen breathed life into the thankless role of Michael Douglas's broken-legged, bedridden wife, imbuing the character with a great sense of vulnerability when their daughter is abducted and the strength to fend off attackers despite her injury.

Janssen switched gears in 2002 for the big screen version of the 1960s TV hit "I Spy" starring Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy, which flopped. She returned to the role of Jean Grey - this time with red hair like her comic book counterpart - for the much-anticipated sequel "X2: X-Men United" (2003), setting in motion events that would make Grey pivotal to a third outing. With an expanded role and the love triangle between herself, Cyclops (James Marsden) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) anchoring the film, it was even more critically acclaimed and beloved by fans. Her next move was to the small screen in a recurring role during the 2004 season of the cult hit drama "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-2010). As the provocative and secretly transgendered "life coach" Ava Moore, whose relationship with the McNamaras' teen son revealed a seamier relationship with her own offspring, Janssen received good reviews for a tricky role and her character's arc became integral to the show's plot.

After supporting roles in "Eulogy" (2004), a low-budget comedy about three generations of a dysfunctional family gathering in Rhode Island to bury their patriarch, and "Hide & Seek" (2005), a horror film about a widower (Robert De Niro) who discovers his daughter's (Dakota Fanning) imaginary friend is really a malicious and violent reality, Janssen revived Jean Grey for the third installment of the series, "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), directed by Brett Ratner. Janssen's part was showier this round, but the film took huge liberties with its source, the comic book "Dark Phoenix" saga, and alienated most fans. For her work, however, Janssen received a Best Supporting Actress Saturn Award. She continued to knock out strong work in indie films, such as the romantic comedy "The Treatment" (2006) with Chris Eigeman and the unbelievably irreverent black comedy take on the Biblical commandments, "The Ten" (2007). Impressed with her ability, Eigeman wrote "Turn the River" (2007) for Janssen, who starred in the powerful, stark drama about a pool shark trying to save her son from his abusive father with her skills. Janssen, who did all of her pool shots, received raves, and a Best Actress prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

She scored a small role as Ben Kingsley's wife in the 1990s coming-of-age drama "The Wackness" (2008), but found herself with a global blockbuster playing Liam Neeson's ex-wife in the unexpected smash "Taken" (2008). In the film, Neeson played a CIA-trained father who uses his skills to rescue his daughter when human traffickers kidnap her. In real life, Janssen used the film as a platform to become an outspoken advocate against trafficking. She then turned in a strong performance as a woman confined to house arrest for killing her abusive husband, only to be attacked repeatedly by his vengeful ghost in the horror flick "100 Feet" (2008). The actress continued to impress in any role she took, working constantly, and she returned to "Nip/Tuck" for the 2010 series finale, giving her tormented character some closure. On the festival circuit and in select theaters, Janssen was next seen as an F.B.I. agent suspicious of a young man (Marc-André Grondin) purporting to be the long lost son of a grieving family in the based-on-fact thriller "The Chameleon" (2010), co-starring Ellen Barkin.

From there, Janssen stepped behind the camera for the first time to write, produce and direct the feature "Bringing Up Bobby" (2011). Having its premiere at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, Janssen's comedy-drama told the story of a European con artist (Milla Jovovich) who attempts to give her son (Spencer List) a chance at a normal life in rural Oklahoma, until her past catches up with her, causing the reckless but caring mother to choose between her baser tendencies and the well-being of her boy. Adhering to her career strategy of alternating between smaller, more personal projects and big-budget studio work, Janssen returned as Lenore, Liam Neeson's former spouse for the action sequel "Taken 2" (2012). This entry found her kidnapped by thugs out for revenge against Neeson for the havoc the highly skilled agent wrought in the first outing.

In 2013, Janssen appeared in three major productions, initially playing a wickedly evil spell-caster in the comedy/horror adventure "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters." A few months later, she stayed in a supernatural vein, turning up in the Netflix original series "Hemlock Grove" (2013- ), and summer found her returning unexpectedly to the "X-Men" fold with a small but key role in the superhero spin-off "The Wolverine."