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Famke Janssen has played a lot of parts — sexy superhero, love-struck journalist, evil witch — but she's about to add a new line to her resume: Writer/ Director. That's right, the brunette stunner has moved to the other side of the camera for her new film, "Bringing Up Bobby," a project that took her quite some to cobble together ... which just goes to show how hard it really is to get a movie made.
The comedy follows Olive (Milla Jovovich), a con artist who moves her son to a conservative neighborhood in Oklahoma in an effort to build a better future. We won't spoil it for you, but suffice to say that things don't exactly go as planned for our ambitious heroine or her offspring. Janssen chatted with us about what inspired her to want to tell this story, how it was directing for the first time and what man she would love to share some love scenes with when she returns to the silver screen.
What gave you the initial idea for this movie?
The original idea really started growing after my first visit to Oklahoma when I went to visit my boyfriend's family, who lives there. It really struck me how much of a foreigner I still was in the United States, even though I'd lived in New York for about 20 years at that point.
Did you tell his family that?
It was more something that I just felt and observed. Then I realized how much film had influenced my ideas about this country, because I think that foreigners' ideas about the United States are really formed by the media, and by film specifically. So I wanted to put a foreign protagonist in the setting of Oklahoma, and then have her live out her very skewed version of the American dream, which was based on her perceptions of the United States from what she had seen in films, rather than in reality.
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Did you write the lead role for Milla Jovovich from the start?
To be honest, it wasn't until much later that I started imagining other people in these roles. When I write, I mostly just play all the parts myself in my mind. [Laughs.] But then when we started talking about casting, we had money coming in from places all over the world — from Europe, from Holland, from England — and then we had to pick from a list of women who would be bankable as the star. You have to sell your movie. You have to have people want to watch your movie, I mean, that's the whole point. And Milla just completely fit the bill.
How was Spencer List as Milla's son?
Spencer was a dream. He was always in the moment, always ready to shoot, very prepared, and he's so talented, too.
Did he and Milla get along?
This was your directorial debut. So, how was it?
Well, I had directed, written, produced and starred in a short film over 15 years ago, which was a disaster — but it was good because I learned that casting yourself in something you're also directing is not a good idea, especially as a woman.
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Why is it a worse idea if you're a woman?
You know, we see all of these male actors who are directing at the same time, but for a woman it's just more complicated because you do have to do hair and makeup and you do have to do lots of touch-ups. If I had played the part of Olive in this movie, for example, I barely would have been on set because I would have been in the trailer all day — the weather was humid and hot. Since I wasn't starring, I could be on set the entire time from beginning to end, but I never would have been able to do that if every time a bead of sweat appeared I had to go back to hair and make-up!
Was directing something that you knew you always wanted to do?
It's been a dream for a long time. It's been a long wait to get here and I'm really thrilled to be here. The timing probably just wasn't right in the past. I've written other screenplays, but this was the one that I finally was willing to make the sacrifice of ultimately not working in front of a camera for three years and really going all-out and sticking by it for as long as I had to in order to get this movie off the ground — and it was a while! [Laughs.]
Sounds like it was a labor of love.
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Will you direct more things in the future?
I've already written my next screenplay, which I'm really ready to get off the ground now. The hardest part of the process is just starting and getting the money in place, and then, of course, the actors and all that, but I had to go back to work as an actress after my three-year hiatus. I did "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," "Taken 2" and at the moment I'm shooting in Toronto, so I have to wait until my schedule clears — but it does seem that everything always happens simultaneously because you just can't wait for one thing to be done before you start the other thing. It never works.
Now that you're branching out into writing and directing in addition to your acting, whose career would you love to emulate?
There are so many people I admire and look up to — everybody from Meryl Streep to Jack Nicholson to Jessica Lange to John Cassavetes to Terrence Malick. I could go on and on. There have been so many inspirations along the way.
What did you buy with your first Hollywood paycheck?
I bought a pair of earrings when I was in Paris, which made no sense because I don't really wear earrings and I don't have pierced ears! I think I was just so thrilled that it didn't matter, and I was fascinated with antique jewelry. They were just these long earrings with different colored stones. They might have been clip-ons, actually, but still.
Do you have a dream on-screen love interest who you have not worked with yet?
Easy. Daniel Day-Lewis.