Famke Janssen

She's a hustler, baby.

Illustration: Rob Kelly

She crushed the life out of dudes with her thighs in GoldenEye. She moved stuff with the power of her mind and came back from the dead in X-Men: The Last Stand. And she challenged our staunchly hetero feelings by playing a transsexual during a stretch on television's Nip/Tuck. We are, of course, referring to the brainy 42-year-old Dutch actor Famke Janssen.

In her new movie Turn the River, she plays Kailey Sullivan, a hard-as-nails, heart-of-gold pool hustler trying to rescue her son from the clutches of his abusive father. The versatile West Village resident took a break from the bajillion things she's doing to tell us about her latest film.

Time Out New York: After working on Rounders, and now this movie, have you picked up any barroom skills that can help you hustle your famous friends?
Famke Janssen: I wish I could say yes, but the answer is no. The thing is, I get good enough to make it through the movie, and then I give up afterward. And I think specifically, with the pool in Turn the River, I had to learn really fast to look like a real hustler. And I make all of my own shots in the film, so there was so much pressure to do it right. Now any time I see a pool table I want to run the other way.

TONY: Is it tough to transition from big-budget megaproductions like the X-Men series to smaller, less-opulent indie films?
Famke Janssen: They can both be fun for different reasons. I personally like to do independent films. I like the work that I get to do. You don't sit around for long periods of time. You just get through the day and have to do it fast. I guess there is something luxurious and silly about doing those big-budget movies....

TONY: Well, working with both Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart at the same time is pretty flash. Who is the better Shakespearean actor?
Famke Janssen: Oh God, I could never tell you that. Either one would kill me if I picked the other! [Laughs] They're extremely competitive with one another. They joke about it all the time.

TONY: I can see why you're the U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Integrity. So, do you think we should boycott the Beijing Olympics?Famke Janssen: I'm all for it. This whole notion of the Olympics being a sports event and not political may have been true in the past, but I think right now, because of what's happening in Tibet, it's time for every country to take a stand and actually do something.

TONY: You probably have to know a ton of languages for that job. How many do you speak?
Famke Janssen: You know, I could've said four in the past, but I have to scrap German off the list. I've had no real reason to keep it up. My French is still good. That's a beautiful language and I'm happy to speak it.

TONY: Say something to me in French.
Famke Janssen: Je peux parler franais. Je peux dire comme vous voulez. ["I can speak French. I can say what you want."]

TONY: Gorgeous. Famke means "little girl" in Dutch, but you're actually quite tall.
Famke Janssen: I'm 5' 11" as I proudly say—just so I don't have to say six feet.

TONY: How do you feel about younger, shorter, borderline-destitute men who may or may not work in the field of journalism?
Famke Janssen: You know, I'm really open to anybody in terms of height. But when it comes to humor and intelligence, I don't think you can mess with that. My standards are really high.

TONY: Damn. Final question: What's your favorite Ben Affleck movie?
Famke Janssen: What kind of question is that?!? My boyfriend wouldn't like that question at all!

TONY: Wait—who is your boyfriend? Is he bigger than me?
Famke Janssen: [Laughs] Well, I don't talk about those things. Don't you want to end on a better note?

TONY: Whatever you say! I don't mind telling you that you scare me a little bit.
Famke Janssen: Oh yeah, I'm really intimidating.

TONY: Okay, let's finish on the movie. Your character in Turn the River can't escape her fate no matter what she does. Do you ever feel like that?
Famke Janssen: My beliefs on fate are obviously different than my character's. I think we're all much more in charge. To a certain extent, I like to view myself as an example. You know, I came from a small town in Holland, and ended up in New York doing things that I didn't think were imaginable. I made them happen. How's that for an end note?

Turn the River opens May 9, 2008.

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