Like her character Jean Grey/Phoenix in the "X-Men" movies, actress Famke Janssen has multiple facets to her identity.
She'll be trying out a new one, as a movie director and screenwriter, Wednesday at opening night of the Omaha Film Festival.
The festival kicks off at Great Escape Cinema, 7440 Crown Point Ave., with a 6:30 p.m. special screening of Janssen's movie, "Bringing Up Bobby," followed by an audience talkback session with Janssen.
She has let the screenwriting facet of her creativity simmer on a back burner for years.
"I actually had trouble getting my career off the ground as an actress," the former model, a native of the Netherlands, said from her New York City home in the West Village. "They said I was too tall, too foreign, you name it, to get parts. It's an extremely competitive business."
Since acting felt like maybe it wasn't meant to be, she wrote a screenplay and was accepted into the American Film Institute's screenwriting program 17 years ago.
But then she was cast as Bond girl Xenia Onatopp, opposite Pierce Brosnan, in "GoldenEye" in 1995. She put screenwriting on hold.
About five years ago, Janssen and her boyfriend were visiting Paris. She had just met his family in Oklahoma for the first time. They started talking about the contrast between Europe and Oklahoma, and her experience of the United States as a foreigner.
"I thought I understood America," she remembered, but her ideas about the country came mostly from movies. Every time someone's hand went into a pocket, she expected them to pull out a gun.
"New York is a melting pot of ethnicities, and I fit in perfectly there. In Oklahoma I was still a foreigner, an outsider."
She got the idea that plopping a foreigner in Oklahoma would make an interesting movie. Oklahomans, she said, possess a "beautiful innocence" but also a somewhat suspicious nature toward anyone different from them.
"Bringing Up Bobby" centers on Olive, a stunningly beautiful Russian-born con artist who sees herself as Bonnie from "Bonnie and Clyde" or possibly Scarlett O'Hara from "Gone With the Wind."
Movies, not reality, formed Olive's skewed version of the American dream. A single mother, she thinks it's perfectly acceptable to run around stealing things for her tween son.
The movie, filmed in and around Oklahoma City, mixes comedic capers with maternal heartbreak when Olive must face the consequences of her lifestyle.
Janssen tailored the part of Olive to suit actress Milla Jovovich, a Ukrainian-born beauty. Like Janssen, Jovovich is a former model who achieved stardom in an action franchise, "Resident Evil."
Bill Pullman ("Independence Day," "Sleepless in Seattle") and Marcia Cross ("Desperate Housewives") play a wealthy, childless Oklahoma couple who decide to help Olive and Bobby. Rory Cochrane ("Dazed and Confused") plays a shady character who has the hots for Olive. Spencer List is Bobby.
Janssen has taken her film to several smaller festivals — Nashville, Savannah and Deauville, France — but it hasn't been reviewed yet. It will be released in the fall, she said.
So what does she think of her movie, now that she's lived with it a while?
"You always want more money and time," Janssen said. "I can only see the faults of the film now. I did the best I could at that time. You learn, you get better. I've since written three more scripts, and I'm trying to get one off the ground now."
The movie was shot in 105-degree heat in just 20 days. Janssen was proud to finish it on time, within budget.
"People were passing out, it was so hot," she said. "Rory said afterward that I didn't sweat. I don't remember that. I was too busy."
She called "Bringing Up Bobby" a blending of two of her favorite times in film: the 1930s, when she said women dominated film as protagonists, and the 1970s, when movies had a certain realism "and a lot of heart."
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