Famke Janssen: ‘After GoldenEye, I Felt Like I Was Thrown to The Wolves’
Janssen portrayed Xenia Onatopp, a Georgian fighter pilot and accomplice to Sean Bean’s antagonist, Alec Trevelyan. Yet, it was her character’s obsession with asphyxiation as a method of killing that truly defined and amplified her role.
An unknown actress back then, Famke Janssen immediately shot to global fame, but soon discovered that the radiance of stardom also casts intense shadows, especially with 1990s British tabloids.
Famke Janssen Putting Her All into the Role
After a six-year hiatus and some negative critique from Licence to Kill, the Bond producers had to get it right for Bond 17. Initially, they looked towards a big Hollywood name, Courteney Cox to bring Xenia Onatiopp to life.
But the Friends actress had to turn down this opportunity due to scheduling conflicts with the famed sitcom. This opened the door for Famke Janssen, a relatively unknown actress at the time.
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GoldenEye’s director, Martin Campbell, saw a spark in the actress after seeing her in the 1995 movie Lord of Illusions. Recognizing her potential to portray the captivating yet deadly Xenia Onatopp, he made the choice that would change Janssen’s life in more ways than one.
While the casting seemed perfect and Janssen embraced her role with an unparalleled zeal, no one anticipated the storm of fame, attention, and challenges that would follow for the actress post the film’s release.
Diving deep into the iconic role of Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye, Famke Janssen encountered moments of surprise and commitment. She was initially taken aback by the audacious methods her character, Xenia, employed to kill her victims.
Janssen later admitted she “nearly had a heart attack” after reading in the script how her character killed her victims by asphyxiating them between her thighs.
Watch Xenia Onatopp and Bond Sauna Fight…
Not one to shy away from embodying her character to the fullest, Janssen went to great lengths to make scenes as authentic as possible. In the sauna fight sequence with co-star Pierce Brosnan, she broke a rib, after insisting that Brosnan run her into them with all his might. She did think the walls would be padded, mind.
Beyond the action scenes, Janssen even took the steering wheel for some of her own driving stunts, such as the high speed chase when she races Bond in her Ferrari F355 GTS in the film’s opening sequence.
Her commitment and dedication to the role were evident, but little did she know that the fame and attention garnered from this role would lead to profound personal challenges in the subsequent years.
Famke Janssen Reveals the Price of GoldenEye Fame
After stepping into the shoes of the memorable Xenia Onatopp, Famke Janssen found herself navigating the treacherous terrains of the media’s attention. And for a relatively unknown actress, GoldenEye became a turning point in her relationship with the media and the public.
Janssen shared her whirlwind of emotions in a candid conversation with The Independent:
“The Bond movie dictated a lot of my relationship with the press… honestly, after GoldenEye, I felt like I was thrown to the wolves. It was just an onslaught of attention, good and bad and everything in between.”
It wasn’t just the external pressures but also the internal battles with stereotypes that weighed heavily on Janssen. She opened up about the constraints of being boxed into certain roles and perceptions:
“I already had to deal with the stereotype of having been a model, but then I added another thing: model turned actress turned Bond Girl.”
Janssen’s journey reveals the duality of her existence in Hollywood. While on one side she was seen as this formidable Bond girl, her personal identity felt eclipsed by her on-screen persona.
She concluded, “I feel incredibly misunderstood at times. It’s the dichotomy between the way I look and what is happening inside. But that comes with being in a Bond movie and playing this crazy assassin. All of my friends and family know that I’m goofy, and sensitive, and that I play these characters who are so different from that; other people probably think I’m just playing myself.”
Famke Janssen: Navigating the Double-Edged Sword of Stardom
The tale of Famke Janssen’s meteoric rise to fame through her portrayal of Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye serves as a compelling testament to the multifaceted nature of Hollywood stardom. While the glamour and accolades can be intoxicating, they often come hand-in-hand with intense scrutiny, unrelenting attention, and the weight of stereotypes.
Janssen’s candid reflections shed light on the personal costs often borne by actors, even during the zenith of their careers. While her role in GoldenEye undoubtedly presented her with opportunities many can only dream about, the transition from relative anonymity to the glaring spotlight presents its own set of challenges.