Tomorrow 4th February sees the home release of Taken 2 starring Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills the man with a particular set of skills that saved his daughter from Albanian criminals and fate human sex trafficking ring. In Taken 2 those relatives of the Albanians criminals Mills took out want revenge and a family trip to Istanbul Turkey tests a particular family member if they possess the same sets of skills as Bryan Mills.
Yesterday we spoke to Liam Neeson but today its the turn of Famke Janssen who plays Lenore Mills:
Question: You recently directed your first film.
Famke Janssen: Yes. It recently premiered in New York and came out in theatres and then we go wider after that. I cannot wait to do it again. It was a long period of my life to get the film made and a very short time to actually shoot the film – only 20 days. But it is so nice to take charge of your own career and be that creatively involved in something from the beginning to the end. I have learned so much from the experience and since then I have actually written a bunch of screenplays but I have one I’m putting together at the moment to do next. We were actually supposed to open earlier this year at the same time as Hansel and Gretel in the spring of this year. But we got put pushed with Hansel and Gretel and at that point we thought it would be best to couple the release with Taken 2. I am only nervous about the reviews because they can be so mean. I really hope they say ‘I enjoyed the fact that she dared to make this’ or ‘I applaud her for taking on the enormous endeavor’. Something, rather than just saying ‘What a piece of trash that is’.
Q: Were you excited about coming back to Taken 2?
FJ: Very. I was excited for many different reasons. Of course, Liam. The fact it was such a successful film, it doesn’t hurt to be part of a successful movie franchise. Also, it came after a time of having stopped working for three years to try and get my movie off the ground. I didn’t think it was going to take that long but it ended up taking five years but three were not in front of the camera, no work at all, no income whatsoever. So to come back and be asked to do Taken 2, it is a miracle. I don’t know what gods are helping me out here but I can’t be grateful enough.
Q: You are normally a sexy, glamorous, woman but in this movie there is a lot of mud and blood. Why take this role?
FJ: Taken 2 was really a no brainer. I got to work again with Liam and being part of a movie that is that successful is really helpful in other aspects of your career as well, and in terms of being not glamorous, I have done it in lots of movies. In an independent film a friend of mine directed called Turn The River I played a pool hustler and one of the first movies I did after GoldenEye was called City of Industry and I downplayed in that. Then there are moments when it is nice and fun to be all dolled up again. It doesn’t really matter. It is all acting.
Q: Tell us more about Liam Neeson.
FJ: I think it is really rare to find someone who is that that talented and that successful and that grounded. Most of the time something shifts somewhere and the balance goes off a little bit. Liam has been around for a really long time and he has experienced an enormous amount of success but he has this grounded feel and nature in him that is really nice. It appeals to my own European side because Dutch people are very grounded by nature. That’s who they are. They have two feet grounded in the soil in Holland. I can relate to him on that level. I think he is such a great actor.
Q: Can you think of an example?
FJ: Tomorrow night he is going to walk the red carpet of my movie. Liam, who is not only incredibly busy, but he has a prior engagement. His mother-in-law is being honored on Broadway. But he is coming, he is taking time, to do something that is incredibly helpful for my little movie that I directed to come and support me. I think that sums up how nice he is.
Q: Do you think that your character is more loveable in Taken 2?
FJ: I think Lenore was pretty much awful in the first one if you ask me. It is such a horrible set up of a character. You basically have a mother of a child say ‘You go to Paris’ and the moment she arrives in Paris she’s taken into a prostitution ring so there is no way you can like my character after that. Everyone is like, ‘What an idiot’. Why did she say yes and let her go? Pierre Morel wanted her to be a certain character and I understand that, especially now being a writer and director. People take on a certain role in the larger part of the story so I might have said, ‘I want her to be likeable’ but it doesn’t really matter in the function of that story. Lenore had to be a specific way. Lenore in Taken 2 had a different function. She’s now more vulnerable. There’s this notion of can these two people come back together after the break up with her current husband and now we have to love her at least a little bit for her to be taken and to care for her to be taken. I was very clear about that too. I said if she’s the one who is going to be taken you have to like her, otherwise the whole audience will be like ‘Thank God. Finally. I thought this was never going to happen. We don’t care what happens next because we never liked her in the first place’. These things are important of course, in the larger sense.
Q: And she’s more proactive.
FJ: Of course. She hangs upside down!
Q: Can you talk about Istanbul and about the whole experience of being there?
FJ: I had never been to Turkey. I have been all around there — I have been to Greece and all those different places close to it — but I had never actually been there. It is one of the places that everyone should go to once in their lives. It is so fascinating in terms of the history and the culture. The speed at which this city is expanding. It is expanding to such a degree that it can’t even sustain itself any more. Economically it is booming but it was built for a much smaller group of people. It was not a huge city to begin with. There are cars and motorbikes and people and dogs running wild and there’s just a lot of stuff going on at the same time. Traffic is horrendous but so is traffic in LA, I hear. To shoot in, it was perfectly suited for what we were playing because being taken in a place like that is total chaos and we were using all the real people and the real city and that really adds to the flavor of what you are doing. It was a bit challenging that way but also very interesting at the same time. And I’m really not an easy eater but I had one of my most favorite meals I have ever had there.
Q: Which is?
FJ: It was just this little restaurant and this chef and it is apparently renowned and people go there from all over the world. It is a tiny little unassuming place and they have a lot of different vegetarian dishes and I don’t eat meat so it was perfect for me. They even have falafels and I love falafels and I stupidly thought that was part of the Turkish culture but it is not at all but he had it as part of the dish and he had big pumpkins and rice with things in it, and lentil soups, oh, it was delicious. Really, really, good. I don’t do it justice with the way I am describing it.
Q: What did you think about the film?
FJ: You just never know when you are shooting something but I was impressed with Olivier [Megaton] because I think that what he so perfectly conveyed in this film is the balance between a family drama and the backdrop of Istanbul and the action that takes place there. It does become a film that is viewable for many different people. It is not just something that young boys are going to love because there are cars flying around. Women are going to love it and men, young guys. I just think there is going to be a broad audience which I think ultimately you hope for a film like this.
Q: Why do you think the first film was so successful?
FJ: That’s where this film really struck a chord when it came out in the US. It came out in Europe before that and then it somehow became a mega hit that kept going and going in the US. I personally thought it was because it struck a chord after 9/11 and this whole notion of a man stepping forward and protecting his family and what he would do, and how far he would be willing to go to fight for his family. These are things that at the time they really could relate to after all the events that happened. I think the second one again mirrors what is happening today with all these US embassies and the terrible things that are happening again post-9/11. They are reminiscent of these times and this cycle could continue and continue forever and how many people could die along the way if somebody doesn’t step forward and say this is where things stop. This is very much what happens to this story. We have all been so helpless with what has been going on in the world and if somebody like Liam, who is so likeable, he is not somebody who just goes and kills people for no reason; he is really actively trying to protect his family.
Q: How do you see the relationship between Lenore and Bryan?
FJ: I don’t think she ever stopped loving him. I just think he was married to his work and so that relationship couldn’t really go anywhere. I think after the first film everybody would have said, ‘But she’s such a bitch nobody would ever stay with her’ but I like to think of it that she was probably frustrated because she wanted to be with him. She wanted him to be a better father because we can clearly see that from the story that he has tried but he was absent for a really long time. Now he’s making an effort and making up for lost time but in fairness to Lenore and her bitchy behavior in Taken 1, she was probably fed up. She had to do it all by herself. Then, he just wasn’t a good father. Now, in this film, there is a much more interesting dynamic between the three characters and now the possibility of them being single. It could go and blossom into something else again. The daughter, Maggie’s character, is being very much the part of making a plan for that to happen. It’s fun.
TAKEN 2 is out on DVD & Blu-ray 4th February