Even though her days as Jean Grey and her formidable alter ego, Dark Phoenix, appear to be over in the X-Men movie franchise, Famke Janssen is intent on remaining a force in Hollywood -- both in front of and behind the camera.
On the heels of the release of her writing and directorial debut with the family-centric comedy "Bringing Up Bobby," Janssen is ready to take audiences by storm again with "Taken 2" -- the hotly anticipated sequel to the 2008 action thriller about Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a retired CIA operative who goes to extraordinary lengths to save his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), after she is kidnapped by sex traffickers in Paris.
Janssen reprises her role as Lenore, Bryan's ex-wife and close mother to Kim, who figures much more prominently in the sequel's plot.
In a recent interview, Janssen said the reason the second "Taken" film took so long to make was largely because of the huge response to Neeson's performance in the first one.
"I think we were all pleasantly surprised at the success of the first 'Taken' movie, and at what point people started thinking about a sequel I don't know, but I do know that Liam became so incredibly popular and in-demand after the first one that one of the reasons for the delay was his schedule," Janssen told me. "We're all incredibly grateful that it finally came together when it did, and Liam's career has taken off so nice since the first one. It couldn't have happened to a nicer person."
Janssen is thrilled to take part in "Taken 2" for several reasons, not the least of which was getting the opportunity to work Neeson and Grace again. But from her character's standpoint, it offered Lenore a shot at redemption after coming off as a huge thorn in her ex's side in the first film.
Janssen said that some fans took her performance so close to the heart, in fact, that they didn't have very many kind words to say to her in public.
"I wasn't the most particularly liked character in 'Taken' and I have to agree with people," the 47-year-old beauty said with a laugh. "Lenore wasn't the softest, nicest person. Clearly, she's a particular sort of character, and having just directed a film of my own, I understand more than ever what certain roles characters have to play in a film and their importance to a storyline."
Putting it simply, Janssen said Lenore had to be unlikeable in "Taken."
"Somebody had to be the catalyst for this entire plot to happen in the first place," Janssen said. "The fact that she told the daughter to go to Paris and she gets taken and put into a prostitution ring as a result made her a very unlikeable character."
Opening in theaters Friday, "Taken 2" finds Bryan in a much better place with Lenore and Kim, who are both undergoing huge changes in their lives. Kim has a boyfriend, much to her over-protective father's chagrin, and Lenore is going through an emotional crisis since her marriage to her second husband is falling apart.
Encouraging Lenore and Kim to get away, Bryan invites them to meet him in Istanbul, where he's wrapping up another security detail. But waiting in the wings is Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), an Albanian crime lord who is seeking revenge against Bryan for killing his son -- one of the many people in the first film who paid dearly for their crimes as Bryan searched for his then-kidnapped daughter.
The main difference in "Taken 2" is that Bryan and Lenore are kidnapped by Krasniqi, and Kim, spared another trauma, covertly communicates with her father to help them find a way to escape.
Janssen believes the drastic turn of events -- coupled with Lenore's personal troubles -- will help audiences warm up to her in "Taken 2."
"She's a much softer character this time," Janssen said. "She's going through some troubles in her life with a divorce, and there's hope of a rekindling of a romance between Bryan and her, so there are some added layers to this film, which is fun."
Janssen has no doubt that as a whole, people will respond the same way to "Taken 2" as the first one, because once again, Bryan not only confronts fear -- he beats fear back into submission.
"Post-9/11, people felt powerless and riddled with fear, so the notion of this man taking charge and protecting his family and going after these criminals is something audiences really wanted to see," Janssen observed. "There's definitely some kind of correlation between the times we live in and the plot of the film."