Famke Janssen, 47, starred as Xenia Onatopp in 1995's GoldenEye. She shares:
It's the one thing in my career that I should be the most grateful for. It catapulted me into stardom. I was a struggling actor, and that changed everything. At the time, people were like, "You're going to be a Bond girl and aren't you afraid of being typecast?" Afraid? It was an opportunity. I wasn't afraid. I played a Russian assassin. With a name like mine, people had no idea where I was from. They didn't know that I wasn't Russian.
It's an incredible franchise. It's so smart and clever and has changed with the times. In terms of my character, it was an honor to be part of the series, and exciting. I just fought really hard to make her not a typical Bond girl, where she's not a prop in a bathing suit. I saw her as a force to be reckoned with. When I auditioned for it, I thought, now it's up to me what I do with this character and try to make her stand out and be different. It gave me a certain type of freedom. No one knew who I was. I threw myself into it and played it extremely in certain ways.
You have to plan afterwards, so I used the publicity to try to get other parts. It was a struggle in the beginning, but doors opened that had not opened before. I learned about the publicity monster machine behind Bond. They knew how to promote films. It's unbelievable. I barely knew what I was doing.
It's been an incredible experience because of what I'd been able to do since then. It hasn't fallen into my lap, but I have worked with Woody Allen and Matt Damon and Harvey Keitel. Had it not been for Bond, none of these opportunities would have come along. It's all about being a bankable name on certain level. With something like a Bond film and the publicity machine behind it, that helps enormously.
I remember the shoot. The scale of it all was very impressive. We were supposed to shoot in St. Petersburg, but it became too expensive, so they ended up building an entire St. Petersburg at the studio in England. One day I came to set and it was meant to be a closed set because I was strangling a person with my thighs or something like that. I looked backwards when we were rehearsing and I see crew guys staring up through the gap in the curtains. So much for the closed set. You realize millions of people are going to see it, so what's the difference?
We were shooting in the South of France and they let me take a test drive in the Ferrari that I drive in the movie. I was driving this car. It was fun. Being in the film and playing this character was liberating for me. I'm not the most outgoing or loud person by nature, but doing a movie like this frees you up in a certain way. It helped on many levels, not just as a career booster. On a personal level it felt like I could take more risks and felt more free.