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X-Men toys

SUNDAY, MAY 21, 2006


NEW YORK -- Famke Janssen says that playing Jean Grey for the third time was really like playing a new character.

That's because in X-Men: The Last Stand, Jean is frequently dominated by the long-dormant Phoenix side of her personality -- wild, unpredictable and extremely dangerous, as the X-Men quickly find out.

"That was the fun challenge about it for sure," Janssen said. "I have to say I was very pleased to see that things changed because you never know with these movies if you end up playing them the same.

"And I think the great thing is for everybody, everybody is different in this movie. Everybody goes through one transformation or another or there's some part of their storyline that's become different, the focus has become different."

Janssen credited Bryan Singer, director of the first two X-Men movies, and Brett Ratner, director of X-Men: The Last Stand, for allowing all the characters to grow.

"They have done this so successfully that every character gets appropriate screen time," she said. "And there is a lot of us. There was a lot of us in the first, more in the second and even more in third. It's a complicated thing, a juggling act to get everybody the screen time they deserve and the storylines and the character development. I think they did that very well."

In terms of which side of Jean's personality show most enjoyed portraying, Janssen said she didn't have a preference.

"The great thing about being an actor to me is I get to play different characters," she said. "I get to explore different sides of humanity and be a different person with different character traits. I like all of those.

"In this case, it just feels like parts of Jean Grey and parts of this other person who was invading her head space. They were struggling inside of her, and it was a battle as to which one was going to win. At different times, it was one or the other and then they would reverse."

Showing the Phoenix side of Jean's personality involved not only acting, but special effects.

"Everything was done in post and experimented with," Janssen said of the physical transformation. "We did several tests. We did some tests before we started shooting, which thankfully didn't make it to the movie. Brett had this idea for a second to make me look like a mannequin, the way Jude Law looked in A.I. with that kind of plastic-y skin -- which would have been a disaster for me because I have really sensitive skin.

"So we tried, and it didn't work out. It didn't look great."

Janssen said she wanted an ambiguity to the character.

"I thought there was never a clear moment because she would go back and forth so much," she said. "As written in the beginning, she was going to be Jean, then she was going to be Phoenix, then she was going to be Dark Phoenix. And when I read it, I said, 'I don't think that's the way it's going to work.'

"I think you could never do it with makeup. It has to be done with acting because it's a struggle within her. Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other wins."

The Dark Phoenix story is one of the most-beloved in X-Men lore, and the more cosmic elements were taken out to fit a movie's budget and the tone that had been set in the first two films.

"We didn't stay true to the comics in this movie entirely," Janssen said. "I looked at the comics, but obviously there are a lot of comics to be looking at and a lot of things have happened in those 40 years the comic books have been around."

The biggest shake-up behind the scenes in the X-Men world was Singer leaving, followed by Matthew Vaughn in pre-production and then Ratner.

How difficult of a transition was it from Singer to Ratner?

"Very different people, very different directors, very different experiences," Janssen said. "As an actor, it's our job to come in and adapt to a new way of working with a different person. But Brett and Bryan are friends in real life, and all of us are friends with Bryan, so there's no weird energy or a bizarre thing about any of that. We just adapt."

X-Men: The Last Stand opens Friday.

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