The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Famke Janssen (“Hemlock Grove”)

Famke Janssen made both her film and television debuts in 1992, but it wasn’t until a few years later, when she became a Bond girl by the unforgettable name of Xenia Onatopp in “GoldenEye,” that everything started to come up roses for her. In the intervening years, Janssen has made multiple films, most notably starring as Jean Gray in the “X-Men” franchise, but 2013 marks her inaugural foray into a full-time TV series gig…and by “TV series,” what I really mean is a Netflix series. “Hemlock Grove,” produced by Eli Roth, kicks off its first season on Friday, April 19, but Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to chat with Janssen way back in January, at the Television Critics Association press tour, about her new series as well as a few of her past films.

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Bullz-Eye: “Hemlock Grove” marks the first time you’ve ever taken on a series-regular role for television. Did you have any trepidation about taking that kind of a plunge for a show that’s being delivered to viewers in a non-traditional manner, or was that part of what drew you to it?

Famke Janssen: Trepidation about that element? No. Doing a series, period? Yes. [Laughs.] But to me, I think the fact that it was for Netflix and not your traditional network or cable show was one of the deciding factors—or certainly an added bonus, anyway—because it felt like we were kind of in the wild west, with new territory to explore. It wasn’t this whole weight of a specific way of working that we had to carry through in some way. So with that, I was hoping that there would be less control coming from above, and not so much like a big studio standing there with a whip, making you feel like you’re more of a puppet than anything else. Also, the whole 13-episode part was attractive as well, because I’m designed my life in such a way now that I’m trying to go back and forth between writing and directing and acting, and signing up for something that would’ve taken an entire year, as a network show would’ve…I hadn’t considered that at all, just because I don’t have the time for it. I don’t want to tie myself down. So in that regard, it was a perfect set-up, because I can make money and then I can pursue my passion of writing and directing in my free time.

BE: So what can you tell us about Olivia Godfrey without divulging anything too spoiler-y?

FJ: Olivia’s still mysterious even to me, and I’ve lived with her now for 13 hours onscreen, not to mention many more hours shooting the series, of course. She’s married into this Godfrey family, a family with a lot of money, but she comes from a lot of money as well…or she seems to, anyway. But whether she does come from a lot of money or where she really comes from or what her deal really is, nobody really knows, and maybe nobody will ever find out. [Laughs.] She’s highly manipulative. She loves her children, but she’s also somebody who just has an agenda most of the time. And she’s in love with her husband’s brother, and…there are all sorts of integral relationships with bizarre things going on within this small town as well as with these family members. [Shrugs.] It feels like “Twin Peaks” to me. That’s what it felt like. That’s the reason why I really liked it: because it is, in a good way, nonsensical. It’s not linear. You’re not gonna…not everything is going to be explained. There are going to be a lot of mysteries surrounding it all. Nothing is going to be wrapped up with a neat bow.

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Experience the horror all over again with “Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure” on Blu-ray

Call it fate or just sheer coincidence, but the same week that Bullz-Eye announced the newest class of its Directors Hall of Fame, Lionsgate is releasing “Apocalypse Now” for the first time on Blu-ray. So what’s the connection? Well, the film’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, was one of our five inductees, and his work on “Apocalypse Now” played a huge role in him making the final cut. Obviously, the first two “Godfather” films are what Coppola is best known for, but his 1979 Vietnam War epic isn’t far behind. I’ve never really been a fan of the director apart from these three films, but while his career has certainly had more flops than successes, there’s a lot more to the man than his formative years behind the camera.

Although I have a deep respect for “Apocalypse Now,” if I had to sum up my feelings about the film in just one sentence, it would probably go something like this: It’s a great film, but it’s a flawed film. That might sound a bit harsh considering my four-star review of the movie, but it’s true. Of course, even for as good as it is, the story about the making of it is even better, and that’s where the new Blu-ray comes into play. Despite a 2006 special edition DVD called The Complete Dossier, the new three-disc Full Disclosure edition is a lot closer to the ultimate “Apocalypse Now” collection. For starters, it includes the 1991 documentary about the making of the film, “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” which Bob Westal calls “both a cautionary tale and an inspiration.” Much like “Lost in La Mancha” – the 2000 documentary about the act-of-god collapse of Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” – this first-person account (captured by Coppola’s wife, Eleanor) of the trouble-plagued production is one the most interesting films about the moviemaking process ever released, and it’s a must-have for any diehard fan or student of cinema.

In addition, both versions of the film – the original theatrical cut and the 2001 director’s cut, “Apocalypse Now Redux” – have been digitally restored in high definition with excellent results, delivering a sharper picture without making it look glossy like some of the other classic movies recently released on Blu-ray. There are also hours of bonus material to enjoy, including a pair of new interviews with actor Martin Sheen and writer John Milius that are loaded with anecdotes about their experiences working on the film, as well as a casting featurexte on the supporting actors that made up the PBR Street Gang. But while it contains some never-before-seen footage of Nick Nolte’s audition (who was ultimately never cast in the film), there’s no video or photographic evidence of Harvey Keitel’s two-week stint as Willard before he was replaced by Martin Sheen.

The recasting situation is mentioned briefly, but after last week’s Internet-fueled brouhaha over the Eric Stoltz footage that was released on the new “Back to the Future” Blu-rays, they could have at least included a few shots of Keitel in costume. I’m not sure if any even exist, but I have to imagine they do, so there’s always a chance that something from Keitel’s work on the film will pop up in the future. Of course, that means that “Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure” isn’t as complete as it could be, but it’s still one of the best releases of the year, and worth upgrading to Blu-ray for if you haven’t already.

  

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