She's played a powerful psychic mutant in the “X-Men” films and a super-villainous Bond girl in “GoldenEye,” but Famke Janssen has found her greatest thrill behind the camera, directing a down-to-earth family dramedy in Oklahoma City.
The result is “Bringing Up Bobby,” which the Dutch actress turned writer-director will introduce to local moviegoers during the deadCenter Film Festival.
The film will screen at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Sam Noble Theatre at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, followed by an audience Q&A with Janssen and executive producer Cole Frates. The film will be shown again at 8 p.m. Sunday at Harkins Bricktown Theaters.
The deadCenter Film Festival runs Wednesday through Sunday.
“It really feels like we're bringing it home, and it will be a perfectly complete circle,” Janssen said in a phone interview from her New York apartment last week. “You know, very few things in life can be neat, and I feel like something very nice and complete about the process is when we bring it back as a fully finished product, and we can celebrate the evening with everybody, and there were so many people who were part of getting the movie off the ground, who were part of making it as great as it became, and it's a celebratory event. I'm very excited about it.”
Janssen has already shown “Bringing Up Bobby” at festivals worldwide, including the Cannes and Deauville festivals in France, and festivals in Italy, Holland, Shanghai and Canada, but she admits the anticipation she feels for the deadCenter screening is edged with a bit of opening-night jitters.
“To me, the scariest thing is to bring it home because you want to make sure that the people from Oklahoma like it,” she said. “And I was so taken by the place and I thought that certain things were so beautiful, and I loved putting Pop's (on old Route 66) in there, which is so different-looking from any other building I've ever seen.”
Other locations used in the film include the postcard-famous Round Barn in Arcadia, Leadership Square in downtown Oklahoma City, a palatial private residence in Nichols Hills, and a couple of the metro area's less elegant districts.
The screenplay by Janssen, based on a story by Janssen and Frates, centers on Olive (Milla Jovovich, “Resident Evil,” “The Three Musketeers”), a nomadic European con artist who settles in Oklahoma City with her 10-year-old American-born son Bobby (Spencer List), hoping to find a better life for him.
But Olive's unrealistic ideas about life and her illegal shenanigans soon become her undoing, landing her in jail while a wealthy couple (Bill Pullman and Marcia Cross) take the wild-spirited Bobby into their care, feeling responsible for the boy in the wake of a nearly-disastrous accident.
When Olive regains her freedom with a new grasp on reality, it remains to be seen whether she'll earn a second chance.
Janssen said the idea for the story and its setting came to her when her Los Angeles-based businessman boyfriend Frates brought her back to Oklahoma to meet his family.
“I'd seen the Round Barn and I'd seen Pops and I'd seen all these places where I thought it would make it really interesting,” she said, “ ... and there's something about Oklahoma, where you still have a train coming right through town.
“ ... And, being a foreigner, even though I've lived in the United States for about 20 years in New York, I thought it was a unique and different place, very American in a way.
“So that then became a topic of conversation: What if we set a movie in Oklahoma and make the protagonist European, like I am, because it was sort of through my eyes ... What are the things that as a foreigner you either take for granted or you find interesting or funny or different,” she said. “And so that's how the story kind of came about.”
Janssen said another enticement for filming in the Sooner state was its Film Enhancement Rebate Program, which offered a 35 percent return on film production expenditures made within the state.
“And it was really wonderful, the help we got from everybody, from (Oklahoma Film and Music Office director) Jill Simpson.”
Filming of the $1.5 million production was completed on a tight, monthlong schedule in July and August of 2010, and is set for wide theatrical release this October. Meanwhile, Janssen has been maintaining a steady income taking roles in the upcoming “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” with Jeremy Renner, and “Taken 2” with Liam Neeson.
Janssen is hoping her directorial debut will lead to other projects behind the lens, because she likes the taste of artistic control.
“I've already written my next screenplay that I want to direct in my next hiatus,” she said. “Yeah, you know, it's so much more fulfilling on so many different levels than acting has ever been to me. Not that acting isn't wonderful. It is a really great job. But ultimately everything is in the hands of somebody else, so you have to give up so much control and what happens to the end product has nothing to do with you.
“And you can do your best work, but if somebody decides to cut you out of the movie, it's better served cutting your scenes in a different way. I know now because I've been through it as a director. You can really change people's performances. This is much more satisfying because I have a lot more control.”
IF YOU GO
‘Bringing Up Bobby'
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive, and 8 p.m. Sunday, Harkins Bricktown Theatres, 150 E Reno.
Festival information: deadcenterfilm.org.