The day is for you, Famke Jannsen – because today, we celebrate the birthday of this wonderful performer that has given so much to the world of science fiction! Whether it’s in her first role on Star Trek: The Next Generation or her more famous portrayal of Jean Grey in the early X-Men films, she’s a superstar worthy of respect, and today it’s time to raise a glass to her greatest accomplishments. Use your telekinetic abilities to pull up a chair, and let’s get started.
Born in Amstelveen in the Netherlands on November 5, 1964, Famke Beumer Jannssen was one of three daughters growing up. Her sisters also entered showbusiness, with Antoinette becoming a director and Marjolein getting into acting. Famke, however, started a little differently, beginning her career as a model in 1984 when she signed with Elite Model Management. She went on to work with many notable brands, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, Chanel, and Victoria’s Secret, but by 1992 she was shifting from modeling into acting.
When she retired from the runway, Jannssen began her acting career with a bang, starring in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation as the empathic metamorph, Kamala. Acting opposite future X-Men co star Patrick Stewart, she left a great enough impression to later be offered the role of Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine, but she turned it down.
Famke Jannsen had her breakthrough feature film performance as Xenia Onatopp in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond film Goldeneye in 1995, but it would be another five years before she became a household name in the world of science fiction by taking a role in one of the first major comic book based motion pictures that set the stage for the likes of the MCU and others: Jean Grey, of the X-Men.
Jannssen made her debut as Jean Grey in 2000 in the first X-Men film, followed by X2 in 2003 and X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. Over the three films, she portrayed Jean through her arc as the Phoenix, modified from the comics to be not simply a celestial entity, but a fractured portion of Jean’s psyche that was psychically locked away by Professor Xavier, along with a good deal of Jean’s true power. Though the role of a younger Jean Grey was later passed on to Sophie Turner in the second generation of X-Men films such as First Class, Apocalypse, and Days Of Future Past, Famke Jannsen has reprised the role of Jean Grey, all grown up, in The Wolverine and briefly in Days Of Future Past in a modified future where she survived the events of The Last Stand. Not one to allow herself to be pigeonholed, Jannssen has also extended her work into the realm of fantasy and horror, playing the role of villainess Muriel in 2013’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
In addition to her work in television and movies, Jannssen is also notably involved in charitable causes and activism. Along with advocating for animal rights, in 2008 Jannssen was named as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office Against Drugs & Crime – a post she took after her portrayal of Lenore, wife to Liam Neeson’s protagonist in the Taken films, inspired her to take action in this particular venue.
Be it acting, modeling, or philanthropy, her resume speaks for itself: Famke Jannssen isn’t playing the role of a powerful hero, she’s the real deal. Here’s hoping she can read my thoughts today, because there’s a very special one just for her.
Happy Birthday, Famke! Like the legendary namesake of your best known character, may you always rise from the ashes of adversity like the phoenix you are.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.