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Actress and former fashion model, Famke Janssen was born November 5, 1965, in Amstelveen, Netherlands. The first name means little girl in West Frisian, the native language of the Dutch province Friesland. Janssen learned to speak English, German and French. While a student, she decided to try her hand in acting and took acting classes with Harold Guskin. She also studied writing and literature for the improvement of her acting career.
Before coming to America, Janssen studied economics for a year at the University of Amsterdam calling it "the stupidest idea I ever had." Janssen moved to the United States in 1984 and began her professional career as a fashion model. She was signed with Elite Model Management and worked for Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Victoria's Secret. After retiring from modeling in the early 1990s, she enrolled at Columbia University to study creative writing and literature and also took up acting. Several years later she moved to Los Angeles to establish her acting career.
Upon moving to Los Angeles, Janssen obtained her first parts, appearing in guest roles on TV series. She starred in a 1988 commercial for Exclamation perfume. One of her first appearances was in 1992, when she starred in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Perfect Mate" as empathic metamorph Kamala, opposite Patrick Stewart (who would later star with her in the X-Men film series). Then, in that same year, Janssen was offered the role of Jadzia Dax of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but turned it down to pursue film roles.
Janssen's first film role was with Jeff Goldblum in the 1992 film Fathers & Sons. In 1995, she appeared in the first Pierce Brosnan James Bond film, GoldenEye, as femme fatale Xenia Onatopp.Janssen played superheroine Dr. Jean Grey/Phoenix in X-Men, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand. She won a Saturn Award for the role in X-Men: The Last Stand. She also starred in the movies Lord of Illusions, The Faculty, House on Haunted Hill, I Spy, Rounders, Deep Rising, Hide and Seek, and Taken. In addition, Janssen had a prominent role in the second season of the popular TV show, Nip/Tuck, as the seductive and manipulative transsexual life coach, Ava Moore. She will reprise her role in the final two episodes of the series.
Janssen tried to fight against typecasting by appearing in Woody Allen's Celebrity, Robert Altman's The Gingerbread Man, John Irvin's City of Industry and Ted Demme's Monument Ave. She was awarded the Special Jury Best Actress Award at the 2007 Hamptons International Film Festival for her role as a female pool hustler in Chris Eigeman's Turn the River. Janssen provides the Dutch-language narration for the Studio Tram Tour at all Disney parks.
In December 2008 Janssen filmed a 20 minute presentation for Showtime that serves as a pilot for a spinoff of The L Word set in a women's Prison. Janssen plays one of the prisoners starring alongside Melissa Leo, Leisha Hailey and Laurie Metcalf.