Rebecca Romijn felt as if she were living our one of those actor-specific nightmares: It was three weeks into filming the remake of Rollerball, in which she has a starring role, and her director, John McTierman, had hardly spoken to her. What she didn't know was that she was basically freaking McTierman out. The director of "Die Hard" and "The Hunt for Red October" had initially auditioned the model turned actress for the role of Aurora, a somber, emotionally damaged Eastern European, thinking that, because of her stunning looks and exotic name, she was European, (Actually, Romijn is the California-born-and-bred daughter of Dutch-American parents, who further complicated her surname in 1998 by marrying actor John "Full House" Stamos.
Her audition was impressive - "Rebecca's a very good actress. It surprised the hell out of me," McTierman says - so he cast her, and immediately set about eradicating her Californicated roots. "I needed somebody with a hole in her emotionally," he says. He gave her a Dutch accent, plucked her eyebrows, hollowed her cheekbones with makeup, dressed her in bondage-ish leather, and hid her blond tresses under a black china-doll wig. But she still looked too perfect.
Unable to sleep one night, McTierman says, "some Jungian notion sprang up, and I decided, 'F**k it - I'm gonna scar her face.'" So the make-up artist applied a thin scar that ran from Romijn's forehead through her eye and down her cheekbone. McTierman became instantly chatty with his star, prattling on about moving rocks with his tractor on his ranch. Romijn was puzzled and asked him why he was suddenly so talkative. The director, she recalls, got embarrassed. "He told me, 'I have a confession to make. I find it much easier to talk to you when you have that scar on your face. You're one of the world's winners, and it was difficult for me to talk to you - overwhelming.'"
Though touched by his honesty, Romijn (pronounced "romaine") was also taken aback. "It was as hard to
take as somebody who doesn't want to talk to you because you're a freak," she says a few weeks later while visiting a resort in the Bahamas for a photo shoot. "I've discussed this with other models - whether you have to overcompensate with your personality to make people feel okay around you. I feel like I still do it all the time - make myself really human, really groofy, really humble, just to make people feel comfortable."
In contrast, playing Aurora was "so nice," she says. "I could walk around with a dour expression. My whole life, people have been relying on me to be the sunshiny Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It's offensive when people say, 'Hey, smile, it's not that bad.' It's irritating to always have to be up - to basically set dressing for the world."
McTierman thinks the scar he added on a whim ended up deepening Rebecca as an actress, and as a person. "She thought the scar changed the way I related to her, which is probably true, because I'm probably afraid of gorgeous women," he says. "But eventually, these little confessions came out: She mentioned that she'd gone to a club in Montreal and left the scar on, and she was astounded by how people related to her differently."
One day Romijn wore the scar while walking her dog, Landor, on some hiking trails at the Canadian ski resort where she was staying during filming. "There were about five or six punky fifteen-year-old boys who saw me from a distance and started elbowing and nudging each other - 'Hey, check her out,'" she recalls. Then she got closer and they saw the big scar. "The shut up; they couldn't look at me."
"The scar changed her,"says McTierman. "Like she came out from behind the model's maks - the arrogant, statuesque, 'We're all Princess Grace of Monaco.' I think it opened this spigot of where the hurts in her life were, where she was vulnerable, a human being with her feet in the mud like the rest of us. It somehow freed her."
"People don't think of me as being sad, but I have a dark side just like everybody else," says Romijn. For one scene in Rollerball, she was held down and forced to watch while the bad guys tried to kill her boyfriend, played by Chris Klein. It demanded real acting, and Romijn says, "I bawled my eyes out."
Original article: Elle 03/2001