Sydney Morning Herald Interview


Godsend wasn't one - at least not for production company Lions Gate Films. The release of this Hollywood horror film was one of those occasions when American critics and paying cinemagoers agreed: they hated it. To date, the $35 million film has taken $26 million internationally. Australia is in the awkward position of seeing most Hollywood movies after they've been released in the US, meaning actors have to do promotional interviews after the guillotine blade of the massive American market has fallen. How does an actor flog a flop?

"It's the art of," says Godsend star Rebecca Romijn (Romijn is pronounced "Romaine"). "You must be familiar with it. It's the question of perfecting the art of B.S. I am a B.S. artiste when it comes to [her 2002 film] Rollerball."

Godsend is a horror film of the creepy-kid subgenre. It's the story of husband and wife Paul (Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear) and Jessie Duncan (Romijn), whose eight-year-old son, Adam (Cameron Bright), is killed in an accident. The grieving couple is confronted by Dr Richard Wells (two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro), who promises to bring their child back by cloning him. Godsend is a zinger of an idea packed with heavyweight stars, but it went belly-up. Gene Seymour from Newsday called it a "soupy, tedious mess". Chuck Schwartz from said the audience in his screening was "laughing hysterically".

What went wrong? Romijn read the script, came on board the project and worked on the set, so she should be well placed to explain some of what happened. "We gave some decent performances," she says. "I think there are some problems with the ending. We never really had an ending. We shot six or seven of them and none worked. "The script had an ending, but it was weak and we intended to make it better, but it never really happened."

The 31-year-old is refreshingly candid about both the film and her career to date. She started working as a model while studying music at the University of California. "All the models around me wanted to be actresses," she says. "Chances were slim that everyone there who wanted to be an actress would be. I would never let the words pass through my mouth, that I wanted to be an actress." The Californian got her first break hosting an MTV show, which she "doesn't consider acting", before landing a role in an episode of Friends. Mostly, she says, it's journalists who query her about prejudices against "MTAs" - models-turned-actresses.

"[Being a model] sort of does start you in a position of less than zero and maybe you've got a little bit more to prove. There are so many actresses that started off as models: Anjelica Huston, Halle Berry; the entire cast of X-Men used to be models. There's a huge success rate and a huge failure rate. I've seen models that tried to act and sucked."

Romijn's most famous role is that of Mystique, the near-naked blue female mutant from X-Men. Talking to Romijn about playing Mystique is like hearing the walking-through-school-without-clothes dream backwards: the actress felt clothed while everyone else insisted she was naked. "I grew up in a fairly liberal household and my parents are hippies. Nudity has never been an issue."

"I think the Mystique character is beautiful. I don't think of her as naked, although that's what the effect is. I'm in denial about that - I say, 'She's not naked,' and everyone's like, 'Yes, Rebecca, you're naked.' "It doesn't feel like you're naked. It's a very strange sensation."

In April, the actress had a well-publicised split from actor John Stamos, which she's not prepared to talk about. She'd prefer to talk about Godsend. Or perhaps not. "Nobody wants to make a crappy movie," Romijn says. "You go in, you want to make a good movie ... We have bills to pay. We have to pay off our mortgage, just like everyone else."

She says she doesn't read reviews because they "mess with your head". Will the actress play devil's advocate - aka film critic - just this once? Romijn agrees, gracefully balancing her easy frankness against her enviable skill for flogging. A dead horse, that is.

"Here's my review: I think it's really good except for the end. I can't believe I just said that. Also, I think that there are some really good scares in it. It's a great idea. I wish they had come up with a really great ending."

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