Marvel Studios president Avi Arad was in talks with Jonathan Hensleigh, screenwriter of a row of hits, including Die Hard With a Vengeance and Armageddon, to direct an updated adaptation of The Punisher. Arad knew Romijn well from the X-Men films: "I really wanted her for this movie; the attraction was to dirty her up, if you will."
Hensleigh changed the story from a New York City mob squabble to a vendetta with Tampa-based thugs (led by John Travolta’s villainous Howard Saint) who slaughtered title character Frank Castle’s family. He also took the character of Joan the Mouse and made her a recovering addict rather than a meek recluse. "It's a small part," says Arad, "but not really, because she's in a lot of the movie as the metaphor. She says to him, 'Don't let those memories kill you.' Rebecca plays a character who at one time was on top of the world, and then discovered alcohol, drugs, all the self-destructive things that take you down. We have a line in the movie, 'Seven years, seven towns, always managed to find just the wrong guy.'"
Hensleigh was already quartered in Tampa when he first met Romijn, a couple of nights before the shoot began. "I asked her to do a little bit of line reading, and it was apparent instantly that she was extremely-I mean, underlined, capitalized-extremely well-prepared." Thus heartened as they ran Joan's lines-" I had to shoot this picture in 52 days on a $34 million budget, and consequently the actors had to deliver on the first few takes" - Hensleigh let Romijn alter his dialogue and emphases according to her vision of Joan. "She's played the character as soft, wounded, but with a steely resolve of a recovering addict underneath. She also brought a sweetness and a hauntedness. She just had it down."
"I would love to work with her again. I think this is the tip of the iceberg. There's an entire world, an untapped mystery. She reminds me of a young Lee Remick in her demeanor-very regal, but very simple at the same time."
Like any beauty who comes to fame young, Romijn braved a demimonde of seasoned exploiters, but she shrugs those lessons off. "In terms of the darkness of the character that I played in Femme Fatale, yeah, my first couple of years as a model were pretty lonely. But I wouldn't say that that's where I took my darkness from. I'm just somebody that's never been afraid to feel sadness, or to feel fear. I connect to my dark side as much as I connect to my light side. I've always done that, since I was a kid."
Original article: Premiere Magazine April 2004