John P. Midgley/Corbis Outline

Famke Janssen casts a sinister spell in her new film, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

After playing everything from femmes fatales to superheroes in films that have spanned all subjects and genres, what’s left for one of the silver screen’s most stunning actresses? Try transforming herself into a hideous, evil witch. “There will not be an uglier woman on screen this year,” promises Famke Janssen of her wicked, spine-tingling portrayal in this month’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which required three hours of monstrous makeup every day. The former model and Netherlands native spills on her spooky new role.

American Way: It took three hours to transform you from a beauty to a beast. How do you pass that time in the makeup chair?
Famke Janssen: I tried reading. I tried doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. But they’d do my hands at the same time they were doing my face. I tried talking to the makeup people, too, but it’s hard to have a good conversation when they’re constantly tugging on your lips and eyes.

AW: Are bad guys the best parts?
FJ: I’ve played a few villains, and they are certainly more colorful. When you’re a villain, you get to do all of the things you’d never do in real life. That’s always fun. The things my Hansel & Gretel character does are so horrible, I would always question how far I should take it as an actor.

AW: Audiences are enjoying a fairy-tale renaissance of late. How is this one different?
FJ: This is not the Hansel and Gretel that you read when you were a kid, and it’s not Hansel and Gretel somehow moved into the real world. This is Hansel and Gretel in their world, but all grown up and hunting the witches that tormented their childhood. I think audiences will love that.

AW: It would have been very easy for you to play merely a beautiful woman in film after film, but you continue to choose different roles. Why?
FJ: As an actor, you have no control over how the movie’s going to turn out. So for me, I’ve always thought the experience had better be a great one. Nobody can take the journey of making a film from me, so I’m always seeking projects that allow me to learn something, try something, do something different, grow as a human being. Sometimes the movies turn out well too.