Born November 6, 1972, in Berkeley, CA; daughter of Jaap Romijn (a furniture designer) and Elizabeth Kuizenga (a teacher); married John Stamos (an actor), September 19, 1998 (divorced, March, 2005); married Jerry O'Connell (an actor), July 14, 2007. Education: Attended the University of California—Santa Cruz, c. 1990–91.
Addresses: Home—Calabasas, CA. Office—c/o WB Television Network, 4000 Warner Blvd., Bldg. 34R, Burbank, CA 91522.
Began career as a model in France, early 1990s, and in the United States; appeared in February swimsuit issues of Sports Illustrated, mid-1990s. Actress in films, including: Dirty Work, 1998; Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, 1999; X-Men, 2000; S1m0ne, 2002; Femme Fatale, 2002; Rollerball, 2002; X2, 2003; Godsend, 2004; The Punisher, 2004; Man About Town, 2006; The Alibi, 2006; X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006; Secrets and Lies, 2006; Wet Dreams (documentary), 2006. Television appearances include: House of Style (host), MTV, 1998–2000; Friends, NBC, 1997; Just Shoot Me!, NBC, 1999–2000; Pepper Dennis, the WB, 2006.
Rebecca Romijn joined a legion of model-turned-actresses when she began appearing in her first film and television roles in the late 1990s, but nearly a decade later had become one of just a handful of former runway strutters who had genuinely succeeded in her new career. Moreover, Romijn's comedy chops surprised critics, producers, and fans alike, and these were ably showcased in her own television series, Pepper Dennis, which debuted on the WB network in the spring of 2006. "You know, I'm not interested in being 'just a pretty girl,'" she told Ty Wenger in an interview for Marie Claire. "It's so boring to be just a pretty girl. I mean, I know they exist. I've definitely met a few. But I would be bored to tears."
Romijn was born in Berkeley, California, in 1972, and grew up in this San Francisco Bay-area college town. The family name, pronounced "romaine," reflected the Dutch heritage of her father Jaap, a furniture maker. He and Romijn's mother, a teacher, divorced when she was seven, but continued to live across the street from one another. "Where I grew up, it was very intellectual and politically correct," she told London Sunday Times journalist James Mottram. "We weren't really hippies, but we didn't have any money, and my parents donated every extra cent they had to fight the Vietnam war effort."
Romijn harbored an early childhood dream of becoming a television newscaster when she grew up, but years of voice lessons predicted a future career in classical music for her. She was a gawky teen, and grew six inches in one summer to near her full height of five feet, eleven inches. She entered the University of California at Santa Cruz as a music major, but yearned to travel. An opportunity arrived when she met a modeling scout for a European agency, who offered her contract for some work in Paris. She assumed it would be an easy way to earn some money for the summer and see Europe, but once there her all-American blonde looks brought an onslaught of offers. She landed on the cover of French Elle and was signed to a cosmetics contract with Biotherm within a few months.
Romijn never returned to school, but spent two years in Europe instead. "I learnt more in my first five days there than I did in the whole of my time at university," she recalled about her arrival in Paris in an interview with Independent on Sunday journalist Hermione Eyre. "Just in terms of being street savvy, finding my way to castings in high heels on those cobbles. I learnt how to become a business woman at a really young age." When she returned to the United States, Romijn emerged as the newest Victoria's Secret model, and appeared in the 1994 swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated.
That same year, Romijn met former teen pin-up and Full House actor John Stamos, and the two began a well-publicized courtship. Her modeling career was in full swing, with subsequent Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues and a spot on People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" issue in 1997, but she was already beginning to move beyond modeling. She started cautiously, taking a guest spot in a 1997 episode of Friends, as Ross's new scientist-girlfriend with a pigsty of an apartment. Next, she landed a plum role as the host of MTV's House of Style, and spent two years on that job as well as appearing as the face of Tommy Hilfiger's Tommy Girl in the ad campaign for the fragrance. She made her film debut in a small part as a bearded lady in a 1998 Norm MacDonald (SNL) comedy, Dirty Work, and had a cameo a year later as a model in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Romijn proved such a hit as David Spade's supermodel girlfriend in the NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me! that her character Adrienne, slated for just three episodes in 1999, was expanded into the next season. By this time she was using the professional name "Rebecca Romijn-Stamos," after she and Stamos were wed at a lavish Beverly Hills Hotel ceremony in September of 1998. The equally attractive pair appeared frequently in celebrity-focused magazines such as People and InStyle, with the latter magazine publishing photos of their 400-guest wedding and details about her dress, the flowers, and a cake that took 100 hours to make.
Romijn won a part in the X-Men movie in 2000, the Marvel Comics series adaptation. She played the shape-shifter Mystique, but had just one line of dialogue; in the 2003 sequel X2 she had a meatier role, but still no costume save for the elaborate blue body paint and scaly silicone appliqués that took several hours daily to apply and remove. She also appeared in an uncredited role in a 2002 Al Pacino movie, S1m0ne, about a computer-generated starlet, and had a starring role in Femme Fatale, also released that year. The Brian De Palma film was a French production that co-starred her with Antonio Banderas, and she played Laure Ash, a jewel thief and con artist. In the movie's first half-hour, she seduces a woman at the Cannes Film Festival in order to nab the elaborate gold and bejeweled serpent that covers the upper part of her prey's torso in lieu of clothing. Romijn's character then double-crosses her colleagues and goes on the run. Most critics savaged the movie, but a few offered positive words. "The relatively slim screen career of Romijn-Stamos … plays in her favor, as she seems both a familiar archetype and freshly minted," wrote Lisa Nesselson in Variety. "Laure's behavior may be far-fetched, but it's consistently unpredictable."
Romijn caused a bit of a stir for confessing in the April 2002 edition of Elle that she had wondered at one point in her single life if she was interested in women, and "so I kind of, well … did my homework." A year later, the Advocate's Michael Giltz asked her about the revelation and the fallout she experienced from it. "It was an innocuous comment," she told Giltz. "I didn't get into any specifics. I didn't think it was that big a deal. But it's true. Some people asked me to keep my mouth shut after that, and some people thanked me. I don't regret it at all. I don't know. My gay aunts were very supportive of it."
After Femme Fatale, Romijn tried to avoid projects that capitalized on her former-model status. In Rollerball, a 2002 remake of the 1970s futuristic action thriller, she played the motorcycle-riding Aurora, who sports an ugly scar across her face. She also appeared as a grieving mother who agrees to have her dead son cloned in Godsend in 2004, and had a small role in another Marvel Comics adaptation, The Punisher, that same year. In April of 2004, however, Romijn and Stamos announced they were separating, and the divorce was finalized the following March. Her film career was one factor, she admitted to Marc Peyser and Sean Smith in Newsweek. "To have to keep re-establishing that 'couple' rhythm if you've been gone for months on end is really, really hard," she said, adding she tried to avoid talking about the split. "It was so complicated, and people wanted an explanation and there isn't one." Gossip columns hinted that Romijn's ascending career may have played a factor, since Stamos had done little except made-for-television movies and the occasional Broadway role since leaving the sitcom Full House in the mid-1990s.
Romijn began dating actor Jerry O'Connell, who was a regular on the NBC series Crossing Jordan and had appeared in movies ranging from Stand by Me to Kangaroo Jack. The two announced their engagement, after a year of dating, in September of 2005; in July of 2007, they wed in an intimate ceremony in Los Angeles in front of 100 family and friends. She returned to using her given name in screen credits, which began with another X-Men film, The Last Stand, in 2006. She appeared in two other big-screen roles that year: Man About Town, as the adulterous wife of a Hollywood agent played by Ben Affleck, and The Alibi, about an agency that provides credible stories for cheating spouses.
In the spring of 2006, Romijn landed her own hour-long television series, Pepper Dennis, on the WB network. As the title character, Romijn was cast as a hapless investigative reporter for a Chicago television station whose bad luck or lousy timing often gets in the way of her job and her love life. Complicating matters further was Pepper's oddball family, including a suburban-housewife sister who leaves her husband and moves in with Pepper. In the pilot episode, Romijn's character is stunned to learn that a man with whom she had a brief romantic liaison has been hired for the coveted anchor job she hoped to win. In first-season travails, the actress showed off her talent for physical comedy in such incidents as a skirmish with a bus shelter as Pepper runs after a story. "There's no way to fake that," the show's director, Shawn Levy, told InStyle writer George Epaminondas. "She had to do it. Rebecca's willingness to make fun of herself and play with her image is … an endearing trait, and it's rare."
Pepper Dennis earned mixed reviews from critics. "For an actress who's known as an action hero and a former model, Romijn is remarkably nimble as a comedienne," noted Peyser and Smith in the Newsweek article. "She falls down or gets dirty or humiliated at least twice an episode, and she's an adorable, if stunning, klutz." Other assessments usually noted that any fault of the series lay with the writers, not the star. "The show lacks the sly, smartly written humor," declared Detroit Free Press writer Mike Duffy, "that might lift it a notch or two in comic quality. There's precious little zing to the thing. Except, of course, for the plucky slapstick diva in the middle of it all." When the WB merged with UPN to become the CW Network, Romijn's show did not get picked up. However, she kept busy with two independent films that were released at the 2006 CineVegas Film Festival: the drama Secrets and Lies and a documentary, Wet Dreams, about the choreographed fountains at Las Vegas' Bellagio Hotel and Casino.
Romijn lives in Calabasas, California, in a renovated log cabin that once served as a brothel, with her four dogs. In her off-work hours, she keeps fit with Pilates, scours flea markets for the oddities that constitute a large part of her home décor, and occasionally dines alone at restaurants or goes to movies by herself. She is satisfied that a career that began slowly, by her own choice, is flourishing and moving forward after a decade of careful nurturing. "I've always tried to practice what I call expectation management, which is: Expect nothing and you'll be pleasantly surprised," she told Gerri Miller in an interview for Joe Weider's Muscle & Fitness. "I never planned on any of this."
Advocate, April 30, 2002, p. 12; April 29, 2003, p. 54.
Detroit Free Press, April 4, 2006.
Independent on Sunday (London, England), May 4, 2003, p. 3.
InStyle, April 2006, p. 462.
Joe Weider's Muscle & Fitness, June 2006, p. 44.
Marie Claire March 2002, p. 84.
Newsweek, April 10, 2006, p. 63.
People, July 3, 2006, p. 26.
Sunday Times (London, England), June 16, 2002, p. 6.
Variety, May 6, 2002, p. 41.