January Jones is, perhaps for the first time in her career, contemplating sensible shoes.
The actress, best known as "Mad Men's" coolly chic Betty Draper, needed to keep her feet firmly planted for "Unknown," a psychological thriller opening Feb. 18 that sees her racing across Berlin in a series of car chases, explosions and fistfights.
"It was my first venture in the action genre," says Jones. "We made sure my shoes were comfortable, because I'm running around a lot. They gave me a padded high heel with a grip on the bottom so I wasn't slipping, sliding and hurting myself, and all these beautiful high boots."
Jones was running to keep up with Liam Neeson, who plays her husband, another in a series of action outings ("Taken," "The A-Team") that casts the sensitive star of "Schindler's List" as a bone-crunching hero.
In the film, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra ( "Orphan") and adapted from the novel "Out of My Head" by Didier van Cauwelaert, Neeson's Dr. Martin Harris awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that another man ( Aidan Quinn) has taken his name, his job, even his beautiful wife. With the help of a taxi driver ( Diane Kruger), Harris sets out to reclaim his life.
"It's got a very Hitchcockian vibe," Jones says. "Liam's character is struggling with what he remembers, whether it's real. He has all these flashbacks. He doesn't know whether those are actual memories."
If Harris' recollections are to be trusted, then his wife might not be. "When you first meet my character, you're not sure whether she is who he thinks she is," says Jones.
Though action is new for the actress, playing a woman who might be either a perfect wife or a conniving villain is something that spills over into the duplicitous psychological territory that the Emmy-winning "Mad Men" mines so well.
Jones is actually the first of a series of actors from the show who are set to appear on the big screen in 2011: Jon Hamm can be seen in two films, "Sucker Punch" and the comedy "Bridesmaids," Elisabeth Moss goes beat for Walter Salles' "On the Road," John Slattery dons his fedora again for "The Adjustment Bureau," Christina Hendricks appears in the chick-lit adaptation "I Don't Know How She Does It" and the action film "Drive," while Alison Brie joins the next installment of the "Scream" franchise and Vincent Kartheiser stars in Andrew Niccol's high-concept sci-fi outing "Now."
The slim blond herself will return to the multiplex in June as the sexy Emmy Frost in director Matthew Vaughn's 1960s-set "X-Men: First Class." ("She's got quite the bod, which is very intimidating," Jones said of the comic book bombshell.)
"'Mad Men' is such a stylized piece," says Jones. "When [series creator] Matthew Weiner put the group of us together, he wanted people who weren't known, so that people would believe us as those characters. For 'Mad Men' to have given all of us the opportunity to flex our muscles and show our capabilities has been a huge blessing. To have people take note is what every actor wants."