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September 2005
FLIGHTPLAN : An Interview with Jodie Foster

FLIGHTPLAN: An Interview with Jodie Foster

By Julian Roman

Jodie Foster takes her film greatness and carries it over into real life. She was an excellent interview. She was beautiful, poised, and incredibly intellectual, truly a movie star. Flightplan has her on familiar turf as a mother protecting her daughter. The film stretches the suspension of disbelief, but Foster plays her character well and anchors everything down.

What attracted you to this film?

Jodie Foster: The full journey of the character, the primal connection to children. It hits you in a very unconscious primal place. That's what makes the best drama and I'm a dramatic actress. I love that the changes that she goes through is really the architecture of the film. She goes from the initial fear that she can't find her child and eventually loses her composure. Then she's in true grief where she can't tell whether she's crazy or not.

Once she gets to the other side of that, she turns into almost a robot. Where nobody else matters and she has one goal. She doesn't care who she has to take down to get it.


Your last few films have centered on a mother-child relationship. Is the family theme a conscious choice?

Jodie Foster: There's a thread of that. There are other threads too. I have a fear of being alone, a fear of having one person who you're really connected to ripped apart from you. Who would you be without them? They are different kinds of films, but there is a thread that continues throughout them.

Why did you want to explore the theme of losing your child?

Jodie Foster: It's just a primal fear. Movies have such potential to change people's lives. Not just movies about social-political things, but tiny, subtle things. You can look at a film and your life is widened. Your heart is opened. It's selfish to do it. It's a very self-evolving thing.

Have you ever temporarily lost your child?

Jodie Foster: Yes, not very often because we're pretty good keeping an eye on him. I had one moment when I lost my son and found him very quickly. There were so many people between us because we were in a crowd. He didn't see me and had a lot of anxiety not being able to find me. I learn through the film that you're first anxious about finding them because they might be somewhere. Then you imagine the panic look on their face, and then you go through the realities of all the horrible things that might have happened to them. It keeps spiraling down.

How would your portrayal of this character be different if you were not a mother?

Jodie Foster: I would imagine my parents while I'm being a kid on the opposite side. I actually did play a mom before I was a mom. “Little Man Tate” is the perfect example. That's a film where I really feel that relationship is really true between the two of them. It's good for her to just let him go because she's bad for him. I must have had an instinct of what it's like to be a parent before I was one.

You take a few licks during the film. Was this a physically demanding shoot?

Jodie Foster: It wasn't as physical as “Panic Room”. The re-shoots were physical with all the CGI.

Flightplan is a visual film with a lot of complex camera work. How do you maintain character between all those set-ups?

Jodie Foster: That's what we do as film actors rather than theater actors. I love the challenge, the discipline. It's really hard. I once read an article about the happiest people in their jobs. They found statistically that the happiest person is when you're in a job that's not so boring, tedious, and unchallenging. You should be somewhere in between and not on either extreme. Acting is always between those two extremes. It's tedious like working in a factory, but the other side of it is that it can be so challenging that it's superhuman. .

How do you go from one extreme to the other?

Jodie Foster: You drink coffee, you eat some food, you talk to some people; then they say action and you just do it. Every actor eventually figures out a way to get from here to there. Each person knows they have different things that move them in different ways. The nice thing about getting older is that you realize, "I just need some coffee and something to eat". (laughs)


You've had a tremendously successful career. What roles have you not played that you still want to?

Jodie Foster: I like playing the bad guy. As I get older, I can kind of see that a little more. It's so funny to be so small and to be able to be the bad guy. I want to do much more comedy because I'm really a light person. I'm not some heavy, dark person at all.

What comedy director would you want to work with?

Jodie Foster: I really need to be with a good comedy director. I loved working with Mel Gibson in Maverick. It was such an easy, fun experience. Richard Donner is really the comedy director you want to work with. He literally will do an imitation of you in order to direct you.

What goals have you not fulfilled as an actress?

Jodie Foster: I'd like to do a movie where I get to rise to a mastery of something, like a violinist or a trapeze artist. I would live in that world and bring that to who the character is. I feel like the only thing I really mastered is French. I've never felt like I mastered acting.

Will you be in another French film? You were a surprise in “A Very Long Engagement”.

Jodie Foster: I hope so. I've been trying to make a film in France for a long time. I made a couple when I was young. I feel like nobody ever thinks about me for French films. That's why I went to Jeunet [the director of A Very Long Engagement] and told him that I really like his films and I want him to find something for me.

Which young actress most resembles you?

Jodie Foster: Dakota Fanning is so good. She looks a little like me, too. Jena Malone, too. Mostly I look at actors that have an interesting career and get to see different sides of them. Right now, Terrance Howard is so spectacular. I wish I directed “Hustle and Flow”. Robin Wright Penn, I go see anything she does. They're not big names, but There's something about their inner life that I am so attracted to.

You've also had a career as a director. What are you directing next?

Jodie Foster: I have a film I'm working on called “Sugarland”. It's about immigrant, Jamaican workers in Southern Florida and a Cuban plantation owner played by Robert De Niro.

What drew you to the script?

Jodie Foster: It's a great script. It needs to work, though. Part of my work as a director is to find where American really is and were it is within me. I am very much an American, but I went to a French school. I was raised traveling. I come at it from a strange perspective because I led a very international life. This film is really about who Americans are and what America represents to us, the iconography of the American dream.

You're working with Spike Lee now? What's it like working with him?

Jodie Foster: Yes, I just finished a film with him. Denzel Washington and Clive Owen are also in it. It's a real commercial-like movie about a bank heist. It has anarchists in it too. I love working with Spike and Denzel.

Is there a difference between working with a female and a male director?

Jodie Foster: Jonathan Demme is my favorite female director. (laughs) He would be happy to hear that because he does have a really female sensibility. I always resist these categories. Sometimes they have a more female gender-identified style like Jonathan and sometimes they have a more masculine-identified style like Kathryn Bigelow.


What about the movie "Flora Plum"?

Jodie Foster: I hope it'll get done some day. It's one of those films that's going to take forever to get made. Who knows when it'll get done?


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