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March 2006
Inside Man: An Interview with Jodie Foster

Inside Man: An Interview with Jodie Foster, continued

by Wilson Morales

Would you play another strong character as you did in The Accused?

JF: Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. I mean I love that character the fact that she didn't know that she was strong, that she's been broken down by the fact that she doesn't have the language skills and she doesn't have the education and she doesn't have the background. And the fact she rises above all of these things because she has the courage to stand for something, you know. So she sort of finds her power during the course of the movie as opposed to something who comes all wrapped up and of course I remember that and it's hard to play a 43 year old person who didn't know that they were powerful before.

What about Flora Plum?

JF: I don't know. It's one of those movies that will be made eventually and it's just gonna take breaking down every single door to get it done. I love that movie and I hope so day it'll get made but it has to made right and I think that's been my biggest problem that it does take a certain amount of money to make the film 'cause it's kind of a sweeping canvas and it's about acrobats and you know there are prosthetics and it's 1930s and there are steam trains and all these things are quite expensive and you just can't lose when you're making a movie.

I was wondering what your down time was like when you weren't working?

JF: I love movies. I have always loved movies and will always love movies and it's just, you know, I love them and I think if I could do one thing on a day off that's what I'd do. I'd go see a film. So, yeah, I see everything that comes out, even the bad ones. But in terms of the business of Hollywood, I'm not in that. I don't know. I don't go to those events. I don't do that stuff unless I have to for work. For me I consider that work so premieres, parties that sort of thing, it's sort of work for me and if I have to work and if I'm in the mood to work and I'm promoting a movie, then I'll do it. But if I don't have to work, then I don't.

How was it working with Spike?

JF: I love working with Spike and that was the foremost reason why I wanted to make the movie 'cause I've never been right for any of his films and here was an opportunity to do something that I'd be right for and mostly just to stand behind his shoulder and see how he sees it, you know. I just wanna know how he does it and why he thinks the way he does and why he would set up the shot the way he does and that kind of stuff. For me that's the impulse now to make films as an actress, it's to really watch the directors and see what they're doing, and why they do what they do when they shoot the pictures. He was different than I thought he was going to be. He was, first of all, he's such an adorable sweet guy. I mean, you know big kisses everyday before shooting and you know just a sweet, really nice guy and he really had the courage to kind of just turn the camera on, shoot two takes for six pages and just walk away and that's not what I thought. I really thought it was going to be a much more manicured experience, a much more technical experience and it wasn't at all. It was a very free form, a very free Spike and I didn't anticipate that at all.

Can you tell me what it was like working with Denzel and what was it like working with the hot actor Terrence Howard?

JF: I've wanted to work with Denzel for 20 years, you know, and for what ever reason we never found ourselves in the same movie and that happens to leading actors. You never get to work with another leading actor because they only have room in the budget only one leading actor so you're always by yourself. Or you're with somebody new, something who is coming up so I've never had the opportunity to work with him and a lot of people that I know who have known him have said that he is truly the best actor I've ever worked with and it's, it's, I shouldn't say intimidating but it's just awe inspiring to watch somebody be able to read the phone book or the racing form and just blow you away with such ease and without any, humanly so little energy invested in it and so surprising. He comes up with all these, half the things that you see in the movie were not scripted. I mean [most of all] that stuff is Denzel and just being cheeky and being silly and you know putting the finger, putting the diamond ring on his finger and going like this. That's just total Denzel and I know that's why Spike like working with him because he brings so much to the process. That was really, really a great moment for me to work with him even though I only got two scenes with him. They were over in about a minute. Umm, Terrence, oh I'm just so excited to work with him. He's the first person that we ever thought to cast in the part and we never showed it to another actor and he was interested in script before it was even finished and I never considered anybody else for the part and once again, I think you know, it was wonderful to see an African American actor cast in a movie that could be anybody. I mean the man could play the part in Brave One or a woman could play the part in Brave One. It wouldn't matter because it's just that person and then of course he plays a homicide detective that of course gets very much confused with his cultural past and his gender past.

What advice would you give young performers and how have you stayed so leveled headed?

JF: Well, it true in my time too. There was a lot of spiraling down in my time when I was a child actor too. Honestly, it's not a good idea for a 16 year old, 17 year-old or 15 year-old to be in a high pressure industry where there is a lot of lawlessness and aren't a lot of boundaries for them. It's not safe for kids unless they really have a strong, or unless they themselves have a strong center and they're being wrapped around with arms by somebody who loves them and cares about what gonna happen to them. So the pitfalls have always been there. It's not just now. It was there then. But I will also say that in my time you know, 18-year-olds could do stupid things and not necessarily be on Access Hollywood the next day. There was a kind of privacy that you had in your life and I think the media had a lot of respect for the adolescence years growing up and they were going to let them have their space in the same way they did with Prince William and Prince Harry but you know once the gloves came off you know the actors are partly the blame for that. But once the gloves came off you can't a young life and be an actor any more and that's a shame because I think there's a lot of value to those where you do dumb things and you make mistakes and you have experiences that you don't necessarily want everyone to know about. And also, as an actor there's great value to not having everybody know who you are so that when you go play a part, you really inhabit that character. I think that young actors don't have that luxury any more. Plus, in the old days, a sixteen-year-old couldn't open a film. I mean that just was not going to happen. So you were in these blockbuster movies and nobody expected blockbuster movies out of you. Nobody was looking at grosses or, you were able to build a body of work so by the time you turned 25 or 26, you actually had done something and you weren't just eaten up by the system. I mean that's the sad thing now is that a lot of these young people by the time they're 22, they'll be done because they just got eaten up, you know, they allowed themselves to be eaten up.

Your character was interesting. Would you do a sequel?

JF: [Laughs] Inside Man the sequent? Wow, yeah, I had said this throughout the whole movie. I said I wish I could play this character for the whole film. I wish I could play her in other circumstances cause I don't think I've seen it on screen and I think it's really true. I think there are people out there that are these fixers, these caretakers that come in and they, not only do they negotiate between parties, you know morally questionable parties, but they have, she has this humor about it. There's a kind of seductiveness to that. She likes this trouble. She likes it when people get in trouble because then she can kind of do her thing and that's how she gets her power. The more troubles other people are the better she feels about herself because she can take it over and get her comeuppance, I think. You get the feeling in that end, in two parts, one when she's telling Christopher Plummer that she knows about his past and she knows what happened to him and he says to her, ok here's a check so I guess you're not going to tell anyone. If there's kind of humiliation in that, in saying no I'm not gonna tell anyone. Of course I'm not going to tell anyone, but let me tell you what's going to happen to you. There's a comeuppance to having been wrong.

Is this a part only a woman could play?

JF: Only a woman could play it that way. A guy would have to find a new way a new way to play it, yeah, he would and I think that's what gives it that kind of interesting power in the film is that you know if a guy came in he would have to change a lot of those lines. He would have to change things around. He wouldn't be so yes madam, no sir. Yes madam, no sir, yes sir, I mean love who are polite, extremely polite and yet they have, you know they have the world by the balls. I think that's great. I think that works very well in the film.

How are you as a director?

JF: Well, I have done personal films and of course I want to try news things and I'd like to make films that are more visual because I do have, I'm very strong technically and I do know a lot technically just because I've made so many films. So I actually think I'm evolving a little bit to making films that have a personal flare to them that are about character and yet have a strong technical stamp. I'm one of those though that know what I want so it's easy for me to see one take and without necessarily having to write notes about I can say I need you to change this for me. I need this to go here. I need that to go there, and so that by the time all those things are accomplished by the second or third take then I feel like I got what I wanted and I and I can walk away. I think some directors, like everything, they have different ways of getting, sometimes they can only notice one thing wrong on each take and they can only fix one thing at a time. It's very time consuming.

How do you maintain being a private person?

JF: Sometimes it's just my personality, and I've been doing this a long time. I was raised in the industry. I started when I was four years old so my life has always been important to me and I realized that by the time I was five or six instead of waiting til I was 25 and had already a lamp shade on my head quite a few times before I realized that my life was important to me. I mean, I remember going to Disneyland and saying, no. If I want to go to Disneyland I'm not going with a video camera following me. I want to have the experience and I'm not gonna like be made to feel bad and self-conscience and weird because there's this guy following me. And that was clear to me at a very young age that I had to fight for my life and I had to put my foot down about my life and that if I didn't my life would get gobbled up and taken away from me and so that was sort, I became aware about it at a young age and I think some of the actors don't realize it because they don't start til they're 22, 23 and then they realize it at 30. So some of that, some of it is also, I had a different kind of career. I had an actor's career. I never had a celebrity career and you know no one has ever wanted to rip my clothes off or I just wasn't, you know what I mean, I wasn't Michael Jackson or Madonna. I wasn't really one of the pop icon. I was always just an actor. So I kind of didn't have the same career that a lot of other people have.

Didn't Taxi Driver change that?

JF: I don't think so, no. I was nominated for an Oscar for Taxi Driver and you know I went to private school that I'd wear uniforms, I wore knee socks and Peter Pan collars and a blazer everyday and Taxi Driver was clearly not me. That character was clearly not me and I think people actually learned really early on, 'wow, she is a totally different person than who she's playing and we can look to her the way we look to real actors and not as a sort of candy,' you know. Like pop candy. But you know, do all those things touch me as well? I mean, yes, but it's all [that] There's honestly not, I'm trying to think of one good thing about fame but I really can't. Respect is good and accolades are good and doing work that you love is good but the fame there isn't really one good thing and there isn't really one good part of it. I think that despite the fact that you accept it, I think you have to figure out how to organize your life so that it doesn't eat you up.

Do you think television has some to do with it?

JF: I don't know about that 'cause I do TV too. I do a lot of TV so I'm not so sure about that. I'm not so sure. I don't really know. I don't think I can make that assessment. I think it has to do with, you know, with the global economy of the media too. That's where we are now. That's where we are now where there are 40 channels and you gotta put someone on it so you might as wellč

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

JF: I think we all have questions about who we might have been had we chosen a different profession. I think about that a lot. The problem with any profession you choose to be excellent in is that it takes 100% and it means your hard drive has to be full of the details of what that profession is and by definition it means there's a whole bunch of junk you're not doing. That's why I choose to make fewer films, you know, because if I made 3 movies a year, I can guarantee you I would have no idea what's on the cover, what's going on in the New York Times. I wouldn't have listened to a record for an entire year. I wouldn't have gotten my own coffee for a whole year and I wouldn't have traveled. There's so many things your profession does eat up so much of your energy and your time but as an actor you have to be somebody in order to play someone. So you have to be able to have time where you're not an actor or not a celebrity so that you could actually be a person of substance.


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