Jodie Foster Interview

MovieWeb sits down with the actresss to talk about her new thriller, Flightplan

Jodie Foster has been in the movies for almost 40 years. She's gone from the family films to thrillers. And now, in her latest, Flightplan, another thriller, Jodie plays an engineer who has designed a double decker plane. She flies home after her husband passes away. Flying home with the casket as cargo, as well as her daughter in hand. After waking up from a nap, her daughter is missing, so Jodie is on a mission to find her daughter who has apparently disappeared.

Jodie talked to MovieWeb up in Toronto about the film; here's what we talked about:

Because you're so selective about roles, do you get better offers?

Jodie Foster: Better offers? I have to read more because I'm picky, so I read a lot. Things do slow down when you're a little bit older because most movies are written for people between the ages of 20-35. That's natural. If you've been doing it long enough, there are some things you've already played and done and so you don't need to go down that same territory again. I never know what's going to move me. I'm always surprised. And it's always a mystery to the people who work with me.

What makes you buy into it?

Jodie Foster: It wasn't so much the thriller aspect of it, although I think it's a well-crafted script. That aspect works very well. It was the character really. What she goes through. Some unconscious fear that I have of certainly losing your child, but worse than that, not being able to keep them from being hurt, not being able to keep them safe. So much of that is a fear of being a child who wasn't able to kept safe. It goes back in such a big spiral. I must be drawn to that because Panic Room has a similar issue, although at the beginning of Panic Room, you know the daughter is taking care of me.

Do child actors have it tougher than you did?

Jodie Foster: I don't know. It is a different era. I'm not sure what's going on with child actors. I would say that teenage and 20-something actors have it much worse than I ever had, much worse. It seems to me they are unable to have an adolescent life without total media scrutiny and the pressures are much stronger. They carry films now. It's a completely different industry for young people coming up as actors than there was when I was coming up.

Were you put off by two months of high level anxiety?

Jodie Foster: I had to think about that. When you're a dramatic actor, you want dramatic situations because that's where you find yourself. Those are the stories you want to tell. There's a socially purposive challenge to that. You tell a story a way that people will be better and not worse. You look for dramatic situations that hit you in this very primal place. I got on that plane the first week and turned to a friend of mine and said wow, I didn't realize I was going to have to do this for 54 days. (laughing) You delude yourself. You shut it out that that's going to be your life for 54 days, in coach.

Were you sorry after you committed?

Jodie Foster: No, just apprehensive. I haven't been sorry. Maybe one or two times, not this film. This film was a pleasant surprise. I thought the film was going to be lot more unpleasant than it was. The truth is everybody in the film was so nice. The director was a wonderful man, a gentleman, a good leader, strong visually and a strong sense of style and really great for actors. I loved him and I would do anything for him. That's what gets me through films. I've now come to realize that I need a good dad or a good mom at the helm, so I will lay down on the train tracks for them. The times that I really walked onto a movie and said, ‘Wow, I made a mistake, I shouldn't have taken this film' are when I walked into a director that was not a nice person. Because then it's hard for me to do my job. It's hard for me to open up when I feel like somebody's going to stab me in the hard.

What's your next film?

Jodie Foster: I just finished a movie with Spike Lee with Denzel Washington and Clive Owen. It was a great experience, really fun. Very short job though. It was only - like I had three weeks on the film.

Is it a thriller?

Jodie Foster: It's a drama. It's a really interesting kind of bank heist film. I think it's going to be great, it's very guerilla. We shot it on a very short shooting schedule, mostly two to three cameras, printing the first three takes. It has a very different feeling to it.

Does Spike give you a lot of direction?

Jodie Foster: There was almost no direction in that film just because the style of the movie was turn the camera on and just get it and then walk away and then get something else. I don't know what they call that, impromptu or something. He's such a great guy and I've wanted to work with him for a long time. I really wanted to work with him for a while. I really admire him and he was just such a sweet guy, big hugs every morning. He really works with a coterie of family. Everybody sort of knows each other and a really nice ambience on the set.

Between films, are you anxious to get back to work?

Jodie Foster: No, I don't have a burning desire to act strangely enough. I don't know that if I hadn't been an actor as a young person, I don't know that I ever would have chosen this because it's not really my personality. What I like to do is make movies and I love movies. If I could do one thing all day, it would be to go see films and talk about them and organize the setups in my head. I think I'm drawn to films more as a director with a directorial mind even as an actor. I make movies to make the films, not to act. Acting just happens to be my skill, but I think I would probably be just as happy being a technician or entering into the film business in some other way.

So if you weren't a child actor, you might have become a director?

Jodie Foster: Yeah, and I've directed a couple of movies and have produced films so it's not like I haven't done those things. But I don't have what you would consider a typical actor's personality. And that's been a blessing in some ways and a real hindrance in others. Something I fight against a lot. I wasn't born with that just gift of loving to perform and wanting to stand on a table and do impressions and loving the applause. It's just not a part of my personality. And in some ways that's good because I think it influences my work a little bit differently than most actors but in some ways it's really a handicap.

Is there a directing project lined up?

Jodie Foster: I have a film I'm developing right now that's going to take some time. We're in the rewrite stage right now. It's called Sugarland.

Is Flora Plum done?

Jodie Foster: You know, these movies, these really tough indie movies have a way of finding themselves eventually. I've been involved with a lot of movies that got shut down for various reasons. Usually they're financial, this one wasn't. It got shut down because an actor got hurt and there was really nothing I could do about it. This film will find its way someday but it's going to be the hardest battle I have ever fought.

Was it any fun climbing and crawling around the spaces?

Jodie Foster: Oh, it was so fun to get out of coach that once I got into the crawling thing, I was just so relieved. We all were so relieved once we got out of that second floor which was probably the first three months of the movie. That part was great.

Were you surprised by how many other areas there are on a plane?

Jodie Foster: Well, especially this plane because this plane is so much bigger. Our plane has a very specific design to it. If you go into a normal 707 or 727, they don't look like that and they don't have those crawl spaces and no, you can't get to the holds from the cargo bins. There are other rules. Other planes have different rules. Our plane has a whole host of other rules that don't necessarily match up with most planes.

Did you research this?

Jodie Foster: Yeah, yeah, pretty much. And I'm not any kind - I can barely add and subtract. I have like a math phobia. So I'm not so good at science. I have to read the baby books about science. Then I have to read them three or four times because I forget what happened in the beginning. So it's always a big learning curve for me to make movies that have a science aspect to them.

Have you had any weird plane experiences?

Jodie Foster: I've had all that. I've had some drunken - a lady just started screaming at me and calling me lots of names. Then I went back and got a friend of mine who was two rows down flying with me who was working with me, and I said, ‘You know, we're switching seats.' And she started yelling at him. And in the middle of a sentence, she just fell asleep. So clearly she had a little too much to drink. She wasn't so happy.

So it wasn't because you were Jodie Foster?

Jodie Foster: Oh no, it could've been everybody. On Anna and the King, the director and the two producers were flying to Hong Kong with a guy who had a psychotic episode, started beating his wife and trying to beat up the other guys. It was horrible. He got the director or producer around the throat and had to be pried off. They took him away in handcuffs when they got to Hong Kong, but not me.

Were you injured at all on Flightplan?

Jodie Foster: I made a really bad executive decision to wear boots with a little bit of heel for five months and that was a bad idea. There was a lot of running, so I had like permanent shin splints. Other than that, I can't really think of any. No, this was an accident free movie. There were no big accidents on this one.

Is it different when you know you're going to be working in a confined space?

Jodie Foster: It's a bit like theater. It's a bit like doing a play where you can't rely on set pieces to get you in and out of transitions. So you can't get from one scene and then cut to Big Ben and cut back to something else. You can't do that in a film like this. Plus, it's real time so it has to be character transitions that get you in and out. It's a much more difficult discipline because you can't resort to the tricks of filmmaking in order to get in and out of scenes and have the film flow properly. And that's a real testament to Robert because there's no script where that architecture is really completely done in the blueprint process. It really is- - the director is really responsible for that.

Did that make shooting out of sequence more difficult?

Jodie Foster: We sort of shot out of sequence. We shot basically the airplane, so we would do the top floor and then we shot all that. Then we went to the bottom floor and shot all that. Then we did the different areas of the airplane. But once you shoot the whole top floor, you shot a good deal in sequence. So it kind of worked out pretty well.

What films have excited you recently?

Jodie Foster: I love Hustle and Flow. I've seen that a couple of times now. I think that is really great. It's a beautiful script. Beautifully acted, beautifully cast. Terrence Howard is just one of the great discoveries of filmmaking now. Crash I loved. I'm trying to think if there's anything else I liked. That's about it.

What are you being offered and turn down?

Jodie Foster: Well, I always get offered the same thing I just did. I get offered all those. But I read everything. I don't wait for people to come to me. I pretty much read whatever's out there and anything that's remotely - like this script was written for a man, so somehow - it wasn't like they came to me. My agents read it and said, ‘Well, I really like the script and maybe we can think about flipping the role.' So I don't wait until they come to me.

Do you get what you want or do you get turned down?

Jodie Foster: Sometimes, yeah, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I don't have much of an ego about that anymore. I've been doing it for 38-39 years, you just have different times in your life as an actor. I like not feeling that I have to compete as heavily as I did when I was in my 20s because I just don't have the same things to prove anymore. There's a whole level of anxiety that for some reason I don't have in the last two or three years because I feel like I don't have to compete in a certain arena anymore.

Is there anything you haven't done that you'd like to?

Jodie Foster: Yeah, you know, I'd like to do a movie where I had to train to do something really hard that I would never normally know anything about for four months. Whether it's javelin throwing or playing violin or learning a language. Something that comes with a skill that informs the character that you have to immerse yourself in that world and get the sore muscles and the calluses, then the character comes to you through that. And nobody ever asks me to do anything like that. I do the brainy movies and nobody ever asks me to do a film where somebody has either a musical skill or an emotional skill or a physical skill.

How intense was the FBI training?

Jodie Foster: There was actually a lot to learn on that movie but there wasn't one skill that I would never have known any other way. There was a lot to know on that film, things that I had to know whether it's fingerprinting or different areas in forensics and profiling, what is an autopsy and what does that look like? There were all sorts of things I had to find out about and be involved with that I wouldn't have known any other way.

What creative outlet do you have when you're not working?

Jodie Foster: I'm grappling with that now because I don't have really another outlet. I'm so busy with my life, my life is really fully, and I'm way busier when I'm not working than when I'm working. Working is sort of an excuse to not have to do all the things that I have to do in my own life. Especially with young kids, I'm not sure that I have time for another outlet. But I do these little things, like I learn something. I went and went into intensive Italian about a year ago. I remember how much I love learning a language and I love the grammar and I love all the rules and getting it right and getting the accent right and just completely diving into another language and learning something new. So I'll usually pick up something like that once every couple of years.

How was working with Peter Sarsgaard?

Jodie Foster: He's a great guy. I have to say, he and I work very similarly. We're the no muss actors. We like to talk about music and board games before they yell action and we absolutely never talk about our characters or acting or anything like that.

What board games?

Jodie Foster: He's a big chess guy. I don't know that much about chess but he is a really big chess guy and he's a big Scrabble guy. And he takes it very, very seriously. Sometimes it's hard to get him out of the trailer because he does the online chess and once you leave, that's it. You can't go back to the game. So it's hard for him to leave sometimes. He likes the brainy one on one competition thing.

What's your game?

Jodie Foster: Games I like, well I have kids now. I play all those Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, all that stuff, Monopoly. They also have those computer things too. I don't know if you guys know anything about the computer games that they have for preschoolers but they're so much fun. The Harry Potter game I really liked and I really don't enjoy any video games. But the Harry Potter was fantastic; you had the little spells and you had to do the wand a certain way in order to get to the next room and find the different- - you get the jelly beans and it's good, I like that.

How neurotic of a parent are you?

Jodie Foster: I'm surprisingly not that neurotic. I worry because I'm a worrier anyway. I'd like to calm down on that; I'm working on that. I'm an organizer. If there's something I learned from my first son is that I tend to do too much for him. I cut his toast and I make sure the pizza day check is all filled out. I do everything for him. As time goes on you have to undo all that. You have to teach them to tie their own shoelaces and make their own decisions. There's always things that parents are working on that are part of their neurosis. I don't think there's anything (I do) that's out of the ordinary.

Do you hug your kids more after making this movie?

Jodie Foster: Yeah. It's funny, you exercise a certain fear you have and so it's like you have a place for all those fears you have for them so when you come home you don't have to worry about them so much. It's always very hard for me to have them on the set. I've never been able to do that; I don't know how other people are able to do that. I'm always worried about them eating and are they making noise and if they have enough toys to play with and I can't really focus on my work. They don't get to come to the set that much. Sometimes I'll let them come for lunch. The good news is that they go to school six minutes from where we shot the film. I could have a real life with them either before shooting started or at night. Sometimes, I had a half-hour off and I could run to a parent-teacher conference and then come back. I didn't have to lose my life in order to shoot the film. When I was younger, I thought you had to be so consumed by the world of the film and had to divorce your (character) from your own. I think that's what you do as a young person when you're not sure of yourself professionally. As you get older you realize how important it is to have a full life as a person before you become an actor. If I had been on location somewhere without my kids I think I would have lost my mind on this one.

Would you encourage your children to act?

Jodie Foster: I would never encourage them, no, but if they started begging and showing interest, then I'd absolutely let them do whatever they love, wherever their passions were. They don't seem to be heading in that direction. Charlie is a science guy, like computer guy. He's a big computer guy and it amazes me because I'm quite the technophobe and he can't read but he knows - he memorizes how the letters look so he knows how to print, enter, blah, blah, blah. He knows how to get from room to room, he figures them all out. It's like he has a whole vocabulary before he starts reading that I will never have. He's very talented at that. That seems to be his bend, that and goofing off.

How old is he?

Jodie Foster: He's seven. The little one's a really good student, but they're both great students. I shouldn't say they're not. But the little one clearly is interested in following direction and focusing and thinking things through, so I have some high academic hopes for him.

Are there any writers you keep your eye on?

Jodie Foster: Not specifically but the screenplay is everything. The two things you look at, first the screenplay and the director. Nothing else really matters. Those are the two key elements. Without a strong screenplay, nobody can ever rescue a film. So I spend a lot of time trying to get a screenplay right. In films that I act in, like a film like this, my real responsibility is just to my character. So I spend a lot of time getting my script right in terms of the character. I can't control the rest of the movie because I'm not the producer or the writer or the director, but I do spend a lot of time working on the script just for the character so that it does what it's supposed to do.

Flightplan flies onto the big screen September 23rd; it's rated PG-13. It also stars Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, and Erika Christensen.