Smartly dressed in a pants suit, hair cropped short, Jodie Foster was all smiles as she sat down in a Toronto hotel room to discuss her first film in three years, Flightplan. “I usually take three years between movies now that I have kids,” says Foster, smilingly.
“But it’s worth waiting,” adds Foster. “I had a film that I was directing, I had a small child and you know your life changes when you have kids in ways that you don’t anticipate. I’ve been working for thirty eight years, so there’s a long road and a lot of things that I’ve already done that I don’t feel like I need to do another hundred thousand times. I didn’t feel like I was waiting and I didn’t feel like it was a long time.”
Like her last film, Panic Room, Foster again plays a mother trapped in a confined space. This time, however, the space is a plane and her daughter mysteriously vanishes. But she admits that the two films bear uncanny similarities in some ways. “I thought about that before I started, but I thought that it was pretty different in style. ‘Panic Room’ was much more of a visually stylish thriller that was really about camera moves, while I think that this film is really more about one person’s journey, and the place that the characters come to in the film are in completely opposite directions. The woman in ‘Panic Room’ has kind of lost herself, she’s someone who doesn’t have a clear idea of who she is anymore and through the trouble she kind of finds that strength and this character is just the opposite. She’s this strong person that everyone keeps projecting hysteria and desperation onto and she’s kind of holding it all together until she kind of actually flips into the desperation.”
Foster, who has two children of her own, says she was equally drawn “to that very primal fear. When you’re a dramatic actor you look for films that hit you in the gut, in this unconscious place that really moves you and then you can’t help but make the movie because it’s something that you fear and you want to know more about it.” The actress further admits that her own life invariably comes into play when taking on something such as this. “I think that every film that I do, even though it might not relate to me autobiographically, has some very personal pull in there and there are questions that I ask myself that I can’t really resolve any other way. and some of it is about the strength of my character. I don’t know that I’m a very brave person, but I play brave characters and it’s a way for me to be in a safe environment find that bravery in me, find the brave part of myself and keep in touch with it because I don’t know how I would react in life.”
At 42, Foster looks youthful, and not like someone who has been working for over three decades. Yet she insists she has no regrets, except perhaps venturing more into directing. “I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t been an actor at all and if I had managed some way to become a director, maybe I would’ve directed more movies by now. But when you still have a pile that’s sitting beside your bed as an actor, there’s always this pile that you’re saying, ‘I have to read that one. I have to read that one.’ It’s hard to entirely focus on your career as a director.” As for Flora Plum, which was ready to shoot with Russell Crowe, Foster is optimistic that will still unfold. “I hope it happens. I think this is one of those movies, you hear about that take twenty years to make.”
Having starred in almost 50 films, Foster rarely looks back on the formative parts of her career with any degree of objectivity, admitting that “almost the only memories that I have really are making films as a young person. I started so young; I don’t know if I can be objective. I think that whenever you look back at yourself at thirteen or fourteen or fifteen you just cringe in horror and you can’t really see any good about it. It’s things like that. It’s hard to look back at yourself in your adolescence.” Having grown up in front of the cameras, she rarely discusses child acting with her own kids. “I don’t ever discuss it with them. They are pretty young at seven and four which is still pretty young to talk about that, but I don’t ever mention it.”
Asked what is left for to do that she still hasn’t done, Foster smiles. “There are a lot of films to direct because I’ve barely started as a director. I’m a young director and I have a lot to learn and I’m looking forward to that. I’m excited about learning new things as a director. As an actor I’d like to do something where I was asked to learn some weird special skill for four months before we start shooting like javelin throwing or a language or violin or something that I would never in my own life immerse myself in and get the calluses and all of that and then kind of bring that to the character.”
Foster does have a role in the new Spike Lee film Inside Man, about which she is excited. “It was kind of a different experience in that he shot in a way he never has. He kind of just put three cameras on and just kind of let it go and printed the first three takes and was shot in something like less than forty days. So it kind of has a different feeling than most films and a much more messy feeling. But it’s Denzel Washington. I do a lot of the movies where I’m the guy. I’m the one on the top and then I deal with people who come in and out and it was so great to work with Denzel. It’s a dream of mine. It was really exhilarating to be in long scenes with him, four or five minute scenes. He could read the phone book and he’d be great. I just have never worked with an actor who is that good.”