Jodie Foster’s Impressive Career
"Here," says Jodie Foster, passing over her soup spoon, which is filled to capacity with a glistening asparagus puree. "Try this." Thirty minutes earlier, she had pulled up to a Santa Monica hotel in her silver Prius, hopped out, and extended a friendly hand. Now she’s sitting at a restaurant overlooking the beach, not just giving away part of her first course but hand-delivering it on her own silverware. The act feels part reflexive maternal instinct (Foster has two sons, Charlie, 9, and Kit, 6), part happy 44-year-old Hollywood A-lister on a roll.
In the past two years, thanks to the success of the thrillers Flightplan and Inside Man, Foster’s box-office clout and status as an international film icon have both been reaffirmed. Mention this fact to her, though, and she’ll just laugh, somehow turning it into a self-deprecating joke about emerging from temporary retirement. "It’s because I decided to work more than once every three years," she says. For as long as we can remember — and she’s been at this for 41 years — Foster has been one of those smart, introspective public figures who have struggled to find new ways to maintain work-life sanity. If civilians can’t achieve it on her grand scale, they can still take heed: Since early adulthood, she has always followed up a movie shoot with an extended, battery-recharging break.
On Starring in The Brave One
Today, Foster’s beach-ready outfit — flip-flops, jeans, light blue sweatshirt — and flyaway blond locks are clear evidence of her recent time off. "I so need a haircut, it’s sad," she groans, running a hand through what just nine months ago was the short, modified Jane Fonda-circa-Klute shag she wears in her upcoming movie, The Brave One. Directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire), The Brave One is a tense, arty action film starring Foster as Erica Bain, a New York City radio talk show host who, after being viciously attacked, ends up trolling the city at night with a handgun, blasting big holes in every piece of menacing human flotsam that has the misfortune to get in her path. In a way, it’s as mesmerizing to see Foster onscreen as a compact, sunglasses-wearing vengeance machine as it is to hear the obvious zest in her voice when she talks about Erica, who, at the beginning of the movie, is a variation of the imperiled characters we’ve seen the actress play before but then morphs into something startlingly different. "Little by little by little, the moral exception she’s made starts permeating everything she does, and then she changes," Foster says. "There comes a point where the audience has to say, ‘Now, wait a minute, isn’t this stepping over the line?’ This good person becomes somebody you don’t recognize, and you follow the path of somebody who becomes a killer."
Considering a part of Foster’s past that she has rarely discussed — when, in 1981, deluded Foster superfan John Hinckley Jr., who’d watched the actress in Taxi Driver a few too many times, shot President Ronald Reagan to impress her — "vigilante assassin" isn’t the first role you’d expect her to gravitate to. "I did say that to Jodie," Jordan recalls. "I said, ‘You, of all people, put yourself into this situation? It’s kind of combustible, isn’t it?’ But she welcomes that kind of challenge."
Ask Terrence Howard, who plays a dogged but sensitive detective in The Brave One, why Foster is always 10 times more interesting when she’s portraying emotionally conflicted women, and without missing a beat, he explains, "Most people fear the dark side of humanity. She’s not afraid of the monsters under the bed."