"You bring your life, expressions, gestures, and what baggage people know about you to your performances," says Foster. So do her characters — like the peril-fraught moms of Panic Room and Flightplan — resonate more because we know her history? "I’m not quite sure why," she says with a slight shrug, "but people do relate to my struggles. I do have a sympathetic side no matter what it is that I’m playing."
One thing is clear: When Foster signs on for a movie, she will probably be the person on set who has logged the most experience in all facets of the film industry. A Coppertone model at age 3 and film actor-family breadwinner less than five years later, she now has a pair of Best Actress Oscars (for The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs) and has directed two movies (Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays). "You can just tell she’s been doing this since 4 or 5," Jordan says. "She regards herself as an instrument. Like, ‘What do you want this thing to do now?’ This thing that can express emotion, this thing that can push the story to the left or the right?"
Mostly, on this clear early-summer afternoon, Foster wants to gaze at the gray Pacific Ocean, polish off a lobster roll, and muse over a variety of subjects: her son Charlie’s tabloid-photo aspirations, why going in for a nip-tuck isn’t for her, how shooting The Brave One resuscitated her love of moviemaking. "It’s been one of the best, most rewarding processes I’ve done in years," she says of the film. "There’s a lot about it that’s going to be intricate to defend. It’s not a general-public, take-your-kids, everybody kind of movie. It really isn’t. Of course we’re hoping lots of people will go see it, but it walks a very fine line. It’s bold and very subversive."
Q&A with Jodie Foster
The New York Times positioned your character in The Brave One as a female version of Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle. Does that sound like a fair comparison?
Travis Bickle is unconscious: He’s not a guy who can analyze his emotions; he’s not a guy who has been to therapy. He’s reacting emotionally to everything; she’s not. She’s an intellectual. She’s somebody who is noticing her changes as she goes through them, can’t stop it, and hates herself for it. That’s an entirely different character and, in some ways, an essentially female character in something that is traditionally a male genre.
When you talk about the movie, I can’t help but think that you thought a lot about John Hinckley Jr.
I don’t know that I did.
In an essay you once wrote for Esquire, you tried to get inside Hinckley’s head.
Clearly, there are themes that overlap, and with Taxi Driver as well. You know, the division between sanity and insanity is so arbitrary. Isn’t it possible that we all have that bit of insanity in us? That’s why I’m for gun control. Absolutely. Hunting, I get that — let’s protect hunting. But I don’t believe that people should have access to life-or-death situations at any emotional time in their life. I don’t really believe that a human being who feels [things] should have the option at their fingertips to use this many calories. [Mimes pulling a trigger]
Why do you think you are drawn to controversial material?
I like films where I’m forced to figure out the morality, what the movie stands for. When you’re younger, where you stand is more black and white. Then as you get older, your reflections on morality become more and more complex.
Speaking of the passage of time, you used to be something of a nomad, never living at the same address for very long. What happened?