Jodie Fostering strength
NEW YORK — Jodie Foster has finally figured out what her weakness is: She doesn’t have one.
Simply put, Foster is a two-time Oscar winner with a damsel in distress-sized hole in her resume that will never be filled.
She doesn’t have a clue how to play a powerless female, and she doesn’t have much interest in learning.
“I do tend to play strong women,” says Foster, who continues that tradition by portraying an above-the-law “fixer” in director Spike Lee’s bank heist thriller Inside Man, opening in theatres Friday.
“I’ve played different kinds of strong women,” Foster says during a recent interview for the film. “I’ve played morally bankrupt strong women, I’ve played good girls, I’ve played straight-laced straight arrows, I’ve played wild women. Yet they’re always strong.
“Sometimes I feel like that’s my Achilles heel as an actor. I don’t really know how to play weak characters. If I played a weak character, I don’t think you’d believe me.”
Foster is all too believable as Inside Man’s icy and iron-willed Madeline White, a woman who knows where the bodies are buried and isn’t afraid to use that information to benefit her high-paying, anonymity-seeking clientele.
“She’s been in these dangerous situations where you have two dead hookers and a mayor,” Foster says, likening her character to an exaggerated, corporate-world version of legendary Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley, the image shaper who has represented clients ranging from Tom Cruise to Courtney Love to Foster herself.
“The vault that (Kingsley) is … I mean, if anything that’s in her memory or in her head ever came out, the world would probably implode.”
And some of that implosion would likely involve Foster, who deftly avoids scrutiny of her social life. She’s never revealed the identity of the father (or fathers) of her two sons, and has never addressed rumours about her sexual orientation.
Yet she is unfailingly warm, polite and articulate, even when it comes to defending her last starring role, 2005’s Flightplan. A box-office success with a worldwide take of over $200 million, Flightplan was carved by critics who felt the film’s premise crashed and burned in the third act.
“I’m really proud of Flightplan,” Foster says. “It’s is not an art house film , it is a genre movie, and I make no apologies for that. I really feel like that character was beautifully drawn, truthfully drawn, and I’m really proud of that as an actor. I killed myself for that movie.”
Foster’s next two films are Neil Jordan’s revenge thriller The Brave One, opposite Hustle & Flow’s Terrence Howard, and the socially conscious Sugarland, which she will direct and co-star in opposite Robert De Niro.
That will lift her career tally to something in the ballpark of 50 movies and dozens of TV appearances, though Hollywood only truly woke up to Foster’s talents after her Oscar-nominated turn as a teenaged hooker in 1976’s Taxi Driver. That was also the year Foster did the Disney identity-swap comedy Freaky Friday, which was remade in 2003 with Lindsay Lohan in the Foster role. And oh, how the times have changed.
“In my time, 18-year-olds could do stupid things and not necessarily be on Access Hollywood the next day,” Foster says, lamenting the voracious public and media appetite that dogs young stars like Lohan today.
“You can’t have a young life and be an actor anymore, and that’s a shame. Because there’s a lot of value to those years when you do dumb things and make mistakes and you have experiences that you don’t necessarily want everyone to know about.”
Foster says she was lucky: When she was growing up in the business, she had people who cared about her watching out for her best interests, and the scrutiny of young stars was nothing like what it is today.
“There was a kind of privacy that you had in your life, and I think the media had a lot of respect for the adolescent years,” she says.
Foster’s 40 years in the biz have taught her how to play the Hollywood game, and how to separate her work from her life. She doesn’t begrudge her fame, but she doesn’t enjoy it, either.
“I’m trying to think of one good thing about fame, but I can’t,” she says.
“Respect is good and accolades are good and doing work you love is good. But there really isn’t one good part of fame.”
Jodie Fostering strength