Gadfly: You dropped
into the Panic Room and saved it from not being
made. You had to suddenly know the psychology of knowing
the character. Does being a mother, which is the same
as your character, help?
Jodie Foster: The
script was beautifully written, beautifully lean and disciplined,
where you get everything you need to know about the characters.
But it's implied and woven into the drama itself instead
of doing forty-five minutes of backstory, the lazy way.
Its an easy script to read and figure out what its
Even though Im kind
of a maternal person, Ive also played a lot of moms
in my life; I know what that is about. Its true
that as a parent you have a more visceral response to
what the character is trying to do. I certainly dont
know what it is like to be in a life or death situation
with your child, knock wood. Sometimes a splinter can
feel like a life or death situation so you project that
in your character. You just dont want your kid to
be afraid, sick or in pain. I can definitely relate to
Did finding out you
were pregnant during the course of the film also help
you relate to your character?
I dont know. It made
me kind of tired. The good news is that it made me happy
so I was very happy during this shoot. It was actually
hard because it was very demanding. Not just physically,
but emotionally as well, to try and do forty takes and
try to have that same level of anxiety.
This is a
woman with scar tissue emotionally.
Yeah, shes somebody
that has no confidence at the beginning of the movie,
and then little by little she learns that its all
Were there any changes
due to your pregnancy?
I would have liked it had
there been more changes, but we had to shoot in continuity
because of everything that happens to the house. That
meant a lot of the way we shot couldnt be changed,
so as time went on I just got more and more pregnant.
You can see my weight change.
Theres a certain part of the movie where I go get
a sweater, and I designed that to cover myself.
This is a great role.
But was it bittersweet the way you got it because your
own film had to be put off because of Russells [Crowe]
My movie was shut down
in August, and Panic Room started in January. At
that point, I figured I would jump into a movie. As an
actor, I thought I wasnt going to find one. The
writers strike was looming, so I figured I would
take some time off. I didnt want to jump into a
movie that wasnt any good. I hope that Nicole [Kidman]
is happy about this because you hope somewhere out there
is an understudy that will take over for you if something
happens. Otherwise, the responsibility of the movie going
down the drain is on your shoulders, and the film would
have gone away if I hadnt shown up before the strike.
I like just showing up
like that. Everyone else had already had six weeks of
rehearsal, and I just showed up. There were nine days
between him calling me and me showing up on set. There
were no rehearsals, but you dont really need preparation
for a movie like this. Fincher needs preparation because
he has so much blocking and camerawork to do.
Fincher and Edward Norton on the set of Fight
We were just watching
a demonstration of pre-viz [animated storyboards]. Did
that limit your creativity at all because all the action
has been mapped out beforehand on computer?
Well, no, thats the
reason David needs to work with experienced actors who
have made a lot of movies. If you are just a young theater
actor whos never made a film before, you could never
make a film with him; hes much too exacting. So
directors as actors really help him out, especially when
they know why certain things will need to be cut out.
Most of the time when you are getting direction from a
director, nine times out of ten the direction is technical.
And he tells you that it's technical, anyway, to not make
Is there a good example
of a scene where one actor will be lost but you got it
because you understand?
Not on this movie because
the other guys are directors and Kristen Stewart [who
plays the daughter, Sarah Altman] is very well versed
in movies. Her mom is a script supervisor, and her dad
is a production manager. But on another movie with a first-time
actor who one time started giving me this whole thing
like, "Your character in the book is doing this and I
dont know why you dont get on the phone,"
I was like, "Theyre going to cut it out." Then he
said "Youre going to have to call your supervisor
in the scene." So I was like, "Okay, ring ring." [holds
hand up to ear] Some actors just dont get it.
Fincher said that the
character was originally written more helpless, but when
you came on it changed because youre not that way.
I think that was a good
choice. But it would have been a totally different movie
that way. The somewhat stronger character in the beginning
decides that shes going back to school. Shes
spent the last fifteen years with a rich, older guy who
squashed her identity so shes going back to Manhattan.
She also feels guilty for dragging her kid out of the
suburbs where she had a yard and friends. So she buys
a big house her ex-husband will pay for and to appease
her guilt. Initially, it was a very different character.
It was written as someone who probably was a really young
model who married a much older man. Im older than
Nicole so I cant play a lot of that stuff.
Did you have any advice
for Kristen Stewart with you being a former child actor?
She didnt need my
advice; shes a great actress. She has great focus;
we had a great time together.
Did you see yourself
Doesnt she look like
me as a kid?
Shes much taller,
but she looks like me in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
[1974 release directed by Martin Scorsese]. Its
funny because she was hired with Nicole. It would have
been so funny to see two opposites like that as mother
What did you take away
from working with Fincher for your directing abilities?
Everything. Hes somebody
whos relentless, he pays attention, and he sees
things no one else sees. He doesnt defer to anyone
else on the movie set. It's not like he doesnt collaborate,
but its all about his signature. Very often on movies
its easy to get caught up in what the cinematographer
wants, what the sound guy wants, whatever anyone else
wants and try to accommodate them all. Hes relentless.
Even though you said
you did this movie because you were free at the time,
did you do it because you wanted to work with him as well?
Ive wanted to work
with him for a long time. We almost worked together on
The Game [1997 release starring Michael Douglas
and Deborah Unger]. I tracked him down and said what is
David Fincher doing? They said this movie. I said Im
in, but it didnt work out. Weve kept in touch
over the years.
What about the panic
room itself; would you want one in your house?
No, Im not a very
paranoid person. If there is a message in the movie, it's
do not get a panic room. The film says, if anything, instead
of thinking of a scenario where something bad can happen
to you, you should be vigilant and listen to your instincts
beforehand. The minute she walked into the house, she
didnt like it. She didnt like the panic room,
but she was suckered into it by someone who told her that
she should get it because someone told her to get it to
get back at her husband. She didnt listen to her
Are you a fan of the
I like them. Some of my
favorites are The Omen and Andromeda Strain.
I like medical thrillers.
If you like them so
much, how come you said no to doing Hannibal [2001
sequel to Silence of the Lambs]?
I was just about to start
shooting The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and
Flora Plum so I wasnt available.
Moore in Hannibal
But I heard you didnt
like the book, Hannibal, either.
I dont think I didnt
like the book, but Silence and Hannibal
are two different books, movies; they are just two totally
different entities. As far as Im concerned, the
two Clarice Starlings are two different characters.
Hannibal is more
of a horror film, anyway.
Its just about something
What do you
think is the importance of the thriller genre?
For me, its the same
thing I get out of it as an actor, which is a situation
that youre worried youll never get through.
So it gives you the opportunity to go through an experience
and get out the other end alive.
So its empowering?
I think it is.
Are you scared more
by a thriller that is reality based than you would be
by a supernatural one?
Yeah, probably. But then
there are the science fiction and supernatural ones which
scare me, like, I said, The Omen, Alien
and Altered States. In general, I like reality
based ones more.
Would you make these
As a director, I dont
know. Maybe not now, maybe later. I feel like Im
a young director, and I have a lot to learn. And I think
thrillers are more for directors who have a little more
experience since they are almost purely technical.
Is Flora Plum
back on track?
Well, we hope it will get
off the ground, but its going to be hard to get
it going again. Its a beautiful script, and I have
every bit of confidence well be able to get it financed
and cast again because all the actors I hired arent
What did Russell
Crowe hurt, exactly?
He has four metal pins
in his shoulder. His ligament tore from the bone.
Was it on a movie he
It probably was an aggravated
injury hes had for a long time. But he never had
an MRI. An Australian macho thing, I suppose. He had a
bad accident on Gladiator, getting pulled
by a horse by one arm in that first battle scene, and
he just popped it back into place. Then he had to hang
in Proof of Life from a helicopter by one arm.
He was only supposed to hang for a few minutes, but they
kept going on and on and you cant let go, otherwise
you fall and die. Then, right after that was Flora
Plum. And at the second rehearsal, he just went too
far and did the wrong thing.
So Russell seems to
be very misunderstood right now as an outrageous bad boy.
But he seems to be sublimely talented.
He is sublimely talented.
Is motherhood any easier
the second time around?
It's so much easier now.
Newborns are so much easier than toddlers or preschoolers.
Once they start to move around, it's all over.
How tough is the process
for you of actually getting a movie done as a director?
Does being Jodie Foster open any doors?
Not as a director. The
doors dont open for any director unless they have
talent attached. Maybe Martin Scorsese can get projects
financed without stars attached, but very few. Pretty
much, actors are the only thing that gets movies going.
But producing is the hardest job, with the most disappointments
Is that why you shut
down Egg [Pictures, Foster's production company]?
Well, we made some great
movies, and Im very proud of it. Its been
a long time since it was started, twelve years. I cant
do everything, and I really want to focus on directing,
acting and children. Three full-time jobs. The one thing
I definitely dont want to do anymore is produce
other peoples movies. Thats what is really
debilitating, and theres very little reward to it.
Thats something you do for philanthropy; you produce
someone elses movie because you want to protect
them, from the studios or from people that are going to
endanger their vision. But you dont get much out
When you go through
the process and get one done that you are happy with as
a director, how is the satisfaction level compared to
doing a really good performance?
Just two entirely different
things. Directing is a much more whole experience; it's
every part of you. Of course, when people applaud that
movie, they applaud every part of you. As an actor, youre
really only responsible for your performance. Its
a completely different level of commitment.
Would a best director
Oscar mean more than a best actress?
you already have two of those.
Are you trying to define
yourself as a director?
Im young at it and I havent done very much.
I have a lot to learn, and thats where my ambitions
and passions lie. And acting is something I do; it's something
that I need to do sometimes.
Also, just because I have
two Oscars for acting doesnt mean I want to stop
acting. I cant ever imagine wanting to stop acting.
I want to do it because it makes me happy and not for
any other reason.
Would you discourage
your kids from following in your footsteps?
I would try to support
them if it was something they really wanted to do because
you want to support something the kids are passionate
about. But now I heave a big sigh. [laughs]
Would you let them be
child actors, as you did?
If they said it was something
they wanted to do. I wouldnt want to be involved
in their career; I think that would be a mistake. Not
that being a child actor was a bad experience for me;
I just think it's important that kids can run home to
their parents, be safe and not have someone push them
into the business
Would you have loved
to have a life without knowing whats its like to
Yeah, I think anyone who
has lived their life in the public eye would say that.
I dont think theres anything good about fame
that I can think of. Respect is great, but thats
different. Financial success and accolades are great,
but thats different. All those things are very separate
from fame. Im trying to think of one thing thats
great about fame, maybe tables in restaurants.
Do you look at your
career as the keeper of your own integrity? We see some
actors who win big awards and then do five bad movies
in a row and make $20 million.
Well, I dont think
they set out to make five crappy movies in a row. They
just may not realize, and they may get talked into things
like being convinced that they "have to be in a big picture
with a big male star." Bad advice.
The fear of "Will I ever
work again?" or the fear of "How do I stay on top?" keeps
people in there working, no matter what the project may
be, instead of thinking how to make good movies.
Of The Lambs
Both Oscars that I got
were wonderful awards for movies that other people didnt
necessarily think were good choices for me, and both were
very risky movies. The Accused, for sure.
That was a movie I had to fight for tooth and nail. I
certainly didnt get paid for doing it; the movie
was very low budget. And Silence, I had just won
an Oscar. And everybody thought it was a bad idea to do
a movie where the other part, Hannibal Lecter, was the
good part. People said that I should change my part to
make it as flashy as his. But I said, "Clarice isnt
flashy." I cant fabricate a character because I
want to be the star. Its the movie that I care about,
and I want to tell that story. Clarice is restrained.
She doesnt use contractions, she doesnt talk
loud, and I dont want to change that to better my
chances of getting an Oscar. Thats always worked
Last question, your
real name is Alicia Foster. Does anybody call you that,
and what is the story with the name Jodie?
No one has ever called
me that. Occasionally, when my mother put me into a school
and she put that as my name, but I never turned around
when someone said it. My brother and sisters named me
Jodie before I was born. As my mother left the hospital
with me, she changed her mind. [laughs] My mother never
changed the birth certificate.