Behind the Screens

Exclusive Interview: Jodie Foster

The star of Nim's Island, on showing her lighter side and getting physical.

March 23, 2008

Stacie Hougland, Fandango Content Editor

By: Stacie Hougland
Fandango Film Commentator

Treetop transportation made easy, on Nim's deserted island.

Treetop transportation made easy, on Nim's deserted island.

From her reputation as one of the showbiz industry’s smartest (and most private) women to her 43-years-and-going-strong career, double-Oscar winner Jodie Foster remains one of Hollywood’s most captivating actresses. Her latest, the children’s fantasy Nim’s Island (watch the trailer), marks Foster's first return to comedy since 1994's Maverick.

In it she plays writer Alexandra Rover, a strung-out agoraphobe afraid of her own shadow who lives vicariously through Alex Rover (Gerard Butler), the fearless adventurer hero of her own novels. One of Alex’s biggest fans is Nim (Abigail Breslin), a little girl living on a faraway desert island with her father and rainforest animal friends who reaches out to her favorite author for help when Dad sails off on the high seas and doesn’t come back. Surprisingly, it was a role Foster had to fight to get. We talked to the actress about showing off her lighter side, watching her movies with her kids, and always kicking major booty on-screen.

Fandango: In Nim’s Island, you’re a writer with crippling phobias. Do you have any in real life?
Jodie Foster: A fear of snakes. I don’t particularly like snakes. Other than that, I’m pretty fearless.

Fandango: Alexandra Rover is afraid of everything, but in the end, it’s a very physical role.
Foster: I like that. It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something for a living! It was really the water stuff; it was winter, very cold and [I’d be] in a tank at 3 o’clock in the morning and under water with no scuba gear or anything.

Fandango: We don’t often get to see your lighter side. Why this film?
Foster: I wanted to do a comedy, something that was more lighthearted after having done The Brave One and Flightplan and Inside Man and Panic Room all in a row. I kind of had to knock down the door to get on this movie. The directors were always keen on having me but the studio was like, really, in a comedy? Really? Can’t I get somebody else?
Nim's Island
Fandango: What was most fun about making it?
Foster: Being on [Hinchinbrook Island] was incredible. It’s the biggest island in Australia and it’s completely uninhabited except for crocodiles and big fat lizards, the white-sand beaches and estuaries and rain forests. There was one little hotel that had 15 rooms all in tree houses where the actors stayed that was pretty amazing. Everybody else had to come in on boats.

Fandango: Do you see yourself in young actresses like your co-star Abigail?
Foster: Oh, sure! We’ve lived the same life, traveling around like a gypsy, you know. The difference is just that she has such access to this well of emotion. I was really not able to get there at all at her age. It just wasn’t my personality. I don’t think I was born to be an actress the way she was.

Fandango: If not acting, what would you like to do?
Oh, a thousand things. When I was little I always said I wanted to be a professional talker. Mom said, that must mean you want to be President of the United States.

Fandango: What do you most enjoy about acting?
Foster: I like the physical stuff more than anything. I like being out of breath and running and running and running or having to climb something or having to learn to be a fencer or engage your physical side because it feels like a primal experience and in my life … there aren’t many primal experiences left.

Fandango: In so many of your roles you flat-out kick ass. Is that some reflection of your personality?
Foster: Well, or some kind of “shadow" side of my personality. Panic Room I’m 5’3" and I’ve never hit anyone in my life. I took karate to learn how to express myself with my body a little bit.

Fandango: How do you feel about the complaint about a lack of roles for actresses over a certain age?
Foster: There are less roles for women over 40; there are less roles for men over 40; there are less roles for anyone who isn’t a 20-year-old. I seem to find enough to work as often as I want.

Fandango: What still motivates you?
Foster: I love films and I love talking about them. That part which really loves movies is as strong in me as it’s ever been. After 43 years, what I tire of is the life that it forces you to have.

Fandango: Do you watch your films with your sons [Charles, 9, and Kit, 6]?
Foster: No. I mean, they’ve only seen two movies of mine. They’ve seen Bugsy Malone and they’ve seen Freaky Friday. I ask them if they want to see them again and they always
say no!

Fandango: Too funny.
Foster: I mean, Nim’s is the first movie that they’ll ever see actually on a movie screen, so I’m pretty excited about that. I mean, they couldn’t even see The Brave One or Panic Room trailers. So basically whenever they came on TV I had to turn it off.

What is the last movie you saw in a theater?
Hmm. I saw There Will Be Blood. For the second time.

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