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Jodie Foster Roundtable
Transcript
9/11/02


Jodie Foster in Panic Room

Jodie Foster is a two time Oscar winner, actress, producer and director. She seems to have worn just about every hat in Hollywood. While she has yet to figure out her own DVD player, Foster's contributions to the DVD format are already part of many enthusiast's best-feature lists. Whether it's her commentary on Contact or interviews on Silence of the Lambs, the insights she brings to the process should be required viewing for every Hollywood hopeful.

Earlier this week, Foster participated in a roundtable interview with members of the press to promote Columbia TriStar's upcoming DVD releases of David Fincher's Panic Room (now available) and Foster's own The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (street date 11/5). We thought you might be interested in reading what she had to say. Enjoy!

Interviewer #1: You know, watching Dangerous Lives it struck me that in the current climate of controversy about how the Catholic Church is treated in the media, some might say it took a lot of courage to that, and some might call it a cheap shot, and probably most people fall somewhere in between. What's your take on that?

Jodie Foster: You know, I think it's a, I think it's a very true and fair depiction of what it was like in some ways to be 14 or 15 in the '70s. And Catholic schools in our film are certainly no different than other, you know, parochial schools. And I totally understand her point of view, the nun in the film. I think she's trying to keep them safe the best way that she knows how, which unfortunately is to sort of put her thumb over their egos and make them powerless, which as we know doesn't really work with young boys.

So, you know, we weren't really a part of that controversy, we never were. We came way before it, and, or at least we made the movie way before it and I think it's really the title that had people make the association. And I think other than that, there's really not much, not much to compare to.

Interviewer #2: I was curious if I'm, if my math is right, this is the first time you've played a mother since Little Man Tate, and I wondered if becoming a mother in the interim has changed your perspective on mother roles?

Jodie Foster: No, I think I did play a mother a couple times in there too. Sommersby is the first one that comes to mind, but I think there might have been a couple others in there. You know, I think it probably does change things. Strangely enough, you know, you can have all the compassion in the world, and you can sort of understand things empathically, but you, there's something very interesting that happens once you have had a child. I think you really do understand what that means, that you would keep their safety and survival above any part of you. That clearly their lives are more important than yours. And that you forego your own life in some ways for theirs. And yes, I think it, before I think I understood that intellectually, and now it's a just a much more emotional thing.

Interviewer #3: One of the things that I was wondering, the nice thing about the Panic Room DVD was that you finally get to hear the work that you did in the French side of the ...

Jodie Foster: Oh really?

Interviewer #3: ... audio stuff. And so, you know, on such an intense role, what was it like going back without Fincher, and all the other actors to play off of and match that intensity in French?

Jodie Foster: Well you know, I do almost all my movies in French. I dub them. There's a few that I've missed, like Silence and Little Man Tate, because I was doing other things. But I try, I try to do them all in French, because, you know, I - it's a big part of my personality, the French thing, and you have these ideas about how you would do the part, and how you would do the character, and then you see someone else do it and it just drives you crazy. But yes, it is fun coming back after the fact and trying to bring to the French version of the movie what Fincher wanted, even though it's a completely different nationality.

There are other movies I think that have been more difficult. Panic Room has a lot less dialog. Nell for example was a very difficult, because we had to create a language with a linguist, that had to do with French history, and with bible traditions in French and, you know, looking at stroke victims in French and what that would sound like and, so that was a much more challenging piece.

Interviewer #3: Do you ever go back when you're doing the French stuff to kind of revise the performance, you know, maybe tune something where, you know, looking back at it you said oh, you know, I wish had done it differently. And then you ...

Jodie Foster: Yes ...

Interviewer #3: ... do it differently?

Jodie Foster: ... I do. And I'm not supposed to. So don't tell anyone that I do that. But occasionally I do that, where I've just been bugged by something. Bugged by how it sounded, and I come back in the French version and try and, you know, help it out a little bit.

Interviewer #4: It seems to me that back in the spring, when Panic Room was out, we also had Murder by Numbers and High Crimes. Three movies with strong female leads. And then we just hit this kind of dead spot, where it was just all these stories about fathers and sons and, you know, classic summer pictures. Does that, I mean, does it have to be this way? I mean, can't we have, you know, a little string of pictures with strong female leads at other times of the year, or is it anything you ...

Jodie Foster: Oh, it's really weird isn't it?

Interviewer #4: ... pay much attention to?

Jodie Foster: I mean, I'm no expert on marketing movies and release patterns. But I think some of that has to do with the post-Christmas, post-Oscar race slots. That they reserve those for movies that they see as, quote unquote, riskier. And risky sometimes translates to has female lead in it.

Interviewer #4: Yes.

Jodie Foster: So I think that's probably why some of those movies came out at that time. But the sort of suspense genre, all that stuff has turned into a kind of February release thing. So I think that's why they, you know, put those movies there.

Interviewer #4: OK. And since we're doing this on September 11th, just a quick question. I mean, are you spending any time today watching any of the coverage, or trying to keep your older boy away from it, or do you have any thoughts on it?

Jodie Foster: You know, he doesn't watch TV.

Interviewer #4: No?

Jodie Foster: Really he watches Cartoon Channel maybe occasionally and that's about it. So no, I definitely am not spending any time doing that. But, you know, it's a little too soon, a year came a little too soon for me. And although I'm sure there'll be, you know, 20 minutes will turn on, or I did see this morning saying the names, which I thought was wonderful, I really, I'm not ready to relive the plane in the building thing.

I don't think any of us are, to tell you the truth. It's a funny thing how quickly a year comes, and I don't think any of us are really ready to relive it again. And I would, I hope and I just, I just hope that the airwaves aren't a kind of exploitative film fest of all of that, because I don't, I don't think it's appropriate for a year later.

Interviewer #5: Hi. I was just wondering, by comparison to your own directing style and others that you've had as an actress, was there anything that impressed you about working with David Fincher?

Jodie Foster: Oh, everything. He's, you know, he's - that's the primary reason why I made the move really, was just to work with him. And I pretty much would do anything that he asked me to do. He's somebody that I've wanted to work with for a long time, and have kept in touch with over the years to try and find something for us. I just learn so much from my experience with him, just watching him and his tenacity and his incredibly clear and authoritative vision.

Interviewer #5: Wow. That sounds interesting. Am I allowed to switch gears and ask you about Altar Boys right now?

Jodie Foster: Oh, I don't know.

Interviewer #5: I'm going to take a chance and do it anyway.

Jodie Foster: OK.

Interviewer #5: How's that? I was wondering as a producer, how did you find the project, and what drew you to it?

Jodie Foster: Well a young producer brought us the book, and so we all developed it together, and we hired a writer on, and in consort with this very young director who'd never made a movie before, he'd just done documentaries and videos and stuff. And we came up with this wonderful script, and it was so good that I said, you know, we have to get this moving immediately, because there's such momentum, it's such a wonderful script, and it's so true and real. But we know it's going to be an indie film, and we know there's three leads that are under 15 so, you know, what are we going to do, we'll never get it financed.

Interviewer #5: Right.

Jodie Foster: So really the big challenge was to find an actor who would take no money, who would play one of the smaller parts, and who was mainstream enough to be able to garner that kind of financing. And so I just said, you know what, why don't I just do it. So that's - my accountant came apart.

Interviewer #5: That's great. And how long did it take for you to put the project together then?

Jodie Foster: You know, it's hard to tell, because it probably took like four or five years from the time that we read the book. But from the time that we got this great script to the time that we made the movie was a very short period of time. It was probably, you know, six months.

Interviewer #5: Sounds great. And just one more quick question. Did you have any difficulty in choosing the animator?

Jodie Foster: You know, we were really set on Todd McFarland from the beginning.

Interviewer #5: Great.

Jodie Foster: And so we went to him when we were looking for financing, we went to him initially and said look, we'd like you to come in and do the movie, and we'd like you to be a part of our presentation, because we feel like that's half the film, and if somebody doesn't really have a clear picture of what the animation is like, and what the style of it is, and who the person is behind it, it's like them not knowing who the director is. So we brought him on fairly early.

Interviewer #6: I was, when I was a little to, I grew up watching you on the screen, and so first I'd like to thank you for the body of work that you ...

Jodie Foster: Oh, thank you.

Interviewer #6: ... did. Looking back over your career, what would you say has changed the most in your approach to your projects? You know, from being a child to growing up, and what would you say has sort of changed the least?

Jodie Foster: You know, I think I still approach it all the same way, which is, you know, is this a movie that I want to see that's interesting to me. And I don't really make choices for other reasons. Because I don't trust the other reasons, you know, this whole of the audience will like it, or it'll be scary, or lots of people will flock to see it. You know, none of those things ever come true.

So I really, the only thing that I believe in really is, you know, is this a story that I like and that I'm moved by. The one thing that's changed, you know, when you're younger you do a lot more movies maybe with first time directors, and you kind of go out there and just say oh whatever. You know, whoever the leading guy is, whatever. But I think now I'm much more careful about the directors that I work with.

Interviewer #6: So, talking about Panic Room, how would your character have been portrayed differently if you were, say five years, ten years younger do you think?

Jodie Foster: In Panic Room?

Interviewer #6: Yes.

Jodie Foster: Gosh. Let's see. Yes, and having not had children, I think I would have had a kind of a different perspective. As much as I would hate to admit that, you know, you - an actor, you're quite empathic and that you are sensitive to things, that you can understand experiences that you might not have had. And I think you can intellectually, and in some ways emotionally by proxy, but there's something that happens to you I think when you have your own kid, that there's a really intricate implicit understanding of what you would do for them. Just that small detail of, you know, the first time your kid starts bleeding, you know, and ...

Interviewer #6: Right.

Jodie Foster: ... the kind of the way your heart races, and the way suddenly you do stupid things that you would never do in your own life.

Interviewer #6: Yes, well I would think it, one of the challenges that you face with a lot of these roles is that you, that, you know, you don't necessarily have personal experience to draw on and ...

Jodie Foster: Well that's true, but you understand them, and that there's, they're experience that you have by proxy, you know, you may have known somebody who's quite like that, or you have an analogy. And I've always had that analogy, and it's always felt very close to home, but I don't, it's just a strange thing. I just don't think it's something you can fully understand without having one.

Interviewer #6: Sure. We'll go to Altar Boys ...

Jodie Foster: Sure.

Interviewer #6: ... here. And I guess my main question is being a big fan of some of your more offbeat stuff, like The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane ...

Jodie Foster: God, yes.

Interviewer #6: ... it's kind of nice to see you doing stuff that's not the sort ...

Jodie Foster: Mainstream.

Interviewer #6: ... of big mainstream kind of thing, because I think there needs to be more of those sort of outside files being done by people who are capable of doing a really good job on them.

Jodie Foster: Well - so, people who love them and appreciate them and ...

Interviewer #6: Right.

Jodie Foster: ... know what the exigencies are, you know, I do love - I grew up in independent movies, and that's what made me want to be a filmmaker. Even though I liked Saturday Night Fever and I liked Star Wars, those weren't the movies that made me want to be a filmmaker. It was 400 Blows or Hiroshima Mon Amour, just in some ways the outsider movies that stayed with me for the rest of my life.

Interviewer #6: Right. Just a quick DVD question.

Jodie Foster: Sure.

Interviewer #6: How involved do you see yourself in being with, like bringing a lot of your back catalog to ...

Jodie Foster: I - you know, people come to me and they say, Do you want to do this? and I say yes or no. I was - I did the DVDs for Little Man Tate over the holidays because it was a movie that I directed, and then I did - I think I did Silence of the Lambs. I did their laser disk, too, and I did - I think I did Taxi Driver, like a 25th anniversary thing. But DVDs are really the - all the discourse stuff is really - should be about the director.

Interviewer #6: Right.

Jodie Foster: So, I like to keep it - I like to - as an actor, there's only so much I can contribute really.

Interviewer #6: Well, I look forward to more of your commentaries because I always find them very intelligent.

Jodie Foster: Thanks. You know, I feel funny because I have a DVD player. It's just I'm such a technophobe that I don't really know which button to push, so I've actually never listened to any of them. And I've never listened to any of the other directors, like the Raging Bull one or the - I've never listened to any of those, and I just keep waiting to have the two hours to sit down and go, OK, now which button do I push?

Interviewer #7: I was wondering in regards to what you said about dubbing yourself in French, most actors and actresses don't get the chance to do that. And sometimes out of curiosity you switch over to the French or the Spanish track and you sit there going, I wonder how the actor or actress feels about having their entire performance replaced by someone they don't even know? And can you give us some insight into the few times that you haven't done your own dubs and maybe how some of your colleagues feel?

Jodie Foster: Yes. There were - I mean, I wish that I spoke more languages, you know, I really do. I speak a couple languages, but not well enough to really dub myself. French is really the only one, and it's a difficult thing. It's one of the hardest things that I do. I love it for the challenge of it. But for those four or five days that I spend in a dark room just trying to figure out what the character sounds like and also getting my French right and getting the rhythms and breathing and making it exciting and having it match and having it match the lips moving and stuff. But when you dub in France you do it with the other actors, so you're in the room with them, which is quite wonderful. And sometimes it takes on a different life of its own. There are a couple movies that I've dubbed that I think in some ways are more exciting. I know, maybe not more exciting, but have an interesting twist to it.

I was saying no in different the different languages doing Nell and also supervising the Italian and the German and the Spanish and all of that. It was so interesting to see how all the different romance languages would interpret and how the character changes in some ways in all those languages.

So, I wish more actors could do it, but I got to tell you it's really hard. It's really hard.

Interviewer #7: I've done some dubbing projects myself. I'm personally dubbing a Finnish film right now. And I agree with you, it's amazingly hard to do right, but some of these are amazingly painful to hear just how badly the performance gets trashed.

But back to the topic at hand, if you could take one thing in Panic Room, just totally go back and redo, what would that theme be?

Jodie Foster: Well, you know, I was pregnant for the whole movie, which actually worked out OK. I mean, physically it was hard and everything, but you don't really notice it except like basically the last three weeks of shooting. And the last three weeks of shooting we went back and did the beginning part of the movie. So, that was all the stuff you saw with big coats. And there's one theme we did reshoot. All the exteriors in New York we had to reshoot anyway for other reasons. But, yes, there's the first scene in the movie where I'm in a big coat. I'd like to reshoot that scene, walking through the thing where I sort of delicately try to keep moving my coat and my bag over my belly.

Interviewer #7: Given that you worked with Forrest Whitaker in the movie, albeit it mostly through a door... I noticed on your IMDB listing that your - one of your first directing jobs was for Tales from the Darkside.

Jodie Foster: That's right.

Interviewer #7: And he's hosting the new Twilight show. So, I was wondering if your collaboration on the movie might lead to a directing gig on that show.

Jodie Foster: Hey, you never know. You never know.

Interviewer #7: One last ...

Jodie Foster: You never know.

Interviewer #7: ... question for you. Is there any chance of a Maverick sequel?

Jodie Foster: I wish. I've been trying to nudge them in that direction for a long time, but I don't know. I don't see it happening.

Interviewer #7: Probably not.

Jodie Foster: Mel had this great idea, that he was very excited about for a while that he would tell you over coffee, but I don't know. I think he might have put it in a closet and forgotten about it.

Interviewer #7: The movie was just so much fun.

Jodie Foster: It was fun, and I would love to do another movie like that because I had such a great time on that film, and not just because it was a comedy, but also because it was with him and with Dick Donner, who are just - and James Garner. That's just a great trio.

Interviewer #8: I should let you know having grown up with nuns I thought you were a pussycat compared to some of the ones that I submitted ...

Jodie Foster: I'm sure that's true.

Interviewer #8: I kept looking for the cheek pull through the whole movie.

Jodie Foster: Yes, the ear pull or the cheek pull. We needed a little corporal punishment in there.

Interviewer #8: Absolutely. A great movie. It really ...

Jodie Foster: Thank you.

Interviewer #8: ... actually brought back some nightmares. A lot of fun.

I was actually going to go back and revisit the whole idea of doing director commentaries and actor commentaries, and you did pretty much answer the question. But I was wondering if in the course of doing that sort of thing if there are insights that you've gathered about movies that you might apply to the future or your feelings in general about them other than I know how much time it takes to sit and listen to one. But ...

Jodie Foster: I wish - I really need to start sorting through them and looking at them. I mean, I love that more than anything, is looking at a movie scene by scene and seeing the intention behind it. It allows you to really appreciate the hand of the filmmaker, which I think people very often don't really realize, that the director is 100 - it should be anyway, in the best of all possible worlds, 100 percent about who he is, and the film should reflect him. And we all know that. I think actors and certainly technicians know that. By the first week of shooting, you know exactly where your film is heading based on the psychology of your director.

So, yes, there's nothing I love more than listening to directors talk about their movies.

Interviewer #8: Do you think somewhere down the road we might actually end up with a more informed and savvy audience out there because of this insight that people are able to get now?

Jodie Foster: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. And, you know what, I would love that because I'm just really tired of the audience that's so savvy about the corporate machinery of movies. There's audiences that know how many theaters they're opening in and whether - when they're going wide and what the marketing strategy is. And I think all that stuff is not helpful at all for audience members and, in fact, really hurts the audience experience. And I really welcome them knowing more about the scenes of how movies are made because I don't think that it hurts your appreciation at all. Knowing what paint a painter uses or having an understanding of where he was in the history of where he came from doesn't hurt your appreciation of the painting.

Interviewer #8: And do you have one or two movies that are not out on DVD yet that you really are eager to get back in the hands of the public?

Jodie Foster: Gosh, I don't know, but I always - I love European movies and I kind of grew up on European films. And so, that's what I just wish more people saw them. I wish people could get over the hang-up of subtitles, although at the same time, you know, that's kind of why I'm kind of pro dubbing. I think it would be nice to dub some French movies occasionally or European movies occasionally just to see how an audience might react to them, to see if you could maybe get people in different parts of the country interested in foreign films.

Interviewer #9: With regard to Dangerous Lives, I was curious, first of all, did it bother you at all that the film got an R rating and therefore couldn't be seen by a segment of the audience that it probably would resonate most strongly with?

Jodie Foster: Well, we knew it was getting an R rating and we knew what we would have to do in order for it to get to PG rating, and some of those things we were willing to do. Frankly, I don't think would have made a big difference or a big impact on the movie - language, et cetera. I don't think that would've really changed much. But there were certain things that we just felt were too important to the film and that we didn't really want to give up in order to get the PG rating. And if that meant that younger people weren't going to be allowed to come in, I think that's the trade off that you make. So, yes, I just hope parents took their kids. That's really - that was the key. I mean, my mom took me to R rated movies when I was young and - because she knew me and knew the films well and knew that they were - they might have been provocative and they might have been serious and dramatic, but that they weren't damaging.

Interviewer #9: And I was curious about your perspective on Sister Assumpta as a teacher, because everybody knows you're a huge advocate of education.

Jodie Foster: Yes.

Interviewer #9: You didn't ever actually see her teach, per se. Was your perception that she was a good teacher or just a good disciplinarian?

Jodie Foster: No, I definitely don't think she was a good disciplinarian.

Interviewer #9: So, a strong disciplinarian.

Jodie Foster: Certainly. This idea that somehow when you're faced with 14- or 15-year-olds, which is a giant challenge, 14- or 15-year-old boys, that the best way to keep them in line and to keep them safe is to sit on their egos and to make them powerless. And, well, we all know that doesn't work. Not only is it ill-advised, but it actually doesn't work and it can have them abandon education because in some ways education has abandoned them. So, yes, these are - because I have two boys and because I do think a lot about education, it was one of the reasons why I was really drawn to the film, because I felt like Assumpta - I understood what she was going through, but at the same time realized how ill-informed she was and how sadly powerless she was.

Interviewer #9: And I was curious, when you work with extremely talented 14- and 15- year-olds, like Jena Malone and Kieran Culkin, having been there yourself, does that resonate more strongly with you, I mean watching what they're going through as they develop as actors?

Jodie Foster: Yes.

Interviewer #9: And do actors like that seek out your advice?

Jodie Foster: I love it. No, they don't have to ask me for my advice. They're doing just fine. And - but I do love working with them and I love seeing the opportunities that they have that I didn't have in some ways when I was younger. There really weren't any other kids that had made the transition to adult - to an adult actor. So, when I was young I just thought, OK, when I'm 16 it'll all be over and then I'll do something else. And at least they know that there's life after child stardom and that there is a creative work after child stardom.

Interviewer #1: I know that Altar Boys was originally slated for Sundance a couple years ago and was kind of heartbreaking that the timing didn't work. How important do you think Sundance is for a film like Altar Boys? And do you feel that not getting there changed its destiny?

Jodie Foster: In our case, it was very important for us, and that's why it was worth waiting for us to go back in Sundance again. With any movies that are - that don't have high profile actors in them, you only have a certain - a few windows of really garnering interest in the movie. The movies, and especially now with all the multiplexes and with just the mainstreamizing of the American public - also, we have a young person's movie. And it's very hard to get young people to - younger people, 18, 20, to see a movie that it's Spiderman. They all want to go see the big mainstream hits, and I think Sundance was really an opportunity to have people pay attention to the film.

Interviewer #1: Also - and this may be - the information may be out there. But what's the latest with Flora Plum? Is that still - assuming that that's in your future ...

Jodie Foster: Yes, it is in our future and you'll be hearing more about it soon. I think we're gearing up, but we're not really quite ready to make the announcement about it yet, but we're gearing up with a new cast.

Interviewer #1: So, that'll be your - that'll be your next project, or is there something else in the works?

Jodie Foster: I think so. I may - there may be something in between, but I think that'll probably be the next thing.

[roundtable is closed]

Jodie Foster: All right. Take care.

----

Our thanks to Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, Jane Ayer Public Relations and especially Jodie Foster. As we mentioned earlier, Panic Room is now available. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys follows on November 5th.

Jeff Kleist
jeffkleist@thedigitalbits.com


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