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Jodie Foster: She lives her life at the movies

Golden Globes 2013: Cecile B. DeMille Award

With the Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, Jodie Foster is ready for her close-up.Because the honor comes as part of the live broadcast, a camera will remain tightly focused on Foster’s face as she watches a cavalcade of clips that showcase a career that began as a Coppertone child model and includes two best actress Academy Awards and three directorial efforts.

“Well, the thing that’s odd about it is: It is my entire life. It’s not like I had a life before movies. I’ve never had a life without it,” Foster, 50, observes.

Seeing herself over five decades, she notes, “Is kind of like a home movie. It’s not just about my work but every memory I have.” Like her first TV commercial, at age 3. “It was hot and I didn’t like the top and some kid fell in the river. That was a whole drama.”

Some events are tied to history. “The day we landed on the moon I was in ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.’ We stopped shooting and everybody went to the prop house where we watched it all on black-and-white TV.”

Others play like another movie, one that’s plays just under the surface. “On ‘Silence of the Lambs’ I remember looking through the bars at Anthony Hopkins when he said, ‘You’re a rube.’ The first time he did it he imitated my accent,” Foster says. “He didn’t do it in rehearsals, but on the take and it made me so mad. Literally, the blood drained out of my face. I was so hurt because another actor was imitating my accent — and there it is, right on screen, those little moments and you remember them. Where something primitive happens and you don’t even understand; there it is onscreen. And my mom was sick at the time, she had cancer, and you worry. It was one of the first times she wasn’t part of the set, she hadn’t read the script or was even part of the process. Watching a clip, it’s a trifecta where what’s happening in the moment, what was going on physically on the set and how things were changing at that time in your own life are all there. Well,” Foster says with a laugh, “I have that for every single clip.”

‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ (1974)
“My mom was a huge film buff. We would go to film festivals and she just brought me with her. I had seen ‘Mean Streets’ already, they didn’t have videos in those days but that was enough to have a good impression of Robert De Niro in the part. Martin Scorsese thought that was funny, that I was such a huge fan of his through my mom and he had only made two movies and I had made nine or 10. ‘Alice’ was a case of my mom taking a chance on a young filmmaker, it was her passion — and she transferred that on to me.”

Taxi Driver,’ (1976)
“I was shooting ‘Freaky Friday’ when ‘Taxi’ went to the Cannes Film Festival. I remember that because I had to leave on a weekend and then come back. What is unusual about my career, I almost never played just the child actress. I played real characters. Iris (in ‘Taxi Driver’) wasn’t me; that was a character I built and that she was 12 or 13 was really beside the point. Even ‘Bugsy’ I certainly don’t act like that. That wasn’t a child’s role.”

‘The Hotel New Hampshire’ (1984)
“One of the five movies I did in college. I don’t remember some class in sociology but I remember how I was changed by the people and the ideas. This was the first time I was around people my own age.”

‘The Accused’ (1988)
“This was a new challenge and it was a funny time in my life. I thought I might not pursue acting, I might go to grad school and study literature. Even now I don’t know if the role changed my perspective. I was young, only 25 years old. I went to do the role not understanding why I was so drawn to it. I really didn’t understand what the movie was about until I got into it and realized how much it affected me and how much it was about my life in some ways. It inspired me to think much deeper about acting.”

‘Little Man Tate’ director (1991)
“The material found me. They came to me as an actor and I begged to direct it and I said, ‘How about if I get financing?’ That is a personal film. I was only 27 years old and that was tailored to my lifestyle — whatever prodigy means. But I did live a prodigious life as a young person and I resembled his psyche in some ways. There is no reason he should know that emotional perceptiveness and openness. That is a wonderful thing as a gift and a terrible thing, it’s cruel. That struggle between brain and heart is symbolized by these two women fighting over him. I felt that was really the story of my life.”

The Silence Of The Lambs’ (1991)
“All the movies that have really brought me the most joy and were the most challenging I’ve had to fight for. I was not the first choice for ‘The Accused’; I had been away a long time and I think they remembered me as a chubby child star. Which was fine. I didn’t get that role until three weeks before we started shooting. They were busy not being sure. ‘Silence’ I knew I wouldn’t be the first choice. I’d read the book and found out it was Orion and it was being developed with a different director. I said, ‘Look, I want to be the first person you think of when you get a script,’ and they got a script and that director jumped off and they gave it immediately to Jonathan Demme. Then I was, ‘Come on. [laughs] He’s not going to want me, he’s going to want Michelle Pfeiffer,’ which is what happened. They’d just worked together (on ‘Married to the Mob’) and had a great experience. I flew to New York and said, ‘I would like to be your second choice.’ I didn’t read for him, I just told him some of the reasons why I was so drawn to the movie, not for the obvious reasons but my own funny psychological artistic growth. He said, ‘Thank you very much.’ I thought, I’ll never hear from him again. Michelle went on to do a movie with Jonathan Kaplan — he’d done ‘The Accused’ — called ‘Love Field,’ and I did ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ She went with my director and I went with her director.”

‘Sommersby’ (1993)
“The French version was very different — different country, time period, ages and such a different movie I don’t think you would recognize it. I remember the location, the horses, a big flood that flooded out the entire set. I loved the ideas in the film. As I look back on my career you see patterns of things you were interested in. You read 10 scripts and why did you pick one? It’s never that I can wear a funny hat but ideas that were part of my life and part of my growth. In that case a theme that’s come over and over again: What is authenticity? What’s real and what isn’t?”

‘Maverick’ (1994)
“Fun. Crazy. I also replaced someone, Meg Ryan, who for whatever reason ended up not doing it. I was brought in four, five weeks before shooting.”

‘Home For the Holidays,’ director (1995)
“Hugely personal: about family and how the strands get fused together and how they influence each other. It’s a film where ‘nothing is happening’ — you just watch people behave — and at the end you see how people are changed by each other.”

‘Panic Room’ (2002)
“They shot with Nicole Kidman for 10 days; she left and I came aboard. It was a great film, really an amazing experience to work with David Fincher as a director. Life-changing for sure. It’s one of the experiences where I learned the most. That is the funny thing about this career: It is my film school. I didn’t go to film school, I didn’t go to Juilliard. Everything I know was from being in movies and seeing other directors and trying to serve them as an actor and how to tell stories and how to be moved.”

‘A Very Long Engagement’ (2004)
“The attraction honestly was working with Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I came to him and said, ‘I don’t care what you’re doing. If it’s a small part, that’s fine.’ I’ve never been credited for it.”

‘Flightplan’ (2005)
“I loved the basic idea of this woman who in a moment of incredible grief is being gaslighted into this experience (no one believes she’s lost her child) and her heart knows better and she fights for her own sanity.”

‘Inside Man’ (2006)
“An opportunity to work with Spike Lee, a great director. My real interest now in acting is to stand next to the director and see the film through the director’s eyes and learn from him.”

‘The Brave One’ (2007)
“I brought Neil Jordan on to that. I was very interested in the script and worked to bring the script to its full potential. It’s something I’m proud of; there was a lot of self discovery about rage, oh gosh, feeling and crisis and how only through those things can you know yourself. It all sounds self-helpy but it was a big movie for me. Neil Jordan is a poet and very free, and even though very prepared he comes to the set and doesn’t box himself in. He gets these crazy ideas at the last minute and is sort of the opposite of David Fincher that way. I feel I’ve learned the most from the two of them and they each work in a completely different way.”

‘Carnage’ (2011)
“That movie was strange. The real memory was the other actors. It was like being with three brothers and sisters. There was nothing else, it was just us. There was only one set. Actually it was one room! We couldn’t go anywhere. It was in real time. We couldn’t change our clothes! It really was just about those four actors. The kind of bond we had was unlike anything else I’ve ever done in my life. I guess it’s like that doing a play, which I’ve never done. After that experience, I’m ‘now I know why I don’t want to do theater!’ ”

‘The Beaver,’ director (2011)
“‘The Beaver’ is also the story of my life; every character in that is some side of me: It’s about loneliness in your own feelings and trying to connect and longing. That’s true of ‘Tate’ and ‘Home’ and every movie I’ve ever made. That’s what they’re about, the movies I direct.”

‘Elysium’ (summer release)
“The real attraction: Neil Blomkamp. I loved ‘District 9,’ close to a perfect movie and I wanted to do whatever this guy is doing. That’s pretty much it.”

Stepping stone to awards glory | Globes honor returning TV series but makes room for the new
And the nominees are…
Best Picture – Comedy/Musical | Best Picture – Drama | Actor | Actress | Animated
Cecile B. Demille Award: Jodie Foster

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