Jodie Foster has been a working actor for 50 years, has won two Academy Awards and her name has become synonymous with gutsy, quality performances. And yet there’s one honor that, until now, has eluded her — a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “I grew up blocks from Hollywood Boulevard and would cross it every single day of my life,” says Foster. “And you do that thing where you’re like, ‘Will I ever be on the Walk of Fame someday?’ ”
Of course, Foster has had opportunities over the years. But it was by choice that she waited until now. “I made this conscious decision that I didn’t want to have a star on Hollywood Boulevard unless it was in a conjunction with a movie I was directing,” admits Foster. “I don’t know why that was important to me; it seems silly, but that’s why I waited all these years.”
It’s an understatement to say it’s been well worth the wait; Foster’s fourth film as director, “Money Monster,” hits theaters May 13 after a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and is poised to be her biggest success behind the camera yet. The film stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, the host of the financial program “Money Monster,” who is held hostage on the air by a disgruntled viewer named Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell). Julia Roberts plays the show’s director and producer, who tries to help secure her star’s freedom, while also making sure she gets the best TV possible. It’s a fast-paced, clever film that will also surprise audiences with the amount of humor that comes from the situation.
It was producers Dan Dubiecki and Lara Alameddine who approached Foster with the script about four years ago. “When you think of Jodie Foster, you think of a smart, strong woman who defies your expectations,” say the pair via email. “She’s built an amazing career of crafting unforgettable characters in some of our favorite films. It was clear within the first 45 minutes of meeting Jodie that we were talking to the director of ‘Money Monster.’ She wanted to make a film that said something but at the same time was a thrilling ride. That is a rare combination in movies these days. This felt special from the start.”
Foster put together an all-star cast, beginning with Clooney, and says she never considered acting in the film herself. “Once someone said the name ‘Julia Roberts,’ it was too perfect,” she notes. “Nobody thought she would say yes — but we figured we’d ask and get a quick no before moving on. But she expressed an interest, and I’m so glad, because she’s amazing.”
|George Clooney stars as a the flamboyant host of a financial TV program in Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster.” Courtesy of TriStar Pictures|
To play the gun-wielding Budwell, Foster saw countless actors before selecting O’Connell, who was the lead in Angelina Jolie’s then as-yet-unreleased “Unbroken.” Though Budwell was originally written as older, O’Connell won her over. “He came in with two strikes against him: He was British and he was young. I wondered how we would believe him as this guy from Queens,” she recalls. “But he came in and had the most amazing audition. He just blew us away.”
As an actor herself, Foster recognizes the importance of casting and has complete empathy for those coming in to audition.
“The first movie I directed, I had never been in a room after an actor leaves and heard producers say things like, ‘He’s too short, he’s too fat.’ I was just appalled,” she recalls. “So I’ve always made it a mission to be as generous as possible because it’s such a gift they come in with such an open heart.”
Asked about what draws her to a project as a director and as an actor, Foster muses that the two are completely different.
“As an actor, I tend to make movies that focus on a singular character, often a lonely character,” she observes. “But as a director, I usually make ensemble movies. I always have a bit of lightheartedness in a film I direct; I can’t really make a movie as a director without some humor. But as an actor, I tend to like characters that are serious as a heart attack.”
|“I always have a bit of lightheartedness in a film I direct; I can’t really make a movie as a director without some humor.”|
Stepping behind the camera was always the aim for Foster, who began acting at the age of 3 and by 6 knew she wanted to direct.
“I remember seeing my first actor-director and thinking, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ But I didn’t think I’d be able to because I didn’t see any woman directors,” she says. “I felt the best way for me to do it would be for me to write, so I went down that path.”
She notes that “we’re seeing more women directors now, especially on television and in independent movies. But for mainstream movies in the United States, it’s slow going.”
Foster hasn’t yet decided on her next project, or whether she will be in front of or behind the camera.
“Absolutely no idea,” she says with a laugh when asked. “It’s been a very long haul and I’m already really tired and haven’t started the press tour yet.”
And while she hasn’t appeared on screen since 2013’s “Elysium,” she is by no means done with acting.
“I’ve had a long career; it’s been 50 years and I’ve had to take breaks and had moments where I burned out a little bit and had to find my love for it again,” she notes. “I’m always amazed — you can be sort of blasé, and then you come back and get excited about something and discover it all again. I’ve learned that the meaningfulness comes from the actor. It’s your investment, it’s up to you to really take the material and make it deeper. That’s always challenging.
“The one thing about acting that’s true is it’s either too challenging for one human being to have to do or it’s just too boring for one human to have to endure.”
Jodie Foster Receives a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Noon, May 4
6927 Hollywood Blvd.