Jodie Foster has come out of semi-retirement to direct George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the hostage thriller Money Monster.
At her press conference in Beverly Hills, California, the 53-year-old is as sharp as ever. Foster resembles a porcelain china figurine, her smooth skin and sharp features highlighting a face that is both pristine and striking
Though she has given some of the greatest performances of all time, it is her remarkable intellect that separates her from all other actors.
Her wide range of portrayals – Clarice Starling in Silence Of The Lambs, Iris in Taxi Driver, Sarah Tobias in The Accused – have earned her two Golden Globes, two Oscars and numerous other honours.
But it is her bristling intelligence that has guided her from child actor to Hollywood superstar.
After years of playing interesting roles in credible but little seen independent movies, at the age of 18, she left Hollywood and enrolled as a full-time student at Yale University, where she studied Afro-American literature.
Later she admitted: “When I first went to college, I thought acting was not enough. I thought it wasn’t stimulating enough. At the end I realised it was me who wasn’t allowing it to be stimulating.”
Returning to Hollywood four years later, degree in hand, Foster waited patiently for the role of a rape victim in The Accused which would earn the actress her first Golden Globe and Academy Award.
And three years later, she repeated that triumph starring opposite Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of The Lambs, one of the most indelible characters ever portrayed on screen.
How do you respond when people say you think with your head rather than your heart?
“I really believe the human mission is about balancing the two. I see it as a real life struggle for me, and very much what the movies I have directed are about,” Foster replied.
For the past decade she’s divided her time between being a full-time mother to her two sons and appearing in action thrillers such as Panic Room, Inside Man and The Brave One.
Despite much speculation, Foster has kept her personal life very private, but three years ago she surprised everyone when she obliquely outed herself at the Golden Globes.
In 2014, she confirmed this by marrying actress-photographer Alexandra Hedison.
You’ve spent almost three years on Money Monster. How important is it for you?
Yeah, it is a big one. I mean even though I have done movies with sizeable budgets and interesting talent, I have never really done a genre film like this before.
Is this likely to be your niche, directing as opposed to acting?
The beautiful thing about directing, and why it’s really right for my personality, is that I’m a hyper focused person. If I commit to something, then that’s it. That’s my whole life for an extended period of time.
Right now I’m really excited about directing, and I think that will be my focus. But I’ll never stop acting. It’s something that I’ve done since I was three, and it’s a way to express myself that’s unlike anything else. It will always be a part of my life.
The movie is about money. So, what does money mean to you?
Growing up, I was always anxious about money, and maybe I shouldn’t have been, but for whatever reason I worried that if I didn’t get that job, then my family wouldn’t be able to survive.
So, because I was a breadwinner as a young person, I think that marked me a lot, and I was always concerned that I would never work again, and what will happen to my family?
But now I feel in some ways it was a great motivator, encouraged me to get straight As in school. I had to be a good student. I had to accomplish things. I still have these goals because I don’t want to feel insecure and anxiety-ridden.
Is that true even today?
Not so much now, because as you get older you start seeing things in your life that are the most meaningful and remember the experiences that were the richest.
Where do you put your money? Are you an art collector?
I don’t really collect anything. I love art and photography, I think that’s what I would run to save if my house was falling down, but I am not much of a possession person.
I don’t really care about things that I own, and the older I get, the less I care. I like to have a home that feels comfortable with really beautiful things.
For example, I really like having nice sheets that feel good. But as I have gotten older, the freedom of not having things is of more interest to me than the burden of having things.
Looking back on your career what films are you most proud of?
It’s been a big career, and it’s been a long one. I have been a part of so many different eras in filmmaking.
The thing that I am the most proud of is having been a part of the 1970s and movies like Taxi Driver.
But directing my first movie – Little Man Tate (1991) – I think that was really my proudest moment. Just the excitement of that. To have put something on screen that was so imperfect but that was 100% what I really felt and what I really thought was me.
When I look back on it now, I think wow, I was so young, and I was so naïve. But it came from a kind of instinctual primitive place; so I guess I am proudest of that.
Did you have Citizen Kane in mind when you named your first born Charles?
I didn’t. I wish I had, but I just loved the name Charlie, and I thought Charlie Foster was a great sounding name. (Foster’s second son is named Christopher)
What do you teach your sons?
Well the good news is, I feel like my kids are already themselves. They are already on their way, and they are just great guys, both of them. I trust them and I feel like they have a really high moral standard.
The one thing I say to them – and when I am gone I hope they’ll remember – is: “When faced with a dilemma, always try to do the right thing.” Which goes back to the ethical quandary: how do we do the right thing? Is it the right thing to give money to somebody who is begging on the street? It isn’t. Because you are encouraging them to stand on the street and not look for a job.
Maybe it would be better to give it to an organisation that enables them to find jobs. That ethical procedure, asking yourself that question, is what I hope to have instilled in my kids.
How would you like to be remembered?
Maybe this is the dumbest thing in the world but what I would want to be remembered for making a really mean leek vinaigrette or that I really love Miles Davis’s trumpet.
The legacy I want to be remembered by are the details of my life which are ordinary, but spectacular to me.
My favourite day is sitting in my house, listening to my records, cooking things for people, laughing hysterically at very, very bad television. I’d rather be remembered for that than any sort of bigger stuff that I’ve done.