When someone mentions Jodie Foster, the first thought that typically pops into someone’s head likely centers on her Oscar-winning roles in films like “The Accused” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” Unless you religiously follow the film industry, Jodie Foster, director might not ring too many bells. But Foster, for all her acting accolades, recently told a crowd at the Tribeca Film Festival that acting was never something she wanted to do; in fact, she is more passionate about directing.
“I loved the technical side of it more than anything. But I thought it [acting] was kind of dumb. I couldn’t believe someone was asking me to say lines that someone else wrote,” said Foster in a conversation at the festival this week.
Led by fellow director Julie Taymor, Foster took to the stage for a Tribeca Talks Director Series session, where the pair were able to delve more deeply into Foster’s work as a director, instead of the many acting roles that she is more colloquially known for.
Foster’s first directing credit belongs to an episode of the 1988 series “Tales from the Darkside,” a horror anthology series. She quickly moved into film with “Little Man Tate,” “Home for the Holidays” and “The Beaver.” During the session, Foster noted that she considers these three films to be a trilogy of her life at different and important points: “My first three films were very, very personal films. In some ways they’re almost like a trilogy. The first is about a young prodigy, the second was about being 30 and the third was about depression and middle age.”
After completing this trilogy, she moved on to the Netflix original series “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” before setting to work on her newest film “Money Monster.”
“Money Monster” stars George Clooney, Julia Roberts and “Outlander” star Caitriona Balfe. Utilizing her directorial talents to focus on a film in the financial sector, “Money Monster” follows financial TV host Lee Gates (Clooney) and his producer (Roberts) as they deal with an angry gunman who takes over the studio. The film is set to be released on May 13 after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival.
“I am fascinated with the idea of manipulation, which will be in my new film,” said Foster. “It’s in the financial sector, which is of some interest to me. But what I think is more interesting is that I see it as the backdrop. It’s really about these characters who are all struggling with a spiritual crisis about their own lack of self-worth. These are people who don’t feel valued enough so they have to figure out ways to be valuable.”
During the rest of the interview, Foster mentioned that she had been acting since she was three, since her brother was an actor and she went along with him to auditions. But she always wanted to be a director.
“I didn’t think that I would ever be allowed to [direct]. I thought I had to come to it from a different direction and then I started writing as a way to get to directing,” said Foster. When she starred on the television series “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” in the early ’70s, Foster mentioned that Bill Bixby was directing an episode “and my eyes got wide. I thought, ‘Oh, my God, actors are allowed to direct? That’s what I want to do.’”
However, she didn’t go the traditional route to achieve this dream. Foster recalled her journey to becoming a director without the aid of film school. “I did have stories to tell, but I don’t have a lot of faith in my writing. I’m very picky. I wanted a better writer than myself. So I worked with other writers and I was really glad I did that. The good news is I was an actor. I got to read a lot of material. I got to shuffle through and figure out how one creates narrative.”
Foster went on to receive acclaim as a director, but she still realizes that she has a lot to learn. Foster recognized that, compared to Taymor, she is a relatively young and inexperienced director. She liked making “Money Monster,” but Foster said that she will really “be happy to go back to less of a popcorn movie. It was a wonderful experience but I feel like a lot of the stories I want to tell would be constrained in that format.”
Although nothing is currently in the works in either acting or directing for Foster, her career as a director is certainly something to look out for and encourage other young actors to not be afraid to join the ranks of female actors turned directors.