Jodie Foster’s first films as a director were personal. Money Monster, starring a dancing George Clooney, sees her tackling the financial sector, writes Helen Barlow
JODIE Foster looks youthful at 53. She says she stays relaxed because she doesn’t work too hard and in recent years she’s been a devoted mum to her sons, Charlie (born 1998) and Kit (born 2001).
Although a world-famous actress because of her roles in movies such as Silence of the Lambs and The Accused, her heart lies in the act of filmmaking, she says. While she cites Home for the Holidays starring Robert Downey Jr as her favourite of the films she’s directed, she says her films follow her life, starting with Little Man Tate.
“My first three films were very personal, almost like a trilogy: The first was about a young prodigy, the second was about being 30 and stuck between your parents, and the third, The Beaver, was really about middle-aged depression and all the things that go with it.”
Foster admits it’s been hard to look at her life without injecting a sense of humour. “I will always have some kind of humour in my films. I think that’s why I’m pretty well adjusted because I can look at my failures and at all the drama and laugh at it. Home for the Holidays takes some of the most painful parts of my life that I thought were true and turns them around so you can laugh at them.”
Foster is in Cannes to promote Money Monster, a hostage thriller she describes as a popcorn movie, the kind of movie she wanted to try once and not necessarily repeat. A lover of garrulous actors like Downey and her friend Mel Gibson (star of The Beaver), she revelled in the chance to work with George Clooney, perhaps the most garrulous actor of them all.
He plays the brash host of a financial TV show taken hostage on air by an irate viewer (Jack O’Connell) who has lost all his family’s money after taking his bad advice. Julia Roberts plays Clooney’s producer, while Irish actress and model Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) has a supporting role as a woman working for the financial company headed by Dominic West who is indeed corrupt.
“I loved the screenplay as it has an interesting take on that world,” Balfe said in Cannes. “That this man was pushed to those extremes is very timely and I was excited to be part of it.”
“The financial sector is something of interest to me,” admits Foster, “but I was thinking mostly about these three central characters who are struggling in a spiritual crisis and don’t feel valuable enough. That the film is set against the backdrop of technology is really interesting to me too. We might be living in a time where technology is making us closer and we are communicating faster, but there’s something that we’ve lost. Aspiring to be more like a robot and more like a computer and to be more perfect has shown us how incredibly imperfect and flawed we really are.”
In Money Monster, based on a script by Jamie Linden (Dear John), Clooney is a kind of buffoon. The actor admits he drew on his characters from his so-called “trilogy of idiots” with the Coen Brothers, yet to make this idiot kind of different he decided he should dance.
“I’m a really bad dancer so I thought it would be funny to do. I had a choreographer help me and she said, ‘Don’t tell anybody I did this!’”
Naturally the activist and former star of ER was attracted by what the film is trying to say. “Money Monster plays on and talks about the evolution of what has become the cross between news and entertainment and I think that’s been a big problem,” says Clooney.
“It just seems we’ve gotten used to the idea that some schmuck can get up on television and tell you where you can put your money — and they do it out of entertainment — and people listen to them. People lose things in their real lives while the rest of the world goes on unhurt. I think this film reflects where we’ve gotten to — and that’s a dangerous moment.”
Foster says it’s also a dangerous moment for movie-making. “This is a mainstream studio film made for a modest budget that’s a genre film, a thriller for general audiences. But it’s also really intelligent, has a lot of layers, is meaningful, and has a unique voice. These kinds of movies aren’t being made any more, even if people still want to make them.”
Not everyone of course has the likes of Clooney and Roberts at their disposal to make them happen.
Still, it’s not as if Foster is a stickler for movies. She’s also directed television drama, including an episode of House of Cards. “Thank god for David Fincher,” she says of her Panic Room director, who is one of the producers on the series. “I came into it with the beautiful style he’d already established, extraordinary sets, amazing actors, and great technicians.”
She’s also directed two episodes of Orange is the New Black.
So what’s the difference between film and television? “Everything is faster on television. With film everything is meaningful; there’s a reason for everything. Television is more about behaviour; not everything amounts to the final message. You’re a director for hire and don’t have so much control.”
Never closed-minded, Foster is likewise open to discussing the merits of gaming, especially since she’s the single mum of two sons who are both keen gamers. “There’s always this argument about it,” she says, “ but some of the most interesting bits of art now are in gaming, with their guns and all that. BIOS is my son’s favourite and it’s extraordinary. It’s this utopian crazy ’20s-’30s universe with ’30s music and real characters that you follow. It’s just a different way of looking at reality.”
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