A molecular-biologist-turned-Buddhist-monk says altruism is the answer to many of the world's most pressing challenges. Can concern for others help solve wealth inequality, climate change and world hunger?
Two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster directs and co-stars with two-time Academy Award winner Mel Gibson in “The Beaver.” It’s the story of Walter Black, who was once a successful toy executive and family man but now suffers from from an extreme case of depression. It costs him everything…until the day he finds a beaver hand puppet. It begins to control his life. Jodie Foster calls the film “perhaps the biggest struggle of my professional career.” Diane has a conversation with director, producer and actor Jodie Foster.
- Jodie Foster American actress, film director and producer.
Actor and director Jodie Foster talks about how important sound is to her process and says that if she could have chosen an alternative career, she probably would have liked to try radio hosting:
“The Beaver” Trailer
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Jodie Foster is a director, producer, two-time Academy Award-winning actress. She directs and stars opposite Mel Gibson in the new film, "The Beaver." It's the story of a man dealing with an extreme case of depression. Walter Black's wife has kicked him out of the house, his older son hates him. Just when he's about to kill himself, he finds a beaver hand puppet and it takes total control of his life.
MS. DIANE REHMAnswers right now for Jodie Foster. You have called this film probably the biggest struggle of your professional career. Tell me what you mean.
MS. JODIE FOSTERProbably not for reasons you'd think, actually. It was a difficult film. I think it was difficult getting the tone right, it has a very odd tone to it, which I embrace and think is wonderful. It has a lot of lightness to it and certainly the original conceit of a man who puts a puppet on his hand sounds like a high concept conceit, but in fact, it is quite a dark drama. And kind of mirroring those two things, the lightness of beginning and the descent of the character's struggle and the natural movement towards tragedy and towards drama in the film, I think, was the hardest thing for me.
REHMHis depression and his -- I mean, he's on the verge of self-destruction every minute of that film.
FOSTERYeah, he's a man who's struggling and I think it's something that many of us understand. I think many people, myself included, have depression in their family and have had lots of varying degrees of connection with depression. This is chemical depression, which is much more serious, and something that talk therapy can't cure. I mean, he needs a much more serious therapy than that.
REHMTell me why a beaver.
FOSTERWhy a beaver? Good question.
REHMWhy a beaver?
FOSTERWell, it is absurd. I mean, why an English accent? It could've been any puppet and I think that's what's wonderful about the movie is it doesn't matter. It's a man who's trying to disassociate from himself, who's trying to change, who's trying to not be who he presently is and in order to do that, he has to put himself inside a different character. It's a survival tool, really, and the beaver is a very industrious animal, it does lots of things with wood, it makes things, it produces things and it has a sort of -- you know, it's a very -- has tangible results, but it also destroys things.
REHMBut Mel Gibson was, in reality, having a very hard time either right before you started this film or while you were making it.
FOSTERActually, not at all. I think he was happy as a clam while we were shooting the movie and he -- any of his issues really happened after the film was finished and during reshoots -- some portion of reshoots, but I -- you know, I love the man, I've known him for many, many years, we're very close and I think professionally, he's probably the most loved person I've ever worked with. Maybe Chow Yun-Fat is also incredible loved, but he's incredibly professional, he's brilliant, he's directed incredibly, incredibly beautiful films and I can't think of anybody else that could inhabit this character the way that he did.
REHMHere's a message posted on Facebook by Wes, says, "We absolutely love Jodie Foster. She's magnetic, riveting, goes on and on, but even more than adoring her work, we respect Jodie for standing up for what she believes in, even when it goes against the norm and what others think, as in the case of her friend, Mel Gibson. Although it was not very Hollywood to come out in support of him, she showed she is truly a real friend. Bravo."
FOSTERWell, I am a real friend. I know the man, I love him and he's been incredibly loyal to me and he's -- you know, he's the man that I know, kindhearted and deep and beautiful and trustworthy and loyal and all those things.
REHMHow did you first come to know him?
FOSTERWell, we did a film called, "Maverick," together many years ago and we -- you know, I knew from the moment that I met him, this was somebody I was going to love forever. But that being said, he's also just an extraordinary actor and he's wonderful in the film and I don't know if people can separate people's struggles, people's personal struggles from what they see on screen. In some ways, he brings a lot of depth to this character because he does understand struggle.
REHMHe clearly has a strong role in this film of yours. The question will be, will others bring him in or is his career on a downward trend?
FOSTERI have no idea. This is not something I can know. I really don't know. I know, obviously, there -- we have a different relation -- in America, we have a different relationship with people's public personas than they do in other places and frankly, around the world, nobody really cares what problems he had with his girlfriend. I don't know. You know, we'll see. We'll see what happens with this.
REHMWhat about the kinds of outbursts he's had, Jodie. I mean, how have you felt about those outbursts, no matter where they've gone or to whom they've gone?
FOSTERI don't know. I mean, there's a part of me that feels like they're none of my business. It's not a side of Mel that I know, particularly, and, you know, I mean, I did see him get hit in the head and when blood came out of his head (laugh) during the shoot, he definitely -- he definitely, you know, was in pain and it hurt (laugh) and so I have seen that side of him. You know, when you stub your toe or you get his in the testicles, things happen (laugh). But what did I think? I thought it was none of my business, you know, as I've said to him before, I'm happy to see you in your underwear, but I'm not interested in seeing you in your underwear against your will.
REHMSo you've never asked him about his own personal life and his inability, for example, to control his temper?
FOSTERI know a lot about his personal life and I've asked him a lot about his personal life, as he has mine. I mean, that's what people are, but...
REHMWho are friends.
FOSTERThat's right and that's why it's private. I think, yeah, my private relationship with him really doesn't have much to do with any of us and I do know that, you know, I know the man that I know who's supportive and kind and lovable and loving and is an extraordinary actor and I think all of those come into play as an actor, as an artist and I think that's what you see on screen and hopefully people will be able to embrace the film for what it is.
REHMJodie Foster, she's director, producer, two-time Academy Award-winning actress. Her films, "Taxi Driver," "The Accused," "Silence of the Lambs," "Little Man Tate."
FOSTER(laugh) Thank you.
REHMYou know, I love that movie. She directed and stars in the new film, "The Beaver." Do join us, 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to email@example.com, join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. You've talked about your own struggles with depression in the past. Were you able then to bring...
FOSTERHave I (laugh) ?
REHM...your own experience to the movie?
FOSTERYeah, I mean, I don't think I have talked about my own struggles with depression very much. I think I have -- I know a bit about it, I know a lot about it...
REHMYou've said it's part of your life, yeah.
FOSTERI think it is a part of our life. I think it's a part of everyone's life, honestly. And anybody who's an artist, one of the things that you bring to the table as an artist is the ability and the necessity to ruminate. You know, to think about things deeply. And if you don't think about things deeply, you're probably not going to be very good. If you're a writer and you just type something and then you hand it in and say, oh, I'm done, not much happens. I think it requires to really be -- to try to be an excellent artist, I think it requires depth of feeling and a depth of connection and I think in the long-term, that that can be very depressive, but it also allows you to evolve through tragedy and evolve through experiences in ways that other people who just went to the beach instead just didn't have that opportunity.
REHMSo the total of life experiences, including depression, has to come through.
FOSTERYeah, I think and the film talks about that which is, you know, this is a roller coaster and life is hard, it's heavy and it does get heavier as you get older. You know, your parents age, your children have problems, you know, life is heavy and it also can be blissfully light, but you take both of those things together.
REHMYour acting career, you have said, at one time, you were finished with acting. Then you changed your mind.
FOSTERI don't think I ever said I was finished with acting. I definitely, I went to college, like lots of college students, I have been working the business for 45 years, so there are times where I burn out a little bit and I'd like to do it a little less. But I don't think I'll ever be done with it. I think it's something that will always return to. I think this particular moment in my life, I'm probably less interested in spending as much time in front of the camera as I did before. I think I'm more interested in being behind the camera. And one of the reasons why I do continue to act mostly is because I'm so interested and fascinated by the directors that I work with and I'd like to find out more from them.
REHMHow long did making, "The Beaver," take?
FOSTERIt was quick. I think it was pretty quick, yeah, it was about three months.
FOSTERWell, production is three months, of course, prep is longer and post is longer.
REHMAnd it was not a terribly expensive movie?
FOSTERNo, this is an independent film, made with a modest budget and, you know, intended for a very specialized audience in some ways.
REHMWhen we come back, we'll talk about some of the other movies that Jodie Foster has been in and hear some clips. 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd with me here in the studio, Academy Award-winning actress, Jodie Foster, she has directed the new movie, "The Beaver," which stars along with Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson. And you can join us, you can call us, send us an e-mail, join us on Facebook or Twitter. As a director, your movies have focused on family dramas. Talk about why that is of such interest to you.
FOSTERYeah, clearly, something that I’m obsessed with. I think if I was going to do a sci-fi movie about Martians, it would be a Martian family, I'm sure. It just seems -- I'm sure lots of actor/directors are interested in psychology, that's why we become actors and it really is the basis of psychology for me. I love the tapestry of how people -- the dynamic of how people change each other by how they touch one another and that always brings me back to the family.
REHMWhat about your own family life as a child growing up? Tell me about that.
FOSTERI guess it was different than most kids. I think it was, you know, wonderful, but it was different. I was a child actor. I started at the age of three. My brother had been an actor before me. I basically supported my family and I had a single mom who was with me on sets and who inspired me, I think, to study, to go on, to not just have a career, but also to, you know, go on academically. And well, what else can I tell you? It was fun, it was good. It was a good thing. I don't look back -- even though it changed my life in ways, it made me different, I'm sure left huge scars, I don't think those scars are so bad.
REHMYeah. What about your brother?
FOSTERMy brother was an actor. He quit acting. I think he -- I think his acting kind of tapered off by the time he was 18 -- 16 -- 16 to 18 it tapered off and he went on to do a variety of other things in his life.
REHMDoes -- do the two of you still have contact?
FOSTERNo, not much. I know his kids, though. I know his -- he has lots of children, so (unintelligible) kids.
REHMHuh. Interesting. Lots of children.
FOSTERMany children, yes.
REHMWell, that's great, that's wonderful.
REHMBut you decided you wanted to go on to college to Yale. What did you study?
FOSTERI studied literature at Yale and specifically, I did a lot of African-American literature and stuff like that.
REHMWhat about psychology?
FOSTERI was terrible at psychology. Isn't that interesting? Because, you know, with the -- maybe I just picked the wrong courses.
REHMIt gets into a lot of numbers.
FOSTERThere was a lot of statistics...
FOSTER...and that was really of no interest to me.
FOSTERBut, you know, my first love really is reading and I love books, I love literature and I found that in everything, you know. And I felt like that, in some ways, has been the perfect field of study for directing and for acting because it's about deepening into the human experience.
REHMIn the movie, "The Beaver," you have two sons.
REHMOne's a teenager, totally un-enchanted with his father. The younger one, so sweet, so accepting of the flaws he sees in his father. You have two sons. How old are they?
FOSTERMy sons are 12 and a half and nine. And yeah, I love the relationship in the film of the sons to their father and to their mother and I felt like it was incredibly well observed. The older son, the 17-year-old son, who's just about -- he's looking to go into college, he has -- he's starting to fall in love and the first -- the one thing that he wants more than anything is to differentiate himself from his father and he feels like he's unfortunately genetically predisposed to just become exactly like him and he's trying to do anything he can to fight against that.
REHMAnd he grows.
FOSTERYes, he does.
FOSTERThe film is equally divided between Anton Yelchin's character and his father, Mel Gibson's character and you're sort of watching two stories at the same time, stories that are in collision. I think two men that if they were able to reunite and if they were able to rediscover their relationship, that perhaps they would be able to cure each other of what's wrong with one another.
REHMEarly on in the film, the older son says to you, his mother, you know, I thought you were going to throw him out for good and yet here he is back with this beaver on his hand.
FOSTERWell, yeah, it's something that the son doesn't understand...
FOSTER...you know, the commitment that a husband and wife can have towards each other. And, you know, in this film, Meredith, my character, she loves him. And when you love somebody, you struggle with them. There are lines that she draws and the line that she draws is, I will not let you take down my children. And the second that your crippling psychology starts affecting my children is the day that I will leave you. And she's very adamant about that and that's exactly what she does, causes, in some ways, Walter, Mel Gibson's character, to choose between the beaver and his family.
REHMYou are both starring in the film and directing the film. What is it that allows you to both be in it and watch it from afar?
FOSTERIt's a funny thing to act and direct at the same time.
FOSTERKind of a little bit of it is schizophrenia, but I think wonderful as well. I mean, you're able to make decisions, make intellectual decisions, before you start the film to prepare the movie to have all of the benefits of the kind of preparation that you do as a director. And then walk on screen and do it in two takes and walk away. The bad news is you don't get as many choices as you might with other actors. You don't get as much inspiration as you might with other actors, but I think you do really -- you know, nobody understands the essence of the character the way an actor does, but nobody understands the essence of the film the way the director does, so you get both things.
REHMSo -- but you're keeping in mind so many things...
REHM...beyond the characters in the film.
FOSTERYeah, it's stressful, it's tiring, it's exhausting. That's why you need a big vacation at the end of it.
REHMAnd did you take one?
REHMOr are you about to?
FOSTER...I have never quite taken that wonderful vacation that I should've taken at the end of the movie, but, you know, Mel Gibson has also directed and acted in movies.
FOSTERAnd when he first -- when he did, "Braveheart," I remember saying to him, oh, I think this is a bad idea. Do you really want to do this? And he said to me when he finished, he was like, I'm never doing this again. And then of course, you know, did it again (laugh).
REHMYou've -- I have a quote here that says, I don't do well with people who are not direct. Pardon me. I don’t do well with passive aggressive wishy-washy.
REHMSo what does that mean when you run into a director who might be that way?
FOSTERPassive aggressive and wishy-washy?
FOSTERWell, I have a real problem with that. It's very hard for me to -- it's especially difficult for me to make a film with a director that doesn't have opinions, a director who's relying on others to bring him ideas. That's really a problem.
REHMCan you think of one?
FOSTERI certainly wouldn't mention on the program. Yes. I can think of many in my head.
FOSTERBut -- yeah, and it's a cruel joke to play on a crew and on a film and...
FOSTER...it never, never turns out well.
REHMYeah, what happens when you've got a director who is not direct?
FOSTERSomeone else takes over. You find someone else takes over (laugh). I don't know. You know, some -- there's some -- there's a director for everyone. Personally, I like people who are direct and succinct and articulate. That, for me, is very helpful. I like somebody who's -- who has an intellectual approach as opposed to a very emotional approach. I feel like the emotions are my problem and that's my job, but his job is to articulate what he wants. But, you know, there are other actors who like different things. I think the truth is, is, you know, when you're making a movie for those four months or five months that he's the -- he's the head of the party and you are there to serve him, whether he deserves the job or not. So you kind of grin and bear it.
REHMDo you ever challenge a director you don't agree with?
FOSTERYeah and I think they wait for that and they love that. I think they want to be challenged. I want to be challenged. I want people to come in and bring other ideas, things that I haven't thought of, but in the end, you know, you are there to serve their vision. And if you are serving a vision you don't agree with, you're on the wrong movie to start with.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Greg who says he'd like to know why you did not take part in the, "Silence of the Lambs," sequel. And he goes on to say, he's an avid soldier listening in Orlando. He says, "I think the film would've been a lot better with her."
FOSTERWell, that's very nice of him. Great actors in that film, Julianne Moore, who ended up playing Clarice Starling in that film. I actually wasn't available. I was doing -- I was starting a film and I wasn't available, but I think the director also did not -- the original director, Jonathan Demme, did not take part in that and there were issues about the original text and the original screenplay. And some of those things, if you don't understand the screenplay and you don't feel passionate about the screenplay, you really shouldn't jump aboard a film.
REHMI still have shivers from this movie.
FOSTERThat was a long clip.
REHMThat was a long clip. You know what struck me about that? Two things, that soft southern accent that you developed for that film and also hearing Anthony Hopkins pronounce that name, Clarice...
REHM...with such careful enunciation.
FOSTERWell, yeah, I mean, it's called, "The Silence of the Lambs," because she is a woman traumatized by sound and so it's turned her into somebody who whispers. The -- oh, boy. You work in radio, so you know all about voice. The accent, of course, you know, she has the remnants of an accent from West Virginia, but she had to go live somewhere else. She -- her -- his relationship -- Lecter's relationship with her to start out with is, in some ways, deciphering everything about her personality based on her voice, so voice plays a big part in that movie. I have to say, if I was to reconceive my career, I don't mind telling you that I would have loved to have been a radio host. That would have been my thing...
FOSTER...I would've loved to have done.
FOSTERI would like to not put on any makeup and hair and I'd like to wear my Birkenstocks, please, and come in and, yeah, I would've loved to have been a radio host.
REHMAnd people say to me, how come you're dressed? You're on radio. But I dress every day and I don't wear Birkenstocks.
REHMI mean, I do at the beach, but...
FOSTER...well, I would be wearing pajamas. Personally, I would be wearing pajamas. I did a film called, "The Brave One," where I played a radio host and there's something so freeing about it, something about just being a voice and some ways inhabiting people's heads and getting inside their experience of the storytelling without all the distraction of how you look and the expressions on your face.
REHMYou're exactly right. And, you know, people have said to me years back, how come not television? And I said, because I think it's a distraction. I think radio is mind to mind...
FOSTEROh, I agree.
REHM...and really just gets in there.
FOSTERI agree. I'm a big fan of radio -- public radio and I spend a lot of time in my car in the garage, not going into the house, just for that last segment of, you know, "This American Life," or something that I'm listening to.
REHM"This American Life," is fabulous.
FOSTERWell, as an actor, you know, I came about it a different way and I find that I am moved by sound and I move by storytelling and by words. There are a lot of actors who can stand in front of a grave and go, oh, that's my grandpa and they can just be moved and cry. But for me, I need words and I learned that about myself early on.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I want to ask you about the movie, "The Accused," because it was one that was disturbing to a lot of people, including the men who were involved in that rape scene. Some of them cried afterwards. Tell me about that.
FOSTERYes. Making a movie is a very odd experience. You know, you take part in the words and the gestures that are dramatic and are real and yet it's an unreal circumstance, so it's, you know, how do you make sense of those two things? You know, you have to be authentic and you have to feel the feelings and yet, it's not supposed to be real, so it was difficult, I think, for them -- specifically for the men who played the rapists or the men who played the men who were egging on the rapist. It was difficult for them to disassociate themselves from the words and the gestures.
FOSTERSee, some scenes don't translate on radio (laugh).
REHMJodie Foster and that was a clip from, "The Accused." We'll take a short break. When we come back, time to open the phones. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Jodie Foster is with me, she's a director, producer, two-time Academy Award-winning actress. She has a brand-new movie out, it opens in May, it's called, "The Beaver," and also stars her dear friend, Mel Gibson. Now, we're going to open the phones, 800-433-8850. Let's go first to Durham, N.C. Good morning, Laura, you're on the air.
LAURAThank you, Diane. Jodie, my question is about Ted Levine who co-starred with you in, "Silence of The Lambs." His acting talents really seem to be underappreciated and I think he gave an extraordinary performance as Jame Gumb in that film. What was your own experience working with him in "Silence of The Lambs?"
FOSTERYeah, Ted came on at the end. I didn't have much to do with him. I only had one series of scenes with him towards the end and he's extraordinary. I see him all the time on TV and he has it that very, very distinctive voice that you -- you know, you see on a lot of cop shows. I think that, "Silence of The Lambs," was an extraordinary for a lot of actors and for everybody including the director of photography, the sound guy. I feel like it's the best work that any of us have ever done and probably, I think, because the book was so beautiful, it inspired everybody to give so much in terms of their performances.
REHMHave you ever wanted to do television?
FOSTEROh, I did television for many years, you know, I started when I was three so I did a lot of television. I did commercials, I did cartoons, I did all that kind of stuff. I liked doing television as a training ground when I was younger. Television's changed quite a bit now. We have cable stations, we have all sorts of new avenues for great talent. In fact, now I would say there's more interesting things being done on cable than there is, sometimes, in features.
REHMLet's go to Newport, RI. Les, you're on the air.
LESHi, first and foremost, that, "Silence of The Lambs," clip is, I think, even more frightening just listening to it than watching it. And secondly, I hope the people at serious radio heard this and I hope they offer you a radio show.
FOSTERMaybe, at some point in my life, a radio show.
REHMWould you take it?
FOSTERI don't know if I would the talk-jock radio. See, I like the old serious, serious radio. I like that National Public Radio, really.
LESMy foremost question is, is I used to be an assistant at ITM in the early to mid-'90s and you were one of those, you know, artists that we always wished would come in so we can all see you and...
FOSTERAnd I never did.
LES...of course we were always stuck, you know, with Jean-Claude Van Damme and all the other ones that would we hide from, but, you know, we always, you know, heard about, you know, scripts being offered to you and whatnot and what is your process, which respect, choosing a script? Because as an actress, you know, I admire you terribly. I admire you even more by, you know, what roles you choose, but what's your process and especially now that you're being even more picky, if that's the word?
FOSTERRight. Well, I read a lot and, for me, you know, as I said, my first love really was literature and language and words and I have -- I'm pretty discerning about the scripts that I take on. I have to have a personal connection with them and I have to really believe that the blueprint that I'm looking at, the script that I'm looking at, is very close to what's going to be shot, so I have to really believe in it 100 percent.
FOSTERThat's the first thing that I look at, is the script and then of course, the second thing is the director and those two things combined are the two most -- the two most important reasons why I take a film. A lot of actors are really just moved by the part. They just want to play that, you know, oh, I could be on a motorcycle or, oh, I could cry a lot. I sometimes say, you know, I wasn't born to be an actor, I don't have an actor's personality, it's a job that I inherited in some ways and so I don't fall into the category of somebody who's that lured necessarily by the character or by the part. I really look at the script, by the overall story that I want to tell or that their director wants to tell and by the director's vision.
REHMWe played a clip from, "The Accused," just before the break. Why did you feel so strongly about that one?
FOSTERWhy did I feel strongly about the movie, about taking the role?
REHMTaking that role.
FOSTERI really fell in love with that character and I really felt that that character was somebody that I knew, you know, somebody that was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was stoic and had bravado and in some ways, some of things that I find most beautiful about her, her truth and her strength and the fact that she wasn't an intellectual. Those were the things that she was penalized for -- you know, those were the things that she was punished for. She was punished for being too strong and in some ways, that is what rape involves, it's less a sexual crime than it is a crime of power.
REHMWell, I was going to ask you about the cause itself and whether that moved you or to what extent it influenced you?
FOSTERWell, I was young, I was only, maybe 24, I think, maybe 25 and so I'm not entirely sure I had great conscious reasons for doing anything. I pretty much got up in the morning and ate breakfast and then decided to do movies from there, but I did understand that this character moved me and that the story moved me. I didn't entirely 100 percent understand why.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Judith in Falls Church, Va. First, she says, "I love your work and have the utmost respect for you and how you approach your craft and your life. But a question, what makes you laugh? What do you find bellyaching funny?"
FOSTERI have a pretty weird sense of humor. I have -- well, I shouldn't say mean-spirited, but I have a dark sense of humor and...
REHMGive me an example.
FOSTERI just watched, again, for I don't know, I've probably seen it 25 times, the film, "Team America." I don't know if you've seen that movie. It's from the South Park group and it's all with puppets and it is so nasty and so...
REHMAnd it makes you laugh.
FOSTEROh, my, yeah. It makes me laugh. Well, I think if you saw Kim Jong II as a puppet singing the song, "I'm So Ronrey," it would you laugh as well.
REHMI think you're right. All right. Let's go to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Good morning, Tony.
TONYYeah, good morning ladies.
TONYAnd I just -- I -- oh, my stars, Jodie Foster, I just wanted to say that my friends, family and acquaintances are all in agreement with me when I say that you are a national treasure.
TONYHowever -- oh, yes, thank you, however they don't -- they aren't on board with me in my opinion of your film, "Contact," which happens to be one of my all-time favorites. The character part you display is phenomenal and it's, for me, just breathtakingly faith-affirming film.
TONYFor someone who struggled with issues of faith lifelong, it's helped me plug into that and I do have a question regarding one of your co-stars in that movie, John Hurt, who I imagine you did not share the set with, but he happens to also be one of my all-time favorites and just any feedback or remarks you may have about him as well?
FOSTERYes. I had one fabulous, long scene with John Hurt and that was a highlight in that film, "Contact." "Contact's" is a beautiful movie and I think that character that he played is really, you know, incredibly well drawn, but that was Carl Sagan's life work, you know. He spent 10 years on that, writing that book. Before he wrote the book, he wrote the screenplay and he himself said, look, the screenplay was no good, so I had to go write the book. And then eventually gave it to somebody else to write the screenplay, so he was on it for a long time and he died during the course of the film, sadly, and he never really was able to see the film finished.
FOSTERBut it bears all the traces of his entire life's work and I think the struggle between faith and science and how beautifully connected they can be, so when my kids say to me, you know, Mom, do you believe in God? And I say, I don't believe in -- you know, I don't have a religion and I don't believe in God the way lots of people do, but all of my answers, really, come from that film. I feel like that character of Ellie Arroway really articulates everything that I feel about faith and science and how they connect together.
REHMTell me about, "Little Man Tate," a movie I absolutely love.
REHMAnd the interaction between you and that young man?
FOSTERYes, Adam Hann-Byrd, is the name of the young boy who played Fred Tate in the film, a seven-year old prodigy. It -- you know, if there ever was a movie that was kind of the story of my life, I think that that film is really the story of my life.
REHMDon't worry so much.
FOSTERDon't worry so much, that is Dede Tate, his mom's wisdom that she passes onto him. She's not an intellectual and yet she loves him so much and has so much to inspire him with. That film really is the story of my life, I suppose. somebody who's caught, a young boy -- or in this case a young boy, who's caught between the struggle of his heart and his head. And he is in a genuine spiritual crisis much like all my movies are about people in spiritual crisis and the resolution that comes out of that, you know. he comes to understand that he doesn't have to choose between them, that he can have his head and his heart and in some ways, in the form of these two women, his mother and his teacher.
REHMTo Katherine in Holland, Mich. Good morning, you're on the air.
KATHERINEGood morning, thank you so much. I really appreciate your whole career. I'm just about the same age as you, Ms. Foster, and my -- first off to say, my kids, who are much younger, of course, adore, always have to take it out of the library, that's a big hit in our house. But in your later work, I particularly love, "Now," and, "Little Man Tate," also and the scene the struck me the most in that movie is at the end with the two birthday cakes and the birthday party and the look that Dede gives of exasperated tolerance as Dianne Wiest's character, unintentionally, shows her up one more time. I just that -- I always think of that when I think of you. And thank you so much for your work.
FOSTERYes, thank you so much. Yes, that is -- I think, that really epitomizes the sort of the end of getting to the end of the struggle between the head and the heart and how those two things come together in these two women.
REHMYou know, it's interesting how often we've heard it's said that actresses or actors should never be in a film with a child because they always steal the film. Did you feel that way?
FOSTERAll the more reason to be in a movie with a child. I love the authenticity of children and I love the fact that they do it for one reason, because they like to and if they don't want to throw the bowl of spaghetti again, they will not throw that bowl of spaghetti again and I find that really refreshing, I love that, that it's very pure. The process of working with them is very pure.
REHMYou are a risk taker, are you not?
FOSTERI don't know. I think that's nice of you to say that. I don't know. Sometimes I don't know. I think that I am in my work, yes. I think I am in my work and I think that unless I am doing something that I believe in fervently, I don't trust it and I don't trust that I will have the talent to really do anything extraordinary on screen. So unless I am struggling for a cause or a movie or an idea that I love passionately more than anything else, I just don't believe that I'll be any good.
REHMActress, director Jodie Foster and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Dallas, Texas. Good morning, Elizabeth, you're on the air.
ELIZABETHGood morning, Jodie.
ELIZABETHI feel like I've known you, like you're a dear friend that we've known for years, a shooting star that fell into my eyes and through my body not to forget you, to endure. That movie, I saw it 15 years before I had my own gifted and talented son and he's in the top two percent as far as the math now and I just feel like I know you because we've grown up together and I watched your TV shows and watched all of your films and you have carried me through. I sincerely don't know what I would've done without you.
FOSTERWow, thank you. Thank you.
ELIZABETHYou're just gorgeous in so many ways and there's just so many times that you've hit the pulse about what I feel and think about life in your films.
FOSTERThank you, thank you very much. I mean, it's a personal thing. I do a personal thing for a living and I guess I do, I enter into people's homes and there is -- it's a very intimate thing to make movies and it's why you have to not sign on to make movies you don't believe in because, you know, it has consequence and thank you very much for all your nice thoughts.
REHMFinally to Matthew in Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, you're on the air.
MATTHEWI just had a quick question. Jodie, you have always been in wonderful films and my favorite one of yours is, "Contact." What did you do to prepare for such an intense and beautiful role that I believe has really changed me as a person and my views as far as science and religion?
FOSTERYes. I think that film probably had more research than movie that I've ever done. I spent a lot of time with astronomers, with people working with radio telescopes. I spent a lot of time reading about science, something that does not come naturally to me, that I'm fascinated by, but it does not come naturally to me. I spent quite a bit of time with Carl Sagan as well and all of that, just all that emersion really just helps you be as connected as the character is to her passion and she was absolutely passionate about science and about the possibility of life on other places and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
REHMAnd of course, at the other end, your role in, "Nell," which I just saw again the other evening, developing that kind of otherness language.
FOSTERIt's an odd film. It's film -- you know, originally, it was a play and so it does have a theatrical quality to it even though it's in this natural environmental and very naturalistic movie, there is a theatrical quality to the conceit. A woman is raised in the forest on her own and she has never seen anybody, she's never been outside this home and she develops a language on her own. And it's this sort of mystery, the unraveling of this man who comes to her to find out things about himself, could I be alone? Who would I be if I didn't have this ex-wife and if I didn't have all this stuff? And what he comes to learn is that what he thought about her is completely wrong.
FOSTERThat when he unravels the mystery, the mystery of the language, leads him to understand who she is, which is exactly the opposite of who he thought she was, so that's -- it is kind of a theatrical conceit. It's not as naturalistic a movie as I think it looks visually.
REHMAnd last quick question, someone wants to know whether your children show any propensity toward acting?
FOSTERNo. My kids have no interest in acting and they show no propensity for it, but they do love movies and that, I'm grateful for. I've just started showing them films of mine. They've never seen anything of mine besides, "Bugsy Malone," and, "Nim's Island." Those are the only two films of mine they've seen.
REHMJodie Foster, director, producer, her newest film is, "The Beaver," starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. How wonderful to talk with you.
FOSTERThank you very much. It was great seeing you.
REHMThank you. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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