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DVDTalk Interview - Jodie Foster
by Geoffrey Kleinman

DVDTalk Interview - Jodie Foster'
A growing trend with studios to promote their DVD releases is to have a group of reporters on a conference call with an Actor or Director from the movie. This unfortunately ends up producing a very disjointed and often meandering interview with none of the flow of a "One on One" interview. Also invariably the same question gets asked and answered several times in very similar ways. The following comes out of a conference call interview with Jodie Foster about Panic Room and Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys, we've done our best to clean it up, piece it back together, remove the duplicate questions and most importantly eliminate many of side comments and reporter storytelling made during the call. We hope you'll enjoy it:

Jodie Foster on Panic Room

Is this the first time you've played a mother since "Little Man Tate"? Has becoming a mother in the interim has changed your perspective on mother roles?

No, I think I did play a mother a couple times in there too. "Somersby" is the first one that comes to mind, but I think there might have been a couple others in there. I think it probably does change things. Strangely enough, you can have all the compassion in the world, and you can sort of understand things emphatically, there's something very interesting that happens once you have had a child. I think you really do understand what that means, that you would keep their safety and survival above any part of you. That clearly their lives are more important than yours. And that you forego your own life in some ways for theirs. Yes, I think it, before I think I understood that intellectually, and now it's a just a much more emotional thing.

One of the nice thing about the "Panic Room" DVD is we finally get to hear the work that you did in the French track of the DVD. In such an intense role, what was it like going back without Fincher, and all the other actors to play off of and match that intensity in French?

I do almost all my movies in French. I dub them. There's a few that I've missed, like "Silence" and "Little Man Tate", because I was doing other things. But I try to do them all in French, because, you know, I - it's a big part of my personality, the French thing. You have these ideas about how you would do the part, and how you would do the character, and then you see someone else do it and it just drives you crazy. It is fun coming back after the fact and trying to bring to the French version of the movie what Fincher wanted, even though it's a completely different nationality.

There are other movies I think that have been more difficult. "Panic Room" has a lot less dialog. "Nell" for example was a very difficult, because we had to create a language with a linguist, that had to do with French history, and with bible traditions in French and looking at stroke victims in French and what that would sound like and, so that was a much more challenging piece.

I wish that I spoke more languages. I speak a couple languages, but not well enough to really dub myself. French is really the only one, and it's a difficult thing. It's one of the hardest things that I do. I love it for the challenge of it. But for those four or five days that I spend in a dark room just trying to figure out what the character sounds like and also getting my French right and getting the rhythms and breathing and making it exciting and having it match and having it match the lips moving and stuff. But when you dub in France you do it with the other actors, so you're in the room with them, which is quite wonderful. And sometimes it takes on a different life of its own. There are a couple movies that I've dubbed that I think in some ways are more exciting. I know, maybe not more exciting, but have an interesting twist to it.

I was saying no in different the different languages doing "Nell" and also supervising the Italian and the German and the Spanish and all of that. It was so interesting to see how all the different romance languages would interpret and how the character changes in some ways in all those languages. I wish more actors could do it, but I got to tell you it's really hard. It's really hard.

Do you ever go back when you're doing the French dub to revise the performance, maybe tune something where looking back you said 'I wish had done it differently'

Yes I do. And I'm not supposed to. So don't tell anyone that I do that. But occasionally I do that, where I've just been bugged by something. Bugged by how it sounded, and I come back in the French version and try to help it out a little bit.

In comparison to your own directing style and others that you've had as an actress, was there anything that impressed you about working with David Fincher?

Oh, everything. That's the primary reason why I made the move really, was just to work with him. And I pretty much would do anything that he asked me to do. He's somebody that I've wanted to work with for a long time, and have kept in touch with over the years to try and find something for us. I learn so much from my experience with him, just watching him, his tenacity and his incredibly clear and authoritative vision.

If you could go back and totally redo one thing in "Panic Room" what would that be?

Well, you know, I was pregnant for the whole movie, which actually worked out OK. I mean, physically it was hard and everything, but you don't really notice it except the last three weeks of shooting. where we went back and did the beginning part of the movie. o, that was all the stuff you saw with big coats. And there's one theme we did reshoot. All the exteriors in New York we had to reshoot anyway for other reasons. But, yes, there's the first scene in the movie where I'm in a big coat. I'd like to reshoot that scene, walking through the thing where I sort of delicately try to keep moving my coat and my bag over my belly.

On Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys

As a producer, how did you find Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys, and what drew you to it?

A young producer brought us the book, and so we all developed it together, we hired a writer on in consort with this very young director who'd never made a movie before, he'd just done documentaries and videos. We came up with this wonderful script. It was so good that I said 'we have to get this moving immediately', because there's such momentum, it's such a wonderful script, and it's so true and real. But we know it's going to be an indie film, and we know there's three leads that are under 15 so, you know, what are we going to do, we'll never get it financed.

So really the big challenge was to find an actor who would take no money, who would play one of the smaller parts, and who was mainstream enough to be able to garner that kind of financing. And so I just said, you know what, why don't I just do it. My accountant came apart.

How long did it take for you to put the project together then?

You know, it's hard to tell, because it probably took like four or five years from the time that we read the book. But from the time that we got this great script to the time that we made the movie was a very short period of time. It was probably six months.

Did you have any difficulty in choosing the animator?

We were really set on Todd McFarland from the beginning. And so we went to him when we were looking for financing, we went to him initially and said, 'look we'd like you to come in and do the movie, and we'd like you to be a part of our presentation, because we feel like that's half the film'. If somebody doesn't really have a clear picture of what the animation is like, and what the style of it is, and who the person is behind it, it's like them not knowing who the Director is. So we brought him on fairly early.

Did it bother you at all that the film got an R rating and therefore couldn't be seen by a segment of the audience that it probably would resonate most strongly with?

Well, we knew it was getting an R rating and we knew what we would have to do in order for it to get to PG rating, and some of those things we were willing to do. Frankly, I don't think would have made a big difference or a big impact on the movie - language, et cetera. I don't think that would have really changed much. But there were certain things that we just felt were too important to the film and that we didn't really want to give up in order to get the PG rating. And if that meant that younger people weren't going to be allowed to come in, I think that's the trade off that you make. So, yes, I just hope parents took their kids. That's really - that was the key. I mean, my mom took me to R rated movies when I was young and - because she knew me and knew the films well and knew that they were - they might have been provocative and they might have been serious and dramatic, but that they weren't damaging.

What was your take on Sister Assumpta? Was your perception that she was a good teacher or just a good disciplinarian?

No, I definitely don't think she was a good disciplinarian. This idea that somehow when you're faced with 14- or 15-year-old boys, that the best way to keep them in line and to keep them safe is to sit on their egos and to make them powerless. Well, we all know that doesn't work. Not only is it ill-advised, but it actually doesn't work and it can have them abandon education because in some ways education has abandoned them. I have two boys and because I do think a lot about education, it was one of the reasons why I was really drawn to the film, because I felt like Assumpta - I understood what she was going through, but at the same time realized how ill-informed she was and how sadly powerless she was.

Does working 14- and 15- year-olds, like Jena Malone and Kieran Culkin resonate more strongly with you since you were once a child actress?

Yes. I do love working with them and I love seeing the opportunities that they have that I didn't have in some ways when I was younger. There really weren't any other kids that had made the transition to an adult actor. So, when I was young I just thought, "OK, when I'm 16 it'll all be over and then I'll do something else." And at least they know that there's life after child stardom and that there is a creative work after child stardom.

"Altar Boys" was originally slated for Sundance a couple years ago but timing didn't work. How important do you think Sundance is for a film like "Altar Boys"?

In our case, it was very important for us, and that's why it was worth waiting for us to go back in Sundance again. With any movies that don't have high profile actors in them, you only have a few windows of really garnering interest in the movie, especially now with all the multiplexes and with the mainstreamizing of the American public. Also, we have a young person's movie. It's very hard to get young people, 18, 20, to see a movie that it's "Spiderman". They all want to go see the big mainstream hits, and I think Sundance was really an opportunity to have people pay attention to the film.

On Acting, DVD, and What's Next

How involved do you see yourself in being with bringing a lot of your back catalog to DVD?

People come to me and they say, "Do you want to do this?" and I say yes or no. I did the DVDs for "Little Man Tate" and "Home For The Holidays" because they were movies that I directed. I did "Silence of the Lambs", I did the laser disk, too I did "Taxi Driver 25th anniversary". But DVDs are really should be about the director. As an actor, there's only so much I can contribute really.

I feel funny because I have a DVD player. It's just I'm such a technophobe that I don't really know which button to push, so I've actually never listened to any of them. And I've never listened to any of the other Directors, like the "Raging Bull" one. I just keep waiting to have the two hours to sit down and go, "OK, now which button do I push?"

I love more than anything looking at a movie scene by scene and seeing the intention behind it. It allows you to really appreciate the hand of the filmmaker. don't think people really realize, that in the best of all possible worlds a film 100 percent about who he is, and the film should reflect him. And we all know that. I think actors and certainly technicians know that. By the first week of shooting, you know exactly where your film is heading based on the psychology of your director. So, yes, there's nothing I love more than listening to directors talk about their movies.

Do you think somewhere down the road we might actually end up with a more informed and savvy audience out there because of this insight that people are able to get now?

Absolutely. I would love that because I'm just really tired of the audience that's so savvy about the corporate machinery of movies. There's audiences that know how many theaters they're opening in and when they're going wide and what the marketing strategy is. I think all that stuff is not helpful at all for audience members and, in fact, really hurts the audience experience. I really welcome them knowing more about the scenes of how movies are made because I don't think that it hurts your appreciation at all. Knowing what paint a painter uses or having an understanding of where he was in the history of where he came from doesn't hurt your appreciation of the painting.

Do you have one or two movies that are not out on DVD yet that you really are eager to get back in the hands of the public?

I love European movies and I kind of grew up on European films. So, that's what I just wish more people saw them. I wish people could get over the hang-up of subtitles, although at the same time, you know, that's kind of why I'm kind of pro dubbing. I think it would be nice to dub some French movies occasionally or European movies just to see how an audience might react to them, to see if you could maybe get people in different parts of the country interested in foreign films.

Is there any chance of a "Maverick" sequel?

I wish. I've been trying to nudge them in that direction for a long time, but I don't know. I don't see it happening. Mel had this great idea, that he was very excited about for a while that he would tell you over coffee, but I don't know. I think he might have put it in a closet and forgotten about it. I would love to do another movie like that because I had such a great time on that film, and not just because it was a comedy, but also because it was with him and with Dick Donner and James Garner. That's just a great trio.

But what's the latest on "Flora Plum"? Is it still in your future?.

Yes, it is in our future and you'll be hearing more about it soon. I think we're gearing up, but we're not really quite ready to make the announcement about it yet, but we're gearing up with a new cast.

Will that'll be your next project, or is there something else in the works?

I think so. I may - there may be something in between, but I think that'll probably be the next thing.

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