Money Monster, Jodie Foster’s fourth directorial effort, received a standing ovation at Cannes and earned $15 million during its opening U.S weekend, an 180 degree difference from her last film, The Beaver, which opened amidst a storm of controversy surrounding lead actor Mel Gibson’s bigotry. But no matter the media frenzy, Foster navigates it all honestly.
Foster was born in Los Angeles and as a child actor, grew up in Hollywood. She credits her mom, Evelyn—who was also her manager—with the high standards she displayed when choosing material. She turned down chances to be part of the Brat Pack or play leads in romantic comedies, preferring roles that were layered and sometimes dark: Taxi Driver, The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs.
Despite growing up in the industry, she has managed to keep her private life private. In fact, Foster seems almost uncomfortable in the public spotlight. In a recent interview with Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post, she admitted she’s not comfortable with the small talk or glad handing that goes on at most film industry events. “I see George and Julia and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, they’re really good at that.’ And I’m getting worse and worse!”
Although Money Monster may look like another film about how we should hold the big banks accountable—it’s that, too—according to Foster, it is most importantly about a specific form of male shame at its most wounding and unspoken. “It’s really about men who have a poor opinion of themselves and are looking for value, looking for meaning. Most of it is about failure in the reflection of women they love, the strong women they want to be of value to.”
Foster says she sees herself in all of the roles—Kyle (Jack O’Connell), the man who wants to be valuable; Patty (Roberts), the caretaker; and Lee (Clooney), the performer.
Money Monster represents a new level of engagement for Foster’s directorial career. “I’m more interested in relevant topics,” Foster says, echoing a similar refrain from a colleague, Kathryn Bigelow.
At TriBeCa, Julie Taymor asked Foster about “the woman thing.” Foster approached the subject with tact but exasperation. “I’m sick of discussing it,” she said. “But it’s real. People still see women as a risk and I’m not sure why. I think we’re all looking forward to the day when we won’t have to have it [the discussion].”
Foster acknowledged in an interview with Deadline that her acting career did make it easier for her to get her first film off the ground. “I was able to find a script (Little Man Tate) that was already in the system. I attached myself as an actress and said, ‘I want to direct it.’ So that meant I was going to bring you a movie that is already financed and I’m not going to take any money as an actress. It wasn’t a financial risk to Orion to make that movie.”
At the time Orion was all about auteur driven films and helping first timers. “When I went to Eric Pleskow—and women lose their breath when I tell them this story, but it’s true—I said, ‘Here’s my script. I’d like you to finance the movie; these are all the things that I’m going to do. First I’m going to do this and that and I need this kind of music.’ He says, ‘Whoa, stop right there. You don’t have to sell me. I’m going to tell you something that nobody else is going to tell you. Your first movie—this movie—it’s probably not going to make any money. But we don’t care because we want to make your second movie and your third movie and your fourth movie.’ It almost made me want to cry, really, that these men saw me as a prodigal daughter and they believed in my work and were proud of me. So it’s hard for me to say no one supported me in the film industry. They were very supportive. And I get offered movies that I don’t want to make that are very popular, general public movies.”
“But here I am at 53 and I’ve only directed four movies. I really want to prioritize my directing career now. I am excited about the movies I will make as an actor in my 60s and 70s. I think those experiences as an older person might be as mainstream, but they’re exciting because they’re character parts.”
With Money Monster coming off opening weekend success, hopefully Foster will be offered more films to helm which are outside of popular genres and harken back to her acting choices: layered, smart, and dark.