Jodie Foster explains why her new movie is 'subversive'

by Barry Koltnow

The Orange County Register (MCT)

17 September 2007


That’s her word, not ours.

Sitting in a posh suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel over a lunch of smoked salmon and blinis, the two-time Oscar winner points her fork as she makes her argument. “This movie plumbs the deep, shameful truth about us that nobody wants to admit.”

cover art

The Brave One

Director: Neil Jordan
Cast: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Mary Steenburgen, Naveen Andrews

(Warner Brothers)
US theatrical: 14 Sep 2007 (General release)

Review [14.Sep.2007]

The truth that “The Brave One” unearths is that we live in a society in which most of us are just a pushed-button away from taking matters into our own hands.

In the new film, Foster plays a public radio talk-show host in New York City who is viciously assaulted while walking her dog in Central Park with her fiance. Reminiscent of Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” movies, not to mention the 1976 film “Taxi Driver” that made stars of Foster and Robert De Niro, “The Brave One” follows Foster’s character as she becomes an obsessed, one-woman vigilante posse, meting out her own brand of justice on the mean streets of New York.

“There is no question that this movie is subversive, and there will be a lot of discussion about it,” she said. “And it should be talked about. I see it as a social commentary on rage and violence in our society.

“Like those movies in the `70s, we have chosen to create a portrait that doesn’t apologize. This is a portrait of someone descending into madness.

“What’s most disturbing about this portrayal,” she added, “is that the audience relates to her. They identify with her. They may even like her. But the audience must never forget that nobody pushes this woman into violence. Bad things happen to a lot of people but they don’t all grab a gun and shoot people. Yet, some people will cheer her on, and that’s a interesting comment on our society.”

Foster, 44, said “The Brave One” is the type of movie that one normally finds in an art house.

“I don’t think there would be any controversy surrounding this movie if an unknown director made it, a lovely young German actress starred in it and it was released in four theaters. The fact that the director is Neil Jordan, I’m the star and it’s being released in 3,000 theaters has shaken up some people.

“The movie’s high profile is forcing people to talk about issues they don’t necessarily want to talk about.”

Although she insists that the opening, three days after the sixth anniversary of 9/11, is a coincidence, Foster said the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, have a direct impact on how this movie is viewed.

“I think `The Brave One’ is completely informed by what happened on 9/11,” she said. “I don’t think any of us look at the elements of rage and fear inside us the same way after 9/11. Those are the elements I wanted to explore in this movie.”

While Foster is obviously proud of her work, she said she worries that some people might see her character as a hero.

“I have learned in my career that there is no way of preventing people in the audience from extracting their own message from a movie. It happened with `The Silence of the Lambs’ and it happened with `The Accused,’ when some people actually cheered during the rape.

“If we’ve done our job in this movie, people should be disgusted with her. They might feel sad about what happened to her, but they should not cheer her on. I hope the audience knows she’s wrong, but there is nothing I can do at this point to get people to react a certain way.”

Foster, the mother of two young sons (Charlie, 9, and Kit, 5), has been a member of the show business community since she was 3, when she posed for those iconic Coppertone ads. She was the little girl whose dog grabs at her bathing suit bottoms, revealing an obvious tan line.

She worked extensively in television (“The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” “Gunsmoke,” “My Three Sons”) before her first movie, “Napoleon and Samantha,” came out when she was 10. She survived her teen years (“Freaky Friday,” “Foxes,” and “Bugsy Malone” were pretty much the highlights), graduated from Yale University with honors and then became one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, winning Oscars for her work in “The Accused” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

She also directed “Little Man Tate” and “Home for the Holidays.”

Not only is she a talented filmmaker, but she also appears to be one of the most well-adjusted actresses in Hollywood, and she says that may be attributed to lessons learned early in her career. In an earlier interview, she called herself a “9-to-5 actor.”

“By that, I mean that I don’t inhabit the character 24 hours a day,” she explained. “Acting is my job. When I go home to my family, I forget about the character I’m playing and live my life. Acting is not who I am; it’s what I do.

“That was a hard lesson for me to learn but it was a necessity. When you are a child actor, you are applauded for everything you do, but what happens when you can’t find work for three years? All of your self-worth is tied up in your work, and you never develop a sense of self. You always have to remind yourself that you are not your work.”

Foster said she has cut back on her workload in recent years because of her children, and because she finds the work so difficult.

“I don’t think people realize how hard acting is,” she said. “It challenges every side of you. It forces you to live every moment that you’re in front of the camera in a state of hair-raising excitement. And it often takes you to dark places. At the same time, acting is gut-wrenchingly boring. It’s more tedious than anything you can imagine. You have to do something over and over and over again with the same amount of focus and meticulousness.”

If it’s so difficult, one wonders why she does it?

“At the end of the day, when you feel you’ve done a good job, it is an unimaginably wonderful feeling. I actually feel giddy when I finish a good day on the set.”

Foster, whose next role is in the family fantasy film “Nim’s Island,” said she didn’t want to work on “The Brave One” because of her schedule, but she couldn’t turn it down.

“It was so different than anything I’ve ever done,” she said. “I thought it was important for me to do this film.”

The actress said she is not a violent person, has never fantasized about shooting guns, even in a film role, and is not sure how she would react in the same situation as her character.

She said she would like to believe that she would not have taken the same path. She said she would like to believe that she would not react with the same rage and violence.

But she admits that she isn’t sure. That’s what makes the subject worth exploring, she said, and that’s why the movie is so subversive.

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