Seven speedy minutes with 'Nim's Island' star Jodie Foster

by Rick Bentley

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

4 April 2008


Making a movie is only part of an actor’s job. Most also give interviews just before their latest films hit theaters.

Jodie Foster has been interviewed most of her life. The only challenge in promoting her new movie, “Nim’s Island,” is how many individual telephone interviews Foster can squeeze in before it opens on Friday.

cover art

Nim's Island

Director: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Cast: Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin, Gerard Butler

US theatrical: 4 Apr 2008 (General release)
UK theatrical: 2 May 2008 (General release)

Review [4.Apr.2008]

The solution: Each reporter gets seven minutes. That’s only 420 seconds to talk about the new film, a 40-plus-year acting career, winning Oscars and what is going on with her life.

It’s not ideal. But in this growing world of media outlets, frugality has become a necessity. The limited time means the interview must be streamlined but complete, curt but cordial, focused but casual.

Foster is scheduled to call at 10:24 a.m. The phone rings. A publicist says Foster is just finishing up another interview. It will be two to three minutes before she calls.

The call comes at 10:28 am.

In “Nim’s Island,” Foster plays a reclusive writer, Alexandra Rover, who travels halfway around the globe to help a young girl (Abigail Breslin) who is in danger.

Despite the limited time, the first question is just a little frivolous. Foster spends a lot of time getting wet in this movie. Has she dried out?

Foster laughs. That’s a good sign, but it wastes four seconds. She finally says, “I have officially dried out now that the movie is about to be released. I will say it was the most physically challenging and miserable part of making the movie and also the most fun.”

The Los Angeles native spends the next 39 seconds talking about what she learned working in a giant tank of water, at night, surrounded by crew and safety divers. The second minute begins with her explaining how the physical part of the job is all part of the process to take moviegoers to other worlds. If that means standing in freezing water in a bikini, so be it.

Time for the big question. At the 1:52 mark, Foster explains why she decided to be in this film. Over the past two decades she has worked in an average of only one film a year.

“There were so many reasons. I was drawn to the writing,” Foster says. “I have been reading comedies for the past 15 years, since `Maverick,’ and have not found one I wanted to be a part of.”

Except for “Anna and the King,” Foster’s filmography since “Maverick” has involved heavy subjects: “Panic Room,” “Flightplan,” “Inside Man,” “The Brave One.”

Foster takes the interview to the midpoint as she talks about how “Nim’s Island” was a chance to do some real physical comedy, which she is convinced helped make her character more realistic.

Alexandra writes about an “Indiana Jones”-type adventurer, the exact opposite of her own agoraphobic self. Nim (Abigail Breslin) uses those stories to travel the world despite never leaving the island central to her father’s marine research.

Foster can’t recall any author who transported her when she was young. That might have been because her mother always got her historical novels about women who did great things.

Plus, when you appear in more than 40 movies or television shows by the time you are 18, there isn’t a lot of time to read.

In a different time, Foster would have played Nim. With just over three minutes to go she talks about Breslin’s work.

“Obviously we are two different people so it would have been a completely different characterization,” Foster says. “The big difference is Abigail has access to this deep emotional well that I never had. I think she was born to be an actor. I wasn’t.”

It is a point that merits discussion, but time is almost up.

Foster finishes by comparing “Nim’s Island” to the Disney family films of the 1960s. She mentions traveling with her children to Iceland and how she doesn’t often listen to her inner voice.

The interview comes to an end. It has gone 7 minutes 16 seconds. Foster is off to her next seven-minute chat.

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