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Monday, April 18, 2011
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Hollywood actors have come through Boston to promote their films on a fairly regular basis for years, but few have ever generated the interest and excitement among the local press corps that Jodie Foster did earlier this month. In large part it’s because of who she is: one of the most respected thespians and top box-office attractions of her time; a former child star whose raw talent was obvious even before she hit her teens; someone whose career has stretched across six different decades without losing steam; one of only seven living women and 12 ever to win more than one best actress Oscar; and an enigma, of sorts, who has maintained an unusual level of privacy and mystery about her life over the 30 years since a madman shot a president to try to win her affection — in short, one of our last legitimate, bona fide, real movie stars. It’s also, one must acknowledge, because of what she was in town to talk about: a soon-to-be-released film called “The Beaver” (Summit, 5/6, PG-13, trailer), which she directed and in which she plays a supporting role. The film, which was shot in 2009 and finally unveiled at last month’s South by Southwest Film Festival, boasts one of the oddest-sounding plots you’ll ever hear (a depressed, alcoholic, suicidal man finds a puppet through which he begins to reconnect with his family); stars one of the least popular leading men available at the moment (that’s right, you guessed it, Mel Gibson); and is, incidentally, very well done. (Detailed reviews/reactions are embargoed until opening day.)

So how did Foster, 48, America’s Sweetheart — or, more aptly, America’s favorite independent woman — find herself in Beantown trying to convince people to take a second — er, third — chance on Mel Gibson, of all people? Over the course of a wide-ranging, 20-minute, one-on-one conversation — audio clips of which you can hear below — we talked about that, and much more…

  • Foster on becoming an actor
    “I remember my first commercial — I was a Coppertone kid in this television spot [that was shot around 1965, when Foster was three] — I remember all that… But I think [Martin Scorseses “Taxi Driver” (1976), in which Foster acted at the age of 13, was] the first time that I really recognized what being an actor was, and that, in fact, I had, kind of, been giving it short shrift…”
  • Foster on being an actor
    “There are two things that can completely ruin a film: one is weather, and the other is the actors…”
  • Foster on child acting
    “It is not a natural thing — not only to put your child in that relationship with grown-ups and in a high-pressure situation like that, but it’s not natural to have that relationship between a parent and a child, you know, managing a career and all of that — so, yeah, there’s a lot of weird stuff there, but I don’t regret a second of it…”
  • Foster on her screen persona
    “It’s the girl next-door who becomes the tough, independent woman… for me, overcoming and surviving adversity through strength is the big theme to my life, it was the big theme to my mom’s life, and it was my prodigal daughter role for her, and, yeah, I think that’s a theme that I play over and over again.”
  • Foster on the roots of her interest in directing
    “I remember being a little girl– I was on a television show called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” [from 1969 to 1971, when Foster was roughly six to eight] — a great TV show — and Bill Bixby, who was the actor in it, came in one day and was directing one of the episodes, and my mouth was open — I couldn’t believe that they would let an actor direct! And I watched him, and I watched him go back-and-forth between in front of the camera from behind the camera, and I said, ‘Someday, that’s what I’m gonna do…'” [Foster has now directed three feature films: “Little Man Tate” (1991), “Home for the Holidays” (1995), and “The Beaver” (2011).]
  • Foster on maintaining privacy as a public person today
    “I’m at a different place in my career than somebody who’s 22 — Kristen Stewart [Foster’s co-star in “Panic Room” (2002)] for example. I mean, I’m at a very different place than she is, and it was very different when I was her age… I feel for people now. I don’t know that I would survive it now, and I’m pretty sure that if I was given a choice — with all of the information that I have, if I was an actress now at 18 — I think I would say, ‘No, thank you.'”
  • Foster on Gibson and the challenges of getting “The Beaver” out to the world
    “There wasn’t a lot of struggling during production [which was completed in just 43 days], I have to say — that went very smoothly, mostly because Mel was so easy, and gave such a great performance, and we could all see that happening right there on set… Obviously, Mel Gibson’s problems have been an issue for the film for distribution, but by far the hardest challenge was getting the tone right — it has a very strange tone, a very quirky tone, and it asks a lot of the audience…”
  • Foster on the personal connection to “The Beaver” for her (depression) and Gibson (alcoholism)
    “Each film that I have made is about a spiritual crisis, whether it’s happening to a seven-year-old boy or to a fifty-year-old man… The function is to — if you can — understand it, and ruminate, and think about it, and go to the core of what the problem is. You can get to the point where you understand that you’re not alone, and that there are other people that have experienced this too, and that there’s no pill to fix it, but there certainly is somebody next to you. And I think that’s, kind of, the most beautiful message of the film.”

RELATED: Scott Interviews Jennifer Lawrence (10/26/10), Jennifer Lawrence: Mel Gibson Will Win An Oscar for “The Beaver” (10/7/10)

Photo: Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, and a puppet on the set of “The Beaver.” Credit: Summit.

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