DATE June 17, 2002 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Jodie Foster discusses her acting career and her new
movie "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest Jodie Foster has been in the public eye ever since the age of three,
when she was the Coppertone girl on TV commercials. She made Disney movies as
a child, but at the age of 12 1/2, she took the bold move of playing a child
prostitute in the now classic film "Taxi Driver." She went on to an acclaimed
career as an adult. She's won two best actress Oscars for her role in
"Silence of the Lambs" as an FBI agent and her role in "The Accused" as a rape
Earlier this year, Jodie Foster starred in the popular thriller the "Panic
Room." Now she's staring in the new movie "The Dangerous Lives of Altar
Boys." The film is about two rebellious boys who attend a strict Catholic
high school. They're collaborating on an action comic book in which they
create a fantasy version of their lives, with their strict teacher, Sister
Assumpta, as the motorcycle-riding villain. Sister Assumpta is played by
Jodie Foster. In this scene, after the boys have stolen a statue of St.
Agatha from the school, they're questioned by Sister Assumpta and Father
Casey, played by Vincent D'Onofrio.
(Soundbite of "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys")
Ms. JODIE FOSTER (As Sister Assumpta): Do you know anything about this?
EMILE HIRSCH (As Francis Doyle): No, Sister.
Ms. FOSTER: Mr. Sullivan.
KIERAN CULKIN (As Tim Sullivan): I've never seen that before.
Ms. FOSTER: Mr. Doyle, frankly this kind of crudity isn't really your style,
now, is it?
HIRSCH: No, Sister.
Mr. VINCENT D'ONOFRIO (As Father Casey): Francis, do you know anything about
our St. Agatha?
HIRSCH: Yes, Father.
Mr. D'ONOFRIO: Good. Tell us what you know.
HIRSCH: She was really good looking and she promised God she'd be a virgin
but then some guy wanted to marry her, and when she wouldn't he...
Ms. FOSTER: Stop! Stop it!
HIRSCH: ...stuck her in a brothel and then he cut her breasts off.
Ms. FOSTER: I won't tolerate any more disrespect from you. Now you confess.
You tell us why you did this.
HIRSCH: Actually, I heard that he branded her before he cut her breasts...
Ms. FOSTER: You hold your tongue, young man. You are on a terrible downward
spiral. He sees in your heart. He knows what you do. I fear for you.
GROSS: Jodie Foster, welcome to FRESH AIR. Now you play a nun in "The
Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys." Were you around nuns at all when you were
growing up in church or in school? I'm not even sure you went to school.
Ms. FOSTER: Oh, I went to school all right.
GROSS: Did you? I thought you might have had private tutors.
Ms. FOSTER: Let's see--well, no, no, I went to a very strict French school,
actually, where everything was in French, so it was not a Catholic school, and
I've been exposed to no religion whatsoever. I'm probably one of the few
people that was raised as a true atheist, which, of course, makes me terribly
interested in everything religious.
GROSS: So your mother was an atheist.
Ms. FOSTER: No, my mom, actually, was an ex-Catholic. She actually had gone
to high school in a convent and came from a Catholic family, and I suppose
that probably sparked some interest with me.
GROSS: So why a French school?
Ms. FOSTER: You know, that's a good question to ask her. She had very
strong ideas that religion should have no place in education, and she started
looking around and had sort of fantasies about, you know, living in a French
chateau or traveling; she had never been anywhere. And she put me in this
French school, and I guess I have kind of an ear for languages, and I spoke
fluently within a year.
GROSS: Now your character in the movie, the nun, thinks that the comic book
fantasies that these teen-age boys are reading, and also writing, particularly
the comic book violence in these fantasies, is very damaging, so--go ahead.
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah, I think Sister Assumpta's motivation--she is a villain, of
course, I have to say that. But I have a feeling that we all understand. I
think that we can all see in ourselves she's concerned for their safety.
She's worried that in some ways they're on a downward spiral and that they're
spiraling out not just spiritually, but also physically and emotionally. And
her way of trying to help them and trying to save them is trying to put an
even stronger thumb of authority on them, trying to, you know, squash their
egos and squash their self-image. And, of course, we all know that that
doesn't work very well.
GROSS: Yeah. So she means well, but she cuts off an important part, or tries
to cut off an important part of their fantasy lives, because she really
doesn't understand it. Now...
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah. And as very often happens with, you know, religious
education, all these 14 year olds are being taught by people who have never
had children, and don't really have a strong or a deep understanding of
children. But even though they want to do good works, they don't necessarily
have the equipment that they need in order to understand their vocabulary.
GROSS: Now I'm thinking here you are playing this nun who confiscates comic
books because she finds the fantasy so disturbing, and at the age of 12 1/2
you were starring in "Taxi Driver."
Ms. FOSTER: Yes, I was. Yes, I was. I was a child actor.
GROSS: So you were immersed, or at least occasionally immersed, in the type
of fiction that some people would find dangerous to expose young people to.
Ms. FOSTER: Right. Yeah, that's true. I suppose some people would, and
maybe to some young people it is. I don't know, in my case I think--I've
always felt that more information is better, as long as children know how to
handle it emotionally.
GROSS: When you were 12 1/2 and got the part in "Taxi Driver," was your
mother afraid of what you'd be exposed to playing a child prostitute?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, you know, first of all, I had been an actress since I was
three years old, so I had a long body of experience, and my mom really took me
to all sorts of movies and took me to R-rated movies whenever she could and,
you know, we talked a lot about politics and we talked about deeper things.
And I grew up in Hollywood, so I was exposed to it all over the place. I knew
the work of Martin Scorsese and knew what an artist he was and had seen "Mean
Streets" and had also done "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" with him, so I
don't really think it was that big of a consideration. It was a
consideration, for example, for the Board of Education, and at that time, you
know, they really wanted to know that I would not be emotionally damaged by
playing this part. So they brought in a--or actually my lawyers brought in a
psychologist to decide, I suppose, decipher--after an hour of meeting me, to
decipher whether I would be, you know, entirely damaged by my atmosphere.
GROSS: Well, how the heck did they figure that out? I mean, what do they do
to test your psychological health?
Ms. FOSTER: You know, I don't know. They asked me a lot of questions like,
`Do you like Chinese food,' you know, things like that. I really--I have a
very fond memory of my therapy session at 12, and it really was pretty boring.
GROSS: Let me just play a scene from this film.
Ms. FOSTER: OK.
GROSS: In this film, you know, Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro wants
to rescue you from a life of prostitution. He's just kind of taken you as a
cause. You know, you're a 12 1/2-year-old kid, or a 13-year-old kid who's
being sold by a pimp played by Harvey Keitel. And so De Niro goes to Keitel
and buys some time with you, not to have sex with you, but to convince you to
let him rescue you from this life. So here you are in a room together for the
first time. He wants to change your life. You want to give him his money's
worth, because he just bought some time with you. Let's hear an excerpt from
(Soundbite from "Taxi Driver")
Mr. ROBERT DE NIRO (As Travis Bickle): What's your name?
Ms. FOSTER (As Iris Steinsma): Easy.
Mr. DE NIRO: Well, that's not any kind of name.
Ms. FOSTER: It's easy to remember.
Mr. DE NIRO: Yeah, but what's your real name?
Ms. FOSTER: I don't like my real name.
Mr. DE NIRO: Well, what's your real name?
Ms. FOSTER: Iris.
Mr. DE NIRO: Well, what's wrong with that? That's a nice name.
Ms. FOSTER: That's what you think.
Mr. DE NIRO: Now don't do that. Don't do that. Don't you remember me? I
mean, remember when you got into a taxi--it was a checkered taxi. You got in
and that guy Matthew came by and he said that he wanted to take you away. He
pulled you away.
Ms. FOSTER: I don't remember that.
Mr. DE NIRO: You don't remember any of that?
Ms. FOSTER: No.
Mr. DE NIRO: Well, that's all right. I'm going to get you out of here.
Ms. FOSTER: So we better make it, or Sport will get mad. So how do you want
to make it?
Mr. DE NIRO: I don't want to make it. Who's Sport?
Ms. FOSTER: Oh, that's Matthew. I call him Sport. You want to make it like
Mr. DE NIRO: Listen--I wa--listen, can't you understand something? You're
the one that came into my cab. You're the one I want to get out of here.
Ms. FOSTER: Well, I must have been stoned.
Mr. DE NIRO: Why, what do you mean? They drug you?
Ms. FOSTER: Oh, come off it, man.
Mr. DE NIRO: What are you doing?
Ms. FOSTER: Don't you want to make it?
Mr. DE NIRO: No, I don't want to make it. I want to help you.
Ms. FOSTER: Well, I can help you.
GROSS: At the end of this scene, Jodie Foster, you're unzipping De Niro's
fly. Were you old enough yet to get what this was about?
Ms. FOSTER: Yes. Yeah. And 12 year olds are, and I think we're all very
foolish and blind to think that they don't. You know, I lived in LA, I lived
in an urban place and I'd seen a lot of movies and, you know, I had long talks
with my mom and sort of the way I approached my character was this was a
runaway and somebody who probably was taking a lot of drugs and who'd really
been under the influence of an older man, and somebody who had run away from
kind of an oppressive family structure. Boy, I understood all that and, you
know, I went to a private school where I wore a little gray skirt and I got
straight A's and spoke different languages. I mean, I don't think I'm
GROSS: I was going to ask you...
Ms. FOSTER: You never know...
Ms. FOSTER: ...but I don't think I'm scarred.
GROSS: I was going to ask you if you felt you walked away with any scars.
Ms. FOSTER: Well, no. And, in fact, I think in some ways it's good to--if
you know your child and if you know your child is ready for having these kinds
of discussion, it's good in some ways to show them the adult world when
they're still open to having conversations about, you know, meaningful paths
and what makes an unmeaningful life and things like that, and in some ways
sometimes younger--if it's a slightly younger than adolescence it's almost
GROSS: "Taxi Driver's" such an extraordinary movie. I mean, it's at the top
of--or near the top of so many people's lists...
Ms. FOSTER: Right.
GROSS: ...and so many of us have seen it, you know, over and over again. I'm
thinking, though, at the age of 12 1/2, to work with Scorsese and De Niro and
Keitel, you know, gee.
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah. It really changed my life. At that time I had made many
more movies than either one of them had, but...
GROSS: Oh, God, that's so amazing.
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah. But I had played mostly--you know, people use to ask of
me, you know, `Act naturally. Be yourself. Say that line just as you would
say that line.' And it just never occurred to me that being an actor was ever
going to be some kind of a satisfying career, because it just seemed dumb to
me. You just, you know, read the lines someone else wrote, and there wasn't a
lot of thought into it and there was no building of the character. And it
really wasn't until I met Rob De Niro and he kind of took me under his wing
and sat down with me for hours at a time that I really understood that there
was more to acting than just being a puppet.
GROSS: If you remembered, I'd love to hear some of things he told you in
those talks about acting.
Ms. FOSTER: Well, I wish that he had had some kind of, you know, wonderful,
miraculous things to say. I mean, mostly he would take me to these little
divey coffee shops in different parts of town, sometimes in Spanish Harlem,
and, you know, different parts of town that he found. And he didn't talk to
me much; he just let me sit there. And after a while I realized that this was
his--you know, he was going to do this again, you know, for another hour, so
I'd just look around and I'd talk to other people. And I'd go on my merry
way. And, you know, I'd read the newspaper occasionally. And after a while
he might bring in the script and we'd start working on the script and we'd do
the lines over and over and over again. And having been a child actor, of
course, I knew my lines, so now I was really bored, because I'd have to do
these lines over and over again with this adult.
And then by the end of our meetings, he would throw improvisation in, and that
was, I think, a really good lesson, because I suddenly learned that
improvisation was about knowing the text so well that you could deviate from
it in a meaningful way, as if you had been living this conversation, and
always find your way back to the text. And I think that's a lesson that most
young actors don't really get.
GROSS: Do you think that he took you to divey coffee shops, as you described
them, because he thought maybe you'd see characters like the character you
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah. You know, I think it was just his way of getting me to
feel comfortable with him. And I don't think he really knew what he had in
mind. You know, Robert De Niro then and Robert De Niro now are two very
different guys. Then he was a guy who made one film every two years or three
years; he immersed himself in the character. He barely ever slept when he was
doing "Taxi Driver." He was a mess. I mean, he was living the character of
Travis Bickle, and so his method, in some ways, was just to live in that place
and to try and drag me into it. You know, I'd made a lot of movies. I'd done
a lot of TV shows. I did a lot of rolling of my eyes and thinking, `Well,
this is a big waste of time.' But I think by the end of it I really realized
how important it was and how it had changed my characterization.
GROSS: Did Martin Scorsese give you any advice about your character or about
working with the actors in the film?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, he brought in a girl that he had met that had had similar
circumstances; you know, a very thin, very young girl who had some of the
mannerisms that he wanted me to copy, and he kind of pointed them out to me.
And that's pretty much all he did. And then he did a lot of takes at that
time. He shot a lot of film and did a lot of takes. And I remember--the one
thing that I remember about him that I think is the most inspiring to me as a
director is that he used to sit behind the camera--of course, back then when
there were no video monitors that directors could hide behind, he'd sit behind
the camera and sometimes we'd do--I don't know--30 takes, 40 takes, but every
take he would laugh, he would giggle and have to hold his mouth shut so that
he wouldn't make noise. And not just the first or the second take, but every
take. He actually enjoyed the performances so much that it was almost as if
he was inside the actors' faces.
GROSS: My guest is Jodie Foster. She produced and co-stars in the new movie
"The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys." We'll talk more after a break. This is
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest if Jodie Foster. When we left off, we were talking about her
role as a child prostitute in "Taxi Driver." Shortly after that she made the
Disney film "Freaky Friday."
I'm almost shocked that Disney Productions, that Disney Studio cast you in
"Freaky Friday." Even though you had much of a history with children's
movies, after "Taxi Driver," I can't believe that they wanted you in a Disney
film, you know, because...
Ms. FOSTER: I'm so happy that they did.
GROSS: Yeah, go ahead.
Ms. FOSTER: And that tells you how loyal Disney was, you know, because I had
made many movies for Disney before them. It was a conscious choice by my mom.
When she was ferreting out which film I would do next, she really wanted to
make sure that I would go back and forth and do different kinds of movies and
so that people wouldn't pigeonhole me as one type of character. And she felt
that it was very important for me to go back and, in some ways, do a teen film
or a Disney film. And at that time, you know, "Freaky Friday" was probably
the first feminist movie out there for youngsters.
GROSS: In "Freaky Friday" you're quite the tomboy. You play hockey. You're
also wearing braces. Could you relate to this character? Was this character
like foreign to you outside of movies? Because it seems like the suburban
tomboy schoolgirl, and it just seems like a life that was probably as far away
as the life of Iris in "Taxi Driver."
Ms. FOSTER: Well, not really. I mean, I went to school and I didn't wear
braces, but I certainly played a lot of sports and I was kind of a tomboy. So
I don't think it was as big a stretch as you might think.
GROSS: All right.
Ms. FOSTER: I think my mom really went out of her way to make sure that I
could as normal a life as possible. Because you have to remember that I had
been in the business since I was three years old, so that was something I had
to fight for. Normalcy, feeling normal, feeling like I fit in was something I
really had to fight for.
GROSS: You got your break into the business, as they say, when you were
three. You were the Coppertone kid on TV commercials. It was the TV
commercials and not the still photographs. Am I right about that?
Ms. FOSTER: That's right. The still photographs came out in the '50s, but
there was--I guess I was the first commercial that they did with a Coppertone
girl in the '60s.
GROSS: So was your behind showing on the commercials like in the still
Ms. FOSTER: You know, they tried to get that dog to pull down my pants, but
he just wouldn't do it, so instead, as you'll see from the commercial, I stand
in front of the billboard where you see the billboard of the Coppertone girl,
and the dog just keeps barking and barking at my pants, but he can't quite
make it to my underwear.
GROSS: And for anyone who doesn't know, Coppertone is a suntan lotion that
was particularly popular in the '50s and '60s. So how did you get cast in
Ms. FOSTER: My brother was an actor, and he went in to do an interview, and
my mom didn't want to leave me in the car because it was a bad neighborhood.
And, of course, in those days you did leave your children in the car quite a
bit. So she said, `Come on in.' And I love my brother and followed him
around and wouldn't leave him and when the people asked him questions, I
volunteered my name and I started flexing my muscles and running around and
they changed the campaign and decided not to hire a little boy to be in the
Coppertone commercial and to actually say, `Well, let's go find a little
Coppertone girl and this girl will be it.' So that was my first commercial.
GROSS: Was your mother already connected in Hollywood?
Ms. FOSTER: My mom had been a publicist with a kind of a very famous
publicist, so she knew a little bit about the business. But, you know, she
didn't really have any kind of agenda about us entering into it. My brother
really begged and begged and begged to become an actor like every other kid on
his block. And finally--it took her a couple of years--she finally said,
`Well, if you want to go and interview, then you can,' and then eventually we
both got into it.
GROSS: Did you want to do it as badly as he wanted to act?
Ms. FOSTER: I don't ever remembering wanting to be an actor, but then I don't
remember a lot at three years old. So, you know, I really don't. And I don't
ever remember not being an actor. It's just something I've always done. And
there have been times in my life where I've really questioned it, because I
just don't have that personality. I know actors very well and, you know,
they're the kind of people that like to jump on the table and put a lamp shade
on their head and do impressions and dance for Grandma, and I just have never
been like that. And in some ways, I think it has colored my performances. I
do have a strange style as an actor that's not quite as external, that's a
little more internal than most actors you'll meet.
GROSS: So many kids who were child actors were damaged by their early acting
experiences, damaged emotionally...
Ms. FOSTER: Mm-hmm.
GROSS: ...and they feel like they've been cheated out of an essential part of
their lives, or that they were literally cheated financially by their own
Ms. FOSTER: Right.
GROSS: ...squandered the money that they made. You seemed to have survived
intact and with a great career, I mean, that lead to a great career in
adulthood, as well. What do you think prevented that damage from getting you?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, it is a difficult place to grow up in, and there are
responsibilities and stresses put upon you that are really meant for adults,
and yet you have to figure out how to live them in a child's body, or in an
adolescent's body. And there are things--there are dynamics that are
unnatural. I mean, I don't think that it is natural for a parent to have a
place in a child's career. You know, it's really important for a kid who's
becoming passionate about something as an artist to kind of do it on their own
and to rebel against their parents in some ways and to not have their parents'
approval somehow be of any kind of day in and day out significance. And,
also, you know, financially, the melting of your parents' assets and your
assets--I think it can be very damaging to young people.
But, you know, I have to say I got through it, I guess. It just depends on
your personality. Some people can handle it, and some people can't. And I
have to say I feel really enriched by the experience of being able to travel
and learn different languages and talking to adults on an equal basis at a
young age, having adult responsibilities and living up to them. I'm really
pleased that this is how I grew up.
GROSS: Jodie Foster will be back in the second half of the show. She
co-produced and co-stars in the new film "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys."
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Coming up, rock historian Ed Ward profiles a small New Orleans soul
label known as Frisco Records. Also, Jodie Foster reflects on making the
transition from child actress to adult movie star. And we talk about her
Academy Award-winning performances in "Silence of the Lambs" and "The
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Jodie Foster. Earlier
this year, she starred in the thriller the "Panic Room." Now she's
co-starring in the new movie "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys," which she
also co-produced. She won Oscars for her performances in "The Silence of the
Lambs" and "The Accused." She's had an acting career since the age of three.
When you went to Yale, I remember it really made news. It was on TV, it was
in the newspapers. And everybody was wondering, `What's it going to be like
for this young movie star to be a student at a university?' So--I mean, in
retrospect, was it possible for you to, like, just be a student there, or did
you feel like you were sticking out all the time?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, it was a wonderful moment in my life. I'm so glad that I
did that, and it was a big step to take. At that time, really, no other young
actors had done that, sort of left their careers and said, `I'm going to get
an education.' But that'd always been phenomenally important to me, and I
just never knew I was going to be an actor when I grew up. In fact, it was
the farthest thing from my mind. I thought, `Oh, well, you know, I'll act for
a few years when I'm 16 or 17, and then that'll be it. No one will want me
anymore,' which is pretty much what everybody had told me would happen.
Yes, I did think that I was somehow going to have this anonymity. And for the
first time in my life, I actually felt that. I really felt like I was living
without any kind of scrutiny, without the eyes of everybody on me. And
unfortunately my freshman year, you know, the assassination attempt on Ronald
Reagan kind of shattered that. And very quickly, I realized that that hadn't
been true at all and that people had been watching me all along. And then, of
course, it became a mad media circus, and my life in college really kind of
changed from then on. But then after that, I sort of moved off campus and had
a new life in college, and things did die down somewhat. And it truly was the
best time in my life. I mean, I don't know who I'd be if I hadn't been there.
GROSS: Did you study acting when you were at Yale?
Ms. FOSTER: I studied no acting when I was at Yale. Not that I could have,
because, you know, liberal arts education in their minds, you know, is not
trade school. I didn't study any theater at all, though that was certainly
available to me. I really wanted to learn about literature. That was my
passion. I loved reading. I had always loved reading, and that was the place
that I saw for myself. I really wanted to stay as far away from acting as I
could, and even as far away from kind of the real world as I could. You know,
I'd been paying taxes since I was three years old, and I just really wanted to
be in an ivory tower for once.
GROSS: What are some of the books that meant the most to you during your
Ms. FOSTER: Oh, boy. You know, I really discovered Afro-American literature
when I was in college, and it just hit me. You know, I just read something
one day and said, `I love this and I want to read more things like this,' and
then just couldn't get enough. So Toni Morrison, "Song of Solomon," I think
was my favorite book and still is, and was something that I thought a lot
about and I ended up doing my senior essay on.
GROSS: Hmm. And do you think studying literature has helped you, for
instance, in reading screenplays and evaluating them?
Ms. FOSTER: Oh, absolutely. You know, everything that you do as an actor is
about reading. Everything you do as a director is about reading. It's about
reading deeper and reading between the lines and perceiving more than just
what's on the surface. And, you know, literature and the study of literature
was all that. It's just about looking deeper.
GROSS: As you mentioned, John Hinckley shot President Reagan during your
freshman year. Can I ask you a couple of questions about that or would you
rather not go there?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, I'd kind of rather not. It'll end up just being me saying,
`You know, I don't really talk about that.'
GROSS: Right. That's what I meant.
Ms. FOSTER: I mean, you can ask them, but I'll just say, `Gosh, I don't
really talk about that.'
GROSS: Since a lot of people said, you know, he was probably inspired by
"Taxi Driver," therefore, "Taxi Driver" must be a bad movie and, you know, we
can't allow movies like that to be made again because they inspire killings,
you know. Did it ever test your faith in films, or in a certain type of
violent film that you think is a good film even though there's violence in it?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, I love dramas, and I believe in dramas. And I think that
dramas are provocative and evocative, and they are the stuff that makes you
think harder and deeper about who you are and about your role
sociopolitically. So I don't believe in censoring art. And so in that way,
you know, I do think that movies that attack issues like violence and attack
them dramatically are important to have out there. As I like to say, you
know, `You can take a 2-by-4 and you can do two things. You can build a
building or you can hit somebody over the head with it, and it's really up to
the person to make a decision about what they're going to do with that.'
I really try and hope and believe that it's my responsibility as an artist to
make movies that help make people better and not worse. And I try my
hardest--as sometimes mistargeted as it may be, I do try my hardest to make
sure that my films reflect that hope in me. And so that hopefully, it will
inspire people to be better and not worse. But you just don't know what other
people will do with that information.
GROSS: One of your most popular films is "Silence of the Lambs," in which you
play an FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer. No problems with that film
in terms of the violence in it, or I'm just wondering if it was like creepy
for you to deal with that kind of material after the whole Hinckley affair?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, I love "Silence of the Lambs," and certainly, I loved the
book. And it was something that I pursued actively, because I did feel that
the perspective in the movie, the point of view of the film, was from the
point of view of a young person who believed that her destiny was to save
people, and that is the point of the view of the camera of that movie. A very
different point of view than, of course, being the cannibal or the serial
killer himself and looking at the world around him with those eyes on. I did
feel that the film is defendable, that it has the right point of view.
I think "Silence" is a wonderful film, and I really felt like it needed to be
made. And there was a part of me that was terribly drawn to it.
Ms. FOSTER: I had played a lot of victims in my life. And, you know, if you
asked me at the time why I was playing victims, I would have said, `What?
You're crazy. What are you even talking about? I don't play victims.' But
when you look back on my work, you see a pattern, you see an unconscious
pattern. "Silence of the Lambs," in some ways, was the end of that pattern,
because it was the first time that I'd played somebody whose destiny was to
save them, something that she knew as a small girl, something that she knew
before she was born. There's a part of her that was drawn and is destined to
find those marginalized women out there, or those women who were too fat, too
thin, too small, too quiet, and to be their saviors.
GROSS: Let me play a short scene from "Silence of the Lambs." And you play
and FBI agent who's trying to track down a serial killer. And as part of your
search, you go visit Hannibal Lecter, who is the serial killer who killed and
ate his victims. You're visiting him in prison, where he is serving life, and
you think he'll have clues about this serial killer you're trying to track
down. Hannibal Lecter is played by Anthony Hopkins. This is your first
meeting with him, in which you're trying to get information from him, and he's
both testing you and playing with you at the same time.
(Soundbite of "The Silence of the Lambs")
Sir ANTHONY HOPKINS: (As Dr. Hannibal Lecter) Tell me, what did Miggs say to
you, multiple Miggs in the next cell? He hissed at you. What did he say?
Ms. FOSTER: (As Agent Clarice Starling) He said, `I can smell your
Sir ANTHONY: (As Dr. Lecter) I see. I, myself, cannot. You use Evyan skin
cream, and sometimes you wear L'Air Du Temps, but not today.
Ms. FOSTER: (As Agent Starling) Did you do all these wrongs, Doctor?
Sir ANTHONY: (As Dr. Lecter) Ah. That is the Duomo seen from the Belvedere.
You know Florence?
Ms. FOSTER: (As Agent Starling) All that detail just from memory, sir?
Sir ANTHONY: (Dr. Lecter) Memory, Agent Starling, is what I have instead of
Ms. FOSTER: (As Agent Starling) Well, perhaps you'd care to lend us your view
on this questionnaire, sir.
Sir ANTHONY: (As Dr. Lecter) Oh, no, no, no, no. You were doing fine. You
have been courteous and receptive to courtesy. You had established trust with
the embarrassing truth about Miggs. And now this ham-handed segue into your
questionnaire. (Makes clicking noise) It won't do.
Ms. FOSTER: (As Agent Starling) I'm only asking you to look at this, Doctor.
Either you will or you won't.
GROSS: Jodie Foster, can you talk a little bit about working opposite Anthony
Hopkins in these scenes with him?
Ms. FOSTER: Oh, he's such a wonderful actor, and such a truly nice man. One
of the great nice men out there. I was kind of scared to death of him. The
only time that I had met him was at a rehearsal, and we'd started, you know,
rehearsing right away. And, you know, he brought that voice out, and I kind
of got scared of him. And for some reason during the shooting, we were always
behind glass. You know, he was either behind glass or I was behind glass. So
we never really got to hang out together at all. And I was kind of scared of
him the whole movie.
And then one day over tuna fish sandwiches at the end of the film, I admitted
it to him, and finally he admitted to me, `I was kind of scared of you, too.'
And it was sort of a very funny moment. And from then on, I think we've
become much more comfortable with each other.
GROSS: Why was he scared of you?
Ms. FOSTER: I guess it was just, probably, the intensity of our characters
playing opposite each other. You know, that dialogue in "Silence of the
Lambs" is something that you could do in a play for the rest of your life.
It's so rich and so intimate, and yet there's so much gamesmanship behind it,
as well. It's very rich stuff. And when you literally almost never see your
partner except behind glass, it just creates this very strange atmosphere on
GROSS: Now you're using a Southern accent. I'm not sure exactly which state
it's supposed to be from.
Ms. FOSTER: She's originally from West Virginia, but had been transplanted
to Montana, so has lost her accent slightly.
GROSS: Mm-hmm. So why was it felt that an accent was needed for the role?
Ms. FOSTER: That was a choice of the director, and also very much a big part
of the novel. She's somebody who is from the South and is not from the tony
family that others in the FBI have come from. She has had to work hard her
whole life to be anything more than ordinary. And she was, you know, orphaned
at a young age and was thrust into living with people that didn't really want
her. So it creates a character for Clarice who's somebody who is very much
like a lot of these victims that the killer has been killing. That's her
background. She's a nobody from nowhere, and the accent, I think, is very
important. It's also--it's a fuel to Hannibal Lecter because he can glean
parts of her past through her voice, things that she'd love to cover up. It's
GROSS: Any thoughts about your own voice? Is that something that you've
worked on at all or that directors worked on with you? Or did it just kind of
develop on its own?
Ms. FOSTER: No, nobody's ever worked on my voice. A lot of people made fun
of me because I had a deep voice my whole life. But no. No, no one's ever
worked on my voice. However, I have had a fantasy about doing radio because
I'm such a big NPR head. I like to the radio every single day. And I think,
`Wouldn't it be great? I could be wearing, you know, my pajamas. I could
sound really important, but I'd be wearing my pajamas.'
GROSS: That's right. Unless you had to go to the studio every day, in which
I don't think you'd want to be wearing your pajamas.
My guest is Jodie Foster. She co-produced and co-stars in the new movie "The
Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
(Soundbite of music from "The Silence of the Lambs")
GROSS: Jodie Foster is my guest, and she's one of the producers and stars of
the new movie "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys."
Now your recent movie the "Panic Room," you were pregnant during some of the
shooting of that. I think you found out during the shoot that you were
Ms. FOSTER: Very quickly into the shoot I found out I was pregnant. So I was
pregnant for the entire movie, pretty much.
GROSS: So how pregnant were you by the time it was over?
Ms. FOSTER: I was so pregnant by the time it was over it was crazy. David
Fincher, who's just such a wonderful director--I felt so honored to work with
him. I really respect him. But he also shoots really slow, and he's very
meticulous and he has very strong ideas about how he wants his movie to be
done. So, you know, it was a long shoot. And but it was also very physically
demanding, kind of exhausting shoot. So by the end of it, I was completely
GROSS: Did you have any reservations about any of the scenes knowing that you
were pregnant? Was there any kind of action in it that you weren't that
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah. And when I found out I was pregnant, I sat down and I
said, `Let's look through everything. Let's look at the schedule and let's
figure out the best way to do it.' Having been pregnant before, I certainly
knew how things go, or at least how they're supposed to go. And you know that
in the first few months, you can do this, and the next few months, you can do
that, and that you're a little more limited as time goes on. So there were
certain things, of course, that I couldn't do. And luckily, I have a double,
Jill Stokesberry, who looks so much like me that there are even some shots in
the trailer that are her full-face and nobody ever knows it's her.
GROSS: How'd you find her?
Ms. FOSTER: You know, she--when I was making a movie called "Sommersby," she
showed up and said, `Everybody says I look like her. And I'm a stunt person,
and I'd like to try and be a double for her.' And she's worked with me ever
GROSS: Wow. So she's always there to double for you.
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah, and she's a great lady. So I enjoy her company. And some
of the physical stuff was very difficult on this movie, especially since there
were so many takes and it had to be done so many times. But there were things
that I couldn't have even anticipated, like, you know, running up stairs.
Well, that's not a big deal. It's not even necessarily a big deal when you're
pregnant if you run up stairs once. But if you have to run up stairs 50 times
and then run down them or walk down them 50 times in order to get to the place
that you started in the first place, it can become very damaging, very
GROSS: Was David Fincher OK with all of this?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, he was because he has a daughter that he loves, that he's
raising, and I think he could really empathize. So he was great with us.
GROSS: I want to ask you about one other movie, "The Accused," in which you
play somebody who is raped. I don't know if you're the kind of actress who
does a lot of elaborate preparation before a role or if you just, you know,
kind of go and do it, but...
Ms. FOSTER: Well, it depends, you know?
GROSS: I mean, it's certainly not the role you can prepare for, you know, by
Ms. FOSTER: You can't prepare for a role like that.
Ms. FOSTER: You really can't. I mean, if it was--you know, if you were
playing Henry VIII, you kind of know that you've got to look through some
books and do some stuff. But to play somebody who's in the wrong place at the
Ms. FOSTER: ...there really isn't a lot of research to be done. I mean,
there is the building of a character. You say, `She walks like this, and she
talks like this. And these are the people that she knows, and this is her
education and her background.' And we can't forget that I was young when I
made that movie, so I was doing a lot of unconscious denying. I remember
specifically that I read the script literally once before I went to do the
movie. And I think it was because partly I was scared, and I just didn't want
to even think about what I had to do. So I just avoided it. And that kind of
worked for me then.
GROSS: But you wanted to take the role. You thought it was going to be a
good movie. You didn't want to have to spend too much time thinking about it.
Ms. FOSTER: I wanted to take the role because it moved me, but I just didn't
even want to think about how I was going to get there.
Ms. FOSTER: And that's kind of typical, I think, of 25-year-olds, that you
know you're drawn toward something psychologically, but you don't really know
why and you don't even want to ask yourself the question. You just kind of
dive headfirst. And, of course, had I been 40, maybe I wouldn't have taken
GROSS: So did that put you in the position of doing more improvisatory
reaction for the rape scene than you've improvised in other films? Are you
usually, like, more studious about it?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, no, I wouldn't say there wasn't much improvisation. With a
scene like that, you really can't be improvised because you don't want to have
to repeat it 50 times...
Ms. FOSTER: ...or it's too painful for everyone, not just me, but for the
boys--for the men playing the rapists. It was, of course, much harder on them
than it was on me. Typical. And I spent a lot of time kind of getting them
through it, because in some ways I had the self-righteous part. You know, I
had the one who knew that she was on the correct side of the argument, and it
was hard for them to play what they had to play. So I did not want them
improvising, 'cause I just didn't want a lot of broken bones and a lot of
Ms. FOSTER: So we did, actually, in rehearsals, kind of go through studiously
and figure out what it was going to be. But at the same time, nobody can
really tell you what that moment's going to be like. And even though every
inch of it was choreographed, through some of the scenes, I absolutely cannot
remember what happened after they said `action' and between `cut.' I just
don't remember. I remember before and I remember after, but I don't remember
GROSS: You think it's a little self-protective mechanism?
Ms. FOSTER: I do. And it is common with rape victims, which is interesting,
that they black out and they shut it out.
GROSS: Mm-hmm. Can you watch your own films, and are some of your films
easier for you to watch than others? I imagine watching the rape scene in
"The Accused" is not, like, a great time for you.
Ms. FOSTER: Right. Well, I do watch the movies right after I've done them
and through the process of cutting them and, you know, the beginning of the
previews and all that kind of stuff. And then once the movie's out, I never
can watch them again. Occasionally, I'll catch one on, you know, pay per view
or HBO or something, and I kind of cringe and have to turn it off. I just
can't sit through it.
GROSS: Can you explain why?
Ms. FOSTER: I don't know. I guess it's a moment that's passed, and you've
lived it so much and so intensely, but you just don't want to go back there
again. There's part of you that just doesn't want to go back there again.
And you do feel self-conscious about it, because you have seen it either so
many times or you've lived it so many times, you've talked about it so many
times, you just are not ready to go through it again.
GROSS: What do you have coming up now, either that you're, you know, starring
in, directing, producing?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, I don't have any plans right now. I purposely do that. I
like to finish one movie and then not think about anything and then decide
what I'm going to do next. But my heart is really in directing, I have to
say. That's really my primary focus now. So I'm hoping to direct "Flora
Plum," which was a film that was about to go a year and a half ago. And
unfortunately, two weeks before shooting, Russell Crowe had an accident and we
were shut down. So it is a labor of love for me and something that I've loved
for a long time, and it's going to be hard for me to get it off the ground
again, but I will.
GROSS: OK. Well, good luck with that.
Ms. FOSTER: Thank you.
GROSS: Jodie Foster, it's been a pleasure to have you here.
Ms. FOSTER: Thank you.
GROSS: Thank you so much for talking with us.
Jodie Foster co-produced and co-stars in the new movie "The Dangerous Lives of
Coming up, rock historian Ed Ward tells the story of a small New Orleans soul
label. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of "Soulful Strut")
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Profile: History of the 1960s New Orleans independent label Frisco
TERRY GROSS, host:
During the heyday of independent record labels in this country, between 1948
and 1970, countless entrepreneurs tried to storm the charts with homegrown
productions and artists with varying degrees of talent. Probably none had the
cards stacked against her as much as Connie LaRocca of Frisco Records. Rock
historian Ed Ward tells her story, and the story of some lost masterpieces.
ED WARD reporting:
It's a tribute to the incredible brew of music in New Orleans that between
1962 and 1965, a fry cook in a Carrollton Avenue chicken shack could run a
record label that recorded a batch of great soul music, even if most of it
never got heard outside of the city. Connie LaRocca was not only a fry cook,
but a woman; nearly unheard of in the record business.
But as she worked at her brother-in-law's place, she listened to the radio and
remembered her love of rock 'n' roll, so she decided to start a label.
Wisely, she want to Harold Adkins, a local deejay who knew everyone in town,
and he offered to help. The label got off to a great start in September 1962.
Mrs. LaRocca had gone to see Danny White, a local singer who packed out the
clubs, but didn't have a recording contract for some reason. She got him
together with songwriter Al Reed, put Danny and his band into Cosmo Metasa's
legendary studio, and the result was one of soul music's great lost classics.
(Soundbite of "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye")
Mr. DANNY WHITE: (Singing) Tomorrow was our wedding day. But with my own two
eyes today, I saw you kissing my best friend. Now you can kiss tomorrow
WARD: With a nice, lazy horn section, Irving Bannister's itchy guitar and
Danny's impassioned vocal, "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" should have been a hit. In
New Orleans, it was a hit. It sold well throughout the South, moving over
Frisco's next stars were singing backup vocals on "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye." The
Rouzan Sisters--Laura, Wanda and Barbara--were high school students who sang
in clubs under the watchful eye of their dad.
(Soundbite of "Men of War")
THE ROUZAN SISTERS: (Singing) Men of war, please spare my lover and all other
young boys like him. Let there be peace...
WARD: "Men of War" rocketed to number one, but not until 1965. Why Frisco
held on to this timely and beautiful ballad for three years after it was
recorded is anybody's guess, but Wanda Rouzan, at least, got to record as a
(Soundbite of "Long Time, No See")
Ms. WANDA ROUZAN: (Singing) Well, hello there. So you're back again.
Backup Singers: Long time, no see.
Ms. ROUZAN: (Singing) And just a-where in the world have you been?
Backup Singers: Did you miss me?
Ms. ROUZAN: (Singing) Am I your true love, or has a new love stolen your
love from me? I've been so lonely. It's been a long time, no see.
Backup Singers: Long time, no see.
Ms. ROUZAN: (Singing) Tell me, dear, what did...
WARD: "Long Time, No See" probably features Wanda's sisters on backup, but
once they started college, The Rouzan Sisters more or less gave up on show
What's really strange about Frisco was that they recorded Danny White numerous
times, but were never able to get another hit with him. Finally, in 1964,
Mrs. LaRocca's mentor, Harold Adkins, moved to Memphis to work at WDIA, the
legendary local station, and he hooked Danny up with Isaac Hayes and David
Porter, who were just beginning their songwriting career. Unfortunately, the
results sound like it.
(Soundbite of "Can't Do Nothing Without You")
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) Sometimes I think about where I'd be if I didn't have
you with me. My life wouldn't be the same, and I wouldn't have the power to
love, 'cause I...
Backup Singers: Can't do nothing without you.
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) No, no, I...
Backup Singers: Can't do nothing without you.
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) You sit...
WARD: "Can't Do Nothing Without You" wasn't Frisco's last record, but the
local scene was falling apart. Cosmo Metasa was closing his studio, record
labels were failing left and right, and Mrs. LaRocca folded Frisco in 1966.
Listening to the stuff they recorded today, it's frustrating to think that, at
the very least, "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" has gone unheard, and that even with
the best studio and musicians New Orleans had to offer, none of Frisco's
productions ever got very far.
GROSS: Our rock historian, Ed Ward, lives in Berlin.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
(Soundbite of song)
Unidentified Man: (Singing) If you found a lover with a love so true, never
tell your friend 'cause here's what he'll do. He will try his best to steal
her love away from you.
Backup Singers: He will. Yes, he do. Ahhh...
Unidentified Man: (Singing) Now I've...
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