Veteran actress Jodie Foster: “I have managed to survive, and survive intact, and that was no small feat”

Veteran actress Jodie Foster: "I have managed to survive, and survive intact, and that was no small feat"

“I had my time,” said actress Jodie Foster. “And it’s not my time necessarily anymore. It’s my time to support other people. And I have something to contribute, ’cause I have experience and I have wisdom. But I don’t have to play the same role that I played when I was in my 20s.”

That is the wisdom that Foster found when she entered into her 60s – a kind of professional epiphany that she blames on Mother Nature. “I think it might be a chemical thing that happens to you when you’re older, where you just kind of relax,” she said.

That’s really saying something, since she started her career at the age of three.

With nearly 100 credits to her name and two Oscars, Foster said she’s always had a frustrating on-again, off-again love affair with acting. “Sometimes I go through years where I just don’t wanna act for a while, or I don’t find anything. I’ll read a perfectly good script about a perfectly good thing that I should be interested in, and I just don’t care.”

For most of the last decade, Foster was focused on her marriage to Alexandra Hedison and raising her two teenage boys. But then, two roles came around that have her in front of the camera again, and she says she’s prouder of them than almost anything she’s done.

She’s already earned Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice nominations for her role in the Netflix original “Nyad,” where she plays Bonnie Stoll, friend and coach to endurance swimmer Diana Nyad (played by Annette Bening).

“I think it was much more challenging for Annette,” said Foster. “I spent a lotta time on the side of the boat sucking in my stomach. That’s pretty much what I did, in my jogger bra.”

NYAD | Official Trailer | Netflix by
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Then, after a five-year wait, there’s the highly-anticipated fourth season of HBO’s “True Detective,” out next Sunday. The series, subtitled “Night Country,” is just as spooky and supernatural at the first “True Detective,” but this time, it’s set in the frigid polar winter nights of Alaska.

Foster plays Detective Liz Danvers, who’s confronting a certain darkness of her own. So, was it as cold as it looked when she were shooting? “It was probably colder than it looked,” she said. “There are moments where it’s really hard to speak!” 

True Detective: Night Country | Official Trailer | Max by
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“I didn’t think that I would come back at this level, or I didn’t think that I would come back to acting, as often as I have now,” she said. 

Many thought acting was just Foster’s destiny – after all, Hollywood has always been home. She lived with her mom and three siblings in Los Angeles, just a mile from what was then a very gritty Walk of Fame. “Yes, we weren’t allowed to go there,” she said, recalling her mother’s warnings. “She said that if she ever found us on Hollywood Boulevard, that we shouldn’t come home!”

Her mom, Brandy Foster, got her into acting, and as her early manager kept her in it, Jodie says, in a gentle but firm way. In 1977 Foster told CBS’ “Who’s Who,” “She’s asked me about a thousand times, ‘Do you wanna be an actress?’ And I could have always said no. But I don’t. It’s fun.”

Actress Jodie Foster with correspondent Lee Cowan.

CBS News

So, while “forced into” may not be the right words, she did not choose acting, but at some point, she chose to keep doing it. “Yes,” Foster said. “I knew that there was sort of an unsaid thing, that you accept these parameters, or you can always stop. You can always say no. It was always an option. But it’s a little bit of, like, you know, ‘Here, you can have this dog food, or you can starve.’ You know, there was a little bit of that.”

Despite being the youngest child, there was always a maturity about her – an old soul in a young frame. “I’m, like, such an awkward adolescent in ‘Freaky Friday’, like, lots of pimples and kind of chubby and greasy hair and all that!”

She proved she could convincingly play characters wise beyond her age – even, in “Freaky Friday,” her own mother.

She was already a veteran actor at the tender age of 12 when she was cast as an underage prostitute in “Taxi Driver.” “I didn’t really understand what building a character was until I did ‘Taxi Driver,’” she said.

On the set of Taxi Driver
Jodie Foster, Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese during the filming of “Taxi Driver.” 

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

If there was an ambivalence about her career, she said it was rarely about the work; it was about the celebrity that came with it. She often described herself as an introvert in an extrovert’s job. “Definitely true. Yeah. I’m 100% introvert. I’ve never been okay with being a public figure. It’s not something that’s ever felt okay to me, or felt healthy.”

She was in college at Yale when an obsessed fan, John Hinckley Jr., said he attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan to get Foster’s attention. She was dragged into history through no fault of her own.

Foster then endured years of speculation about her private life, about her sons, about her sexuality – all of which she kept from the tabloids, much to their dismay. 

She said, “I tried to be as authentic as I possibly could. And I had to protect my own psyche from the publicness. I just had to figure out how to dig a trench around me and to survive intact. And some of that meant being more isolated.”

Is that trench still there?  “Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’m working on it! I’m working on it.”

And the roles she’s generally taken, she says, seem to be characters who also have something to work on, like FBI agent in training Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs.”

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There’s always been an intensity, and a vulnerability that have marked so many of her roles. When she played a rape survivor in “The Accused,” she made us all uncomfortable, and rightly so. “I have not seen ‘The Accused’ in, I don’t know, 25 years,” she said. “I don’t think I wanted to revisit it, actually.

“I can only do one thing at once. I’m not a multitasker. So, I am a focuser. And if you’re a focuser, you do get obsessed with things. I think every movie I make I get obsessed with.”

So, whether she’s pretending to be in the Florida Straits, or straight-out frozen in the Arctic Circle, at 61 Jodie Foster now says she’s reached a point of acknowledgment in her life. Yes, she’s a little obsessed. Yes, she’s an introvert. And yes, she says, “I am crazy.” But for one of the first times in her long professional life, she is finally feeling a little more free.

“I think I have managed to survive, and survive intact, and that was no small feat,” she said. “So, look at me! I survived!”

For more info:

  • “Nyad” is now streaming on Netflix
  • “True Detective: Night Country” debuts January 14 on HBO and streams on Max

Story produced by Reid Orvedahl. Editor: Lauren Barnello. 

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