Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley
An Intimate Evening with Jodie Foster
Hailey, Idaho’s own Liberty Theatre had the honor of hosting Academy Award-winning actress, Jodie Foster, last Friday night. Foster, who frequents the Wood River Valley with her family during the ski season, appeared at a fundraiser for the Company of Fools, the local award-winning theatre company.
Down-to-earth and simply dressed, Foster quickly connected with the intimate, sold out crowd and showed that she not only has a good sense of humor about life, but she also knows our Valley pretty well. Shortly after entering the stage, she joked that she’d never been in the Liberty before, only driven by it “slowly, really slowly.”
The evening with Jodie Foster kicked off the Company of Fools’ 17th season and was essentially set up like a Sun Valley version of “Inside the Actors Studio.” Favorite local thespian and core Company of Fools member, Denise Simone, played the part of James Lipton. Sitting in oversized chairs at center stage, a large bouquet of tulips in between them, the two actresses chatted for more than an hour about the film industry, acting, directing, parenting and finding one’s way in life.
The first act included Simone explaining that she prepped for the interview by spending a couple of weeks having dinner and Jodie Foster movie nights at home (click on posters for more information about each film)—although she skipped the meal when watching “The Silence of the Lambs.” Simone poetically described the process as being akin to “watching the same light for a full day.”
Foster’s career began at the tender age of three, when she got sick of waiting in the car for her brother to finish his acting, and she’s now acted in and directed more than 40 films and countless TV shows. Becoming an actor, however, wasn’t what she wanted to do when she grew up, because she didn’t think it was a “real job.”
“I didn’t think I would be an actor … I wanted to be a writer,” she said, going on to explain the challenge of finding a balance while attempting to answer any artistic calling.
“Anybody who does anything has a love/hate relationship with it,” Foster said in her familiar, easy-paced voice. “It can’t be too challenging and it can’t be too boring.”
At the tender age of 13, Foster wasn’t intimidated by the challenge of playing a child prostitute or acting alongside Robert De Niro. As she explained, she actually had more credits under her belt at that point than De Niro or the film’s now legendary director, Martin Scorsese.
Having already appeared in numerous films and TV shows like “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” Foster was a seasoned pro and at first found De Niro’s desire to spend mornings reciting lines over coffee to be tough. He was “soooo boring,” she said.
But the work with De Niro began to pay off once he started to open up to her a bit and share his process of finding a character. “That was the first time I was playing a character that wasn’t myself,” she said, joking that up to then her acting advice had always been to just be herself. De Niro really opened her eyes to the craft. “Now I get what this job is,” she reflected.
“My career’s been up and it’s been down. It’s been up and it’s been down … like everybody’s,” Foster said about her struggle to get the role of a hard-edged, young woman who becomes a rape victim. “They didn’t think I was sexy and fabulous enough, and I wasn’t,” she said in her remarkably humble, self-effacing style.
When asked about her methods for finding that type of character, so different from her own personality, Foster explained that she wasn’t a trained actor. “I didn’t go to Julliard. I’ve never taken an acting class in my life, “ she said adding, “I was an unconscious person at that time. I was only 23, 24.”
The stunning portrayal would earn Foster her first Academy Award for Best Actress. As for how she managed the harrowing main scene in the film, “I remember action and I remember cut, but I really don’t remember anything in between,” she said.
After winning another Academy Award for another role she had to fight for, “Clarice” in “Silence of the Lambs,” Foster took a creative leap and played the lead in “Nell,” a film about a woman raised in isolation who speaks her own language.
“I’m not built to be an actor. I’m not that outgoing. I sort of fell into it,” Foster said, as she continuously fidgeted and flicked around her hiking boot-clad feet and tussled her hair throughout the talk.
Fluent in French and a self-professed lover of language, it was clear Foster had a special place in her heart for Nell. “I don’t live with my feelings on my skin,” she said, “It’s too dangerous.”
While her sons sat stage right, Foster explained that she chose to direct and star in “Little Man Tate” because she was a big J.D. Salinger fan and the film felt like “Franny and Zooey” and because she loves to work with kids.
“When kids get bored doing what they’re doing they just stop doing it. I think that’s great,” she said.
As the evening wound down, Foster spoke of the impacts technological changes are having in the film industry, precisely that folks won’t have to go to a theatre to watch big bang premiers like “Pirates of the Caribbean 500,” while having “steak tartar.” But would rather be watching films on our own devices.
She then took a few questions from the audience. She explained how her mom would give her odd advice when she was a child like, “If you’re ever in the mafia, you’re never a stool pigeon. Don’t ever be a stool pigeon.”
And she ended the evening by sharing her affection for the area. “Can I just say I love Idaho,” Foster declared. “There’s just something so touching about this community. So I keep coming back … it’s just a special place.”