Cannes: Why Jodie Foster Doesn't Feel Box-Office Pressure for 'Money Monster' (Q&A)

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Jodie Foster

The actor-director tells THR of working with "regular guy" George Clooney and why she won't be stepping in front of the camera any time soon.

Jodie Foster is returning to Cannes for the fourth time, 40 years after she first stepped foot on the Croisette with Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Now, she’s bringing her fourth directorial effort, Sony’s thriller Money Monster, starring George Clooney as a financial TV host who (along with his producer, played by Julia Roberts) is taken hostage on-air by an angry investor (Jack O’Connell).

“When I was young, I wanted to be a director,” says Foster, 53. “But I didn’t know any women directors, so I assumed I wouldn’t be able to direct.” After starring in dozens of films, from 1976’s Freaky Friday to 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, 1997’s Contact and 2002’s Panic Room, the veteran actress is now focusing on her work behind the camera.

Foster spoke to THR about making the financial thriller, why Clooney wears the same shirt to the set every day and her ambitions for future projects.

How did you first sign onto the Money Monster project?

It was a script that existed. Then I got involved, and we developed the screenplay for two years. We got it right without going to a financier and without going to a studio. And then we went to George. And the second George said yes, it moved quickly.

You’d never worked with George before. How would you describe working with him?

I didn’t know him. I had met him once in a hallway somewhere, on a junket. It’s all true about what a regular guy he is. He is nice to everyone. He’s got a great attitude. He comes to work with a backpack on. And he has the same funny tequila "Casamigos Tequila" T‑shirt on every day.

How was your experience on Money Monster different than your other films?

I think the biggest difference was working with the studio and knowing that a lot of people are expected to go out and see it. So there’s a certain expectation. An expectation for entertainment, which I think is a good thing for this film. I think this film is engineered to be as entertaining as it is smart. It also allows them to learn things and to be challenged and to be as challenged emotionally as they are intellectually.

Do you feel pressure about box office?

I think I’m nervous. There’s a lot more commercials out there. So a lot more people know about it. It’s not like it’s a secret little thing that you’re just doing on the side. It’s a funny thing, though, with directing. I don’t feel the box-office pressure as much as I do as an actor, strangely. I don’t get as hurt by the reviews as much as a director as I do as an actor. Because at least as a director, I got to make the movie that I loved and that I really believe in. And you really created something that has a full vision.

What part of the directing process is the hardest for you?

The hardest part is getting the green light, getting the movie going. On this movie it was a little bit easier, but then on most films that’s really the toughest thing. I’ve gotten so close on so many movies. I’ve had a lot of movies that I’ve prepped up to a certain point that haven’t gone. Whenever my friends have a movie coming out, no matter how big or how small, I always send them a note the day before it’s released and I say, “Congratulations, you made a movie,” because that really is the achievement.

Is there a stalled project you’re still hoping to get made?

None of the old ones. I think they’ve seen their day. There was a project I worked on that was about a carnival, a traveling circus in the 1930s called Flora Plum that probably will never happen. That was heartbreaking to me. It was two weeks before production when we closed down the first time because Russell Crowe had an injury. And then after that I got it set up two more times, I think we finally laid it to rest and decided that Flora Plum would never be.

How have you changed as a director since directing your first movie, Little Man Tate, in 1991?

I was very keen on controlling absolutely everything. I thought that’s what a director did was come up with everything in their hotel room and then just have people execute it. I think that worked for most things except for the actors. And I think that I worry a lot less now. As time goes on, you realize that no matter how difficult the jigsaw puzzle is — for example, Money Monster was a really, really difficult jigsaw puzzle in terms of preparation and just all the production elements — I think you learn that you just bite off one bite at a time.

Now that you’re directing, does acting take a backseat?

I’ve never stopped acting. I’m sure I’ll act for the rest of my life. I’ve acted since I was 3. But I don’t have any big plans. I definitely wanted to focus more on directing and make that a priority, but if something came along that was interesting and different, I’m very open to it. I feel like I don’t want to do the same kinds of roles that I did in my 20s and 30s.

Any particular type of film you want to direct next?

It’s all up for grabs. I think every movie I make sometimes is a reaction to the last one. So I imagine I’ll do something very different than this one. I’ve always wanted to make a period film, to look at a different time in history. And I’d also love to make an international film.

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