Jodie Foster Returns to Cannes With 'Money Monster': "I've Never Made a Movie Like This"

Courtesy of TriStar Pictures
Jodie Foster on the set of 'Money Monster' with George Clooney

Her 13-year-old self, who came to the festival to support 'Taxi Driver,' would be "really shocked" that she’s still in the film business, says the helmer as her biggest, buzziest effort yet debuts at the Palais.

Jodie Foster was only 13 when she first set foot on the Croisette as the young star of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Forty years later, she returns to film's most glamorous stage with her fourth directorial effort, Money Monster, playing out of com­petition. The Sony thriller stars George Clooney as the host of a financial TV show (with Julia Roberts as his producer) who is taken hostage by a disgruntled investor (Jack O'Connell). Foster, 53, who previously hit Cannes with her 2011 Mel Gibson starrer The Beaver, shared festival memories spanning four decades with THR.

Is Money Monster your most ambitious project yet?

It's definitely different for me: It's got big stars; it's a mainstream studio; it's a genre film. And it has more resources. Obviously if you're making a movie where there's a thousand extras on the street or at some place like Federal Hall or the New York Stock Exchange, it's a movie that needs a certain amount of resources. At the same time, even if it's a thriller, even if it's an action film, I'm always looking at character. That's the No. 1 priority: figuring out who the characters are and how they intersect and what their dynamic is and why things make sense.

Foster was chosen for the 2001 Cannes jury but had to drop out to shoot Panic Room. Instead, she presented the festival’s best director award: “I flew in the middle of shooting Panic Room, and I was about five months pregnant.”

Do you think any presidential candidates will use the film as a talking point because of its subject matter?

I have no idea — I've never made a movie like this. The good news is that the financial world and the world of technology are on everyone's lips: right-wing, left-wing, moderate, center. It's a very relevant topic right now. I think you'd be hard‑pressed to find anyone, candidate or otherwise, who doesn't believe that our financial system needs reform.

How have you changed in your work as a director since 1991's Little Man Tate?

I think on my first movie I was very keen on controlling absolutely everything. I thought that's what a director did was control everything and come up with everything in their hotel room and then just have people execute it. I think that worked for most things except the actors — I was too controlling of the actors. Every once in a while I run into Dianne Wiest, and I always apologize because I was so young and I just didn't know any better.

In Cannes for Taxi Driver in 1976.

What do you remember about going to Cannes in 1976 with Taxi Driver?

I was kind of awkward. I had lots of pimples and funny, bad hair color because I had done Bugsy Malone, and they dyed my hair platinum blond. I remember I was sort of intimidated by the fact that I had to have a different outfit for everything — I thought that was weird. And there were also people on the beach who didn't have any tops on themselves — I thought that was pretty risque. I remember that because my mom went to the pool, and she took her top off. And I was like, "Mom!" I couldn't believe it! I was so embarrassed.

What would 13‑year‑old Jodie think of the present Jodie as a director?

I would be really shocked that I was in the same profession for the last 40‑some years — I can't quite believe it. When I was young I wanted to be a director, but I didn't know that I would be able to. I didn't know any women directors; I knew [about] the European ones. I knew about Lina Wertmuller and Margarethe von Trotta — a few European women directors, but that was it. So I assumed I wouldn't be able to direct. I thought I'd probably just write.

Scorsese (left), Foster and Robert De Niro at the press call for Taxi Driver, which won the Palme d’Or.

What was it like to go to Cannes as a director for the first time with The Beaver?

I remember Mel was so nervous. I said, "Are you scared we're going to get booed?" He said: "Yes, I'm petrified! I'm petrified I'm going to get booed." So I was a little scared. But it was such an incredibly warm reception. At the end of the movie when the lights went up, [the applause] went on and on and on and on. And after all that anxiety it was a great, great relief.

Are you excited to use your French at Cannes?

I don't know if I'm excited. I get a little rusty when I haven't been for a long time, so I'm going to be really rusty and embarrassed.

This story first appeared in the May 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.