The Oscar winner on mothers and daughters, Antonio Banderas and her holiday movie.
By Laura Morice
Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark
Photo Editor Jennifer Crandall
Mention the name "Jodie Foster" and immediately you think: Yale graduate, Academy Award‑winning actress, producer, critically acclaimed movie director. What you probably don't think about is that she's also somebody's best friend, somebody's sister, somebody's daughter.
It's this more personal side that Foster taps into for Home for the Holidays, her second directing effort (the first was 1991's Little Man Tate). A dramedy about a family that gathers one Thanksgiving to hurl turkey and insults at one another, Home stars Holly Hunter as a neurotic artist who counts on her wisecracking gay brother (Robert Downey Jr.) to get her through a visit with her parents (Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning). Foster readily admits that the film says a lot about her. "Being somebody who is apolitical and not particularly social, the way I express myself and how I think of myself is through my work," she explains. «I just don't have another focus for it."
Though the film may reflect a more intimate side of her famously guarded psyche,
Foster remained the cool, calm professional throughout the shoot. "I went to the set one day, and she seemed so relaxed and happy," says good pal Mel Gibson. "Jodie just has the kind of personality that makes her a really efficient director: She's very careful and thorough, and she's able to keep her mind on a lot of things at the same time. And she does them in the right order and everything!"
There were a few parts in 'Home for the Holidays' that made me cringe‑ this family can be pretty cruel to one another.
Yeah, but I think that's something that is very real. Your family is a bunch of people that you're stuck in an elevator with. The people you choose in your life are people who are contiguous and can live inside your desires. You know, I don't like people calling me at 10 o'clock in the morning. I don't like them to ask me what I did last night or what I ate for dinner. My friends know that, so they don't call me before 10 o'clock in the morning, no matter what.
Does your mom?
Of course she does. And it doesn't matter how many times I tell her not to. She'll do it 'cause she's allowed to. She's my mom, and we're stuck in that elevator together. So anyway, I'm fascinated by all of this stuff. I can only make movies that I'm fascinated by and hope that other people are, too. But I just don't know if anyone else cares but me. I'm fully aware that some people will see this movie and go: "Oh, well, cute film. Whatever."
The mother‑daughter relationship in this film is pretty antagonistic. What did your mom think when she first saw it?
She really loves it. It's basically a wink, because I think she knows the things that are similar, but she also knows that it's nothing like us. I mean, in my family, we don't yell, we don't talk, we just don't have big traumatic events. I think there's a side of us that's way too polite for that. That's what's so cathartic about this film, because there are things that you wish people would say, and then you'd be able to get over them. But in my family nobody really says them.
Where are you spending the holidays this year?
Almost always, my sister Connie cooks. She's the best cook in the family, so everybody always ends up there.
Your mom doesn't mind relinquishing the cooking duties?
She loves not cooking now. She's just happy to buy really expensive hors d'oeuvres, like caviar and smoked salmon, and then complain about how, you know, "You should take the cheesecloth off" and "This is overdone" [laughs]. So this is the perfect position for her: She doesn't actually have to do anything, but she gets to be critical and judgmental about it while she's eating her smoked salmon.
I know that you especially admire Robert Downey Jr’s work. Are there any other people out there who have caught your eye lately?
I think Gwyneth Paltrow is amazing. I just saw her in Moonlight and Valentino, and she absolutely shines. And there's this young French director called Mathieu Kassovitz, who made the best movie I've seen in 10 years, called Hate. The movie is just an amazing look at violence in urban culture, but with a really mature point of view. It's about how violence isn't the answer, which, you know, I can't say is true about Pulp Fiction. I feel that gratuitous violence and gratuitous exploitation [in films] is, at this point, just really immature filmmaking.
I spoke to ['Maverick' director] Richard Donner recently, and he told me that his dream is to put you, Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas in a film together
Yeah! Yeah! I only hope it's a threesome movie and that somehow I would be in the middle. [Laughs] That would be fine .... Antonio Banderas. Now, isn't he something? Isn't he something? And it doesn't matter whether he understands a word that he's saying. He just has magic. He has this incredible fragility and vulnerability and humility and yet this beautiful, beautiful way about him.
Speaking of hot actors, Laurence Fishburne recently said ‑
I've sent him so many fan letters, it's just ridiculous. He didn't say anything about that, did he? [Laughs nervously] He's, like, my favorite.
You've written to him?
Yeah, a couple of times. I see movies of his, and he's just so goddamned good, you know? So I wrote him fan letters, and then I was completely humiliated. It's a stupid thing, but that's what I do. I get all, like, hyper and passionate about seeing something, and then I don't know what to do with it. So I write a letter.
Well, he didn't mention anything about the letter. Actually he was asked, if he were a woman, who would he like to be, and he said you.
Oooooh. That's amazing! That's great.
So if you were a man, who would you be?
Probably Mel Gibson. But not for any of the reasons that everybody else would want to be him. I just think he's such a good person. He's so funny, and humble and charming and sincere. I just love him.
He was directing 'Braveheart' while you were directing 'Home.' Did you two share any advice?
I told Mel, "I hope that at some point you don't have to act in [a film you're directing] because it's so much fun to not care what you look like ‑ to have big bags under your eyes and it doesn't matter."
Will you ever again act in a film that you're directing?
It's hard, and that doesn't mean I'm sure that the film suffers for it. But I think that you suffer for it, because it's a bummer: You're sitting in curlers looking through an eyepiece at 6 o'clock in the morning. You're not having fun with the acting, and you're not having fun with the directing. You're exhausted.
I love the montage at the end of 'Home' that shows moments in these characters' lives that mattered the most to them, moments that define them.
There are flickers of seconds that define you in your life that only two people can ever understand ‑ you and the person who's with you. The truth and reality of your life is only known 5 inches from your face. If somebody's not 5 inches from your face, then they don't understand that time, that moment.
What would one of your moments be?
[Uncomfortable laugh] I think we have a lot of them. There was a moment for me in Nell that became the end of the movie, which is just me sitting on a rock, looking at a little girl twirling around. It's shocking that it's inside a film, but for me it's one of the biggest moments of my life, and it's something that I don't think anybody will ever understand. What made that whole experience so worthwhile for me was just having such an incredibly bittersweet realization on a rock while looking out onto the ocean.
So, you think the really great moments in our lives aren't the ones we have recorded in some photo album?
Well, you know, I've been a public person my whole life. People know every detail of my life, but the truth is that there is no proof of the really important things in my life. There are no pieces of paper, no certificates, no photographs. They're private. That's essentially what makes them so real and sincere, that they are private. They are 5 inches from me, not on the cover of US magazine.
Laura Morice wrote about the cast of 'Friends' in the June issue of 'US.'