Jodie Foster: I don't do a lot of looking back

She has received praise for her latest directorial effort Money Monster but Jodie Foster doesn't want to stand out from the crowd. She tells Gemma Dunn why she hopes to see far more female film-makers in mainstream Hollywood

Jodie Foster used the platform of the Cannes Film Festival to discuss the role of women in the industry, particularly the lack of female directors

SHE may have earned a reputation as one of the most critically acclaimed actresses of her generation, but Jodie Foster's recipe for Hollywood success is a simple one.

"I just keep moving forward," the 53-year-old muses, lingering over the question of a career highlight.

"I don't do a lot of looking back, but every once in a while you have a retrospective or a lifetime achievement award. I was on a panel recently with everybody from Taxi Driver, and you realise, 'Oh wow, we did something', and that was a long time ago."

It was – 1976 in fact – and the Martin Scorsese movie, which saw Foster star as a teenage prostitute, was widely considered her breakthrough role. Generally though, her sights are set on the future: "I want to be filled with joy, and that leads me to brand new things," she adds.

Matching a chic monochrome patterned blouse with black tailored trousers, an elegant Foster is ready to talk business – but only after one more sip of coffee.

"Do you mind?" she asks, before kicking us off with a clapped: "Right!"

While she has long been invested in maintaining her privacy (the actress has two sons with her ex-partner Cydney Bernard), she's open and incredibly warm when it comes to discussing her work life. And there's much to cover.

Since landing a gig as 'the Coppertone girl' in a TV commercial at just three years old, Foster has gone on to appear in more than 40 films, including 1974's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Academy Award-winning performances as a rape survivor in The Accused and as FBI agent Clarice Starling in hit thriller The Silence Of The Lambs.

But the buck doesn't stop at acting. Following a lifelong ambition to direct, the LA-born star has skipped behind the lens too.

Her latest directorial venture, real-time high-stakes thriller Money Monster, re-teams George Clooney and Julia Roberts as a financial TV host and his producer, who are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor (Jack O'Connell) who has lost everything forcefully takes over their studio.

During a tense stand-off, broadcast on live TV, Clooney and Roberts' characters work against the clock to unravel the mystery behind a conspiracy at the heart of today's fast-paced, high-tech global markets.

Of its pressure-cooker feel, Foster explains: "This film is a mix of different things. There are a lot of layers and it's a very unusual tone, mixing comedy and drama to create an incredibly intense thriller... very fast-paced, very verbal, and yet it's also a small, personal story as well.

"Then you have the backdrop of the financial world, and the world of high-speed technology and the world of broadcast. Crazy American broadcast journalism.

"You mix those three things together and it's quite dangerous – and it's a dangerous, weird, modern, relevant world that we live in."

Part of achieving the intensity, Foster cites, was clever casting – especially when it came to the desperation of O'Connell's character. She is full of for the 25-year-old English actor, who starred in the acclaimed 2014 Belfast-set drama '71.

"I wish I approached acting that way when I was young, with such incredible commitment and passion," she says.

For big-screen royalty, modesty doesn't always come with the territory – yet Foster is in no way self-serving.

Opening up to Variety magazine recently about why she waited until this May to accept the honour of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she confessed: "I made this conscious decision that I didn't want to have a star on Hollywood Boulevard unless it was in a conjunction with a movie I was directing."

And it seems Money Monster was the game-changer, something she also attended this year's Cannes Film Festival with, and gained the opportunity to discuss the role of women in the industry – in particular the lack of female directors.

"It's good that there's discussion," she says of using her profile to address the issue. "Specifically directing in mainstream Hollywood movies, because there's been no discussion of it before, and I've been working for 50 years.

"Things have changed quite a bit. It's changed a lot in TV, it's changed a lot in Europe, and it's changed in the independent arena. It's the mainstream distributing arena where there are very few women directors."

And while her joy at the film receiving a Cannes' standing ovation is apparent, she remains clear that the real reward is actually getting the movie off the ground.

"I am very pleased that this movie seems to be successful, mostly because it means that it's touched people, and that's what you're here for."

:: Money Monster opens in cinemas tomorrow. Read our review in Friday's Scene section.

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