Jodie Foster on ‘flawed female characters’ and ‘all male’ Hollywood

Jodie Foster has been working in Hollywood for nearly 60 years, getting her first Oscar nod aged just 14. She tells how the industry is slowly changing, and why flawed female characters have finally made it on to the screen.

Jodie Foster has told Sky News that Hollywood was an “entirely male environment” when she first began acting, nearly six decades ago.

Speaking on The World With Yalda Hakim, the two-time Oscar-winning star said: “When I first started in the 60s, I never saw another woman, for example…

“Sometimes it was the lady who played my mum, or sometimes a make-up artist, but for the most part it was really just an entirely male environment.”

Jodie Foster backstage at the 64th Academy Awards ceremony held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, March 30, 1992. Foster won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. (AP Photo/NewsBase)

Image:Foster won her second Oscar in 1992. Pic: AP

A director and producer as well as an actress, the 61-year-old star says things have changed behind the scenes too, with female technicians, producers and what she calls “the last bastion of change,” female directors, joining the industry.

She says the result of this increased diversity is clear: “Everybody’s happier.”

Currently starring in True Detective: Night Country on Sky Atlantic, Foster says this iteration of the crime drama which is now in its fourth season, is also putting women front and centre.

She plays Chief Danvers, opposite American actress and professional boxer Kali Reis as Detective Navarro.

Foster explains: “It’s a particularly female story, told by an indigenous woman… When you talk about, Native American history, the generational genocide that is almost baked into the permafrost there, there’s something about that that really gives rise to this almost paranormal horror genre and this very deep feeling show.”

Directed by Mexican filmmaker Issa Lopez, Foster says it was key that the show was centred around an indigenous voice – in this case, Detective Navarro’s: “It’s the story of this, indigenous trooper whose destiny it is in some ways to get justice for these women that have been murdered and missing, abducted indigenous women”.

(L-R) Kali Reis and Foster. Pic: HBO/Sky UK
Image:(L-R) Kali Reis and Jodie Foster. Pic: HBO/Sky UK

Set in a dark and icy Alaska, it’s a very different show to its predecessors, the first of which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

While Foster says it shouldn’t feel so surprising to have two women leading the series, she celebrates the fact that Hollywood has finally understood that women have more than just one dimension.

“I like to play complex characters… I’m a female actress, so I’ve been playing nothing but strong women my whole life.”

She goes on: “I think what is wonderful and subversive about [this show] is that we do have fully fleshed, super complicated characters that are extremely flawed.

“The world of complexity hasn’t always been reserved for women. You know, we were the mother of… the sister of… the prostitute of…

“It has taken a lot of work by women to flesh out female characters in the industry over time.”

Nominated for her first Oscar at just 14 for her role in Taxi Driver, it’s an industry she’s been successfully navigating for 58 years and counting.

NYAD. (L-R) Jodie Foster as Bonnie Stoll and Annette Bening as Diana Nyad in NYAD. Cr. Kimberley French/Netflix ..2023
Image:(L-R) Foster and Annette Bening. Pic: Kimberley French/Netflix

Proving that longevity is achievable in the notoriously fickle world of fame, she’s up for another Academy Award next month, nominated for best supporting actress for her role in Nyad.

biopic about endurance-swimmer Diana Nyad, she plays Nyad’s best friend and professional trainer, Bonnie Stoll, whose strict regime helped her complete the record-breaking 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida.

Foster will find out if she’ll be taking home a third gong on 10 March, when the Oscar ceremony takes place in Los Angeles.

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