Jodie Foster reveals massive role almost never happened for one reason


Jodie Foster

Fodie Foster reveals massive role almost never happened for one reason (Image: Getty)

Like its predecessors, the fourth and latest series of True Detective features strong characters with a tendency to prickly interpersonal relationships, a highly distinctive US setting and a murder investigation with macabre elements and more than a whiff of the supernatural.

This time around, the location is neither sweltering Louisiana nor the wide-skied Ozark mountains, but snowy Alaska in the depths of its winter dark.

And the detectives are women: hard-nosed state trooper Evangeline Navarro played by professional boxer-turned-actress Kali Reis, and her former buddy now turned nemesis, seen-it-all chief of police Liz Danvers, played by veteran actress Jodie Foster.

For Foster, who began her professional life as a child actor, the series marks her first starring role in television since 1975.

Ask her today what brought her back to the small screen after nearly half a century, and she shrugs.

“I love that series,” she says matter-of-factly of True Detective. “I don’t want to say it was the beginning of when I started to watch streaming, but it was the beginning of my addiction to streaming – it was just one of those things that I binge-watched and loved and always return to.

“And I think that by now, the real narrative on screen is to be seen on streaming – it’s where some of the best work is being done. It gives you an opportunity to explore characters, and having six episodes allows you to bring in other voices too.”

“So – yeah, ’75 was a long time ago – although I’ve directed and produced in the television world a lot – but I’m super excited to be part of this.”

The shiveringly-celebrated detective anthology kicked off in 2014 starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. Since then, the series has starred Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughan among others.

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It was the series’ new writer and director, Mexican-born Issa López, who first contacted the star, asking her to read the script. Foster now admits that she was at first dubious about taking on the part.

“I’d seen one movie of Issa’s, and I wasn’t really convinced,” she says frankly. “But I told her, ‘I love True Detective, so we’ll meet up’. And when we did, I think I said some scary things.”

Relaxing next to her – the two are now excellent friends – Issa chuckles. “You were terrifying,” she agrees cheerfully.

“I was!” Foster nods happily.” “I said things like, ‘I don’t like that. What about this? Grrrr!’ And then I left town.”

And while she was away, Issa began a radical rewrite of Foster’s part. “I will say that Jodie also said very beautiful things,” she puts in now.

“But she’s also honest and she doesn’t bulls***. So she said, ‘Well, this is beautiful and it’s great and it’s moving…’ and the next thing she said was, ‘…but I don’t see myself in it, though’. And I went, like, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘I like strong women’.”

“So we talked a bit and she started speaking about a character full of flaws, and when I finished listening to that, I looked at her and said, ‘So you want the character to be an a** hole?’ And she laughed and she said, ‘Yeah.’ So I went and I made her an a**hole.”

In López’s re-write, Police Chief Danvers emerges as not only impatient and brusquely-spoken, but openly racist – Foster has described her as “Alaska Karen”, after the US slang term for an entitled, quite possibly bigoted white woman.

Danvers is also relentlessly non-glamorous, a characteristic she shares with Foster’s other current on-screen incarnation, swimming coach Bonnie Stoll of the Diana Nyad biopic, Nyad.

In real life, Foster is extremely pretty, with porcelain skin, delicate features and vivid blue eyes; but she admits that, on the screen, she’d as soon dress down as dress up.

“I feel no pressure to look glamorous,” she once told me. “It’s not my personality and maybe it never was. I take my job very
seriously, and I love it, but that’s my job, it’s not me.

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“And that’s a very difficult distinction as an actor, because so much of what you do is judged by your physicality. In order to combat that, and be a happier, healthier person, it means a lifetime of saying, ‘No – I will not be simply the object of your gaze, and I will not conform to what your idea of beauty is’.

“I’m not a particularly vain person, and I didn’t make my career as an actor on my looks – I was never the ingénue, I was never the girlfriend, I was just an actor.”

For “just an actor”, Foster’s done pretty well. Los Angeles born and bred, she made her television debut at the age of three in a television commercial for Coppertone sunscreen, and worked through her first decade by making guest shots on sitcoms and appearing in a handful of Disney movies.

She famously hit the big time aged 13 playing a teenaged prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic Taxi Driver.

The Seventies saw her as a teen star in films like Bugsy Malone, Freaky Friday, and Candleshoe.

Then, when she was 17, she took time off from acting to go to Yale University and study literature. She then returned to Hollywood to do what very few actors had ever successfully done at the time, which was to make the transition from child to adult star.

By now, she has a fistful of hit movies under her belt, along with two Best Actress Oscars, for The Accused and Silence Of The Lambs, and buzz of a forthcoming Best Supporting gong for Nyad when this year’s Oscars night rolls around, too.

“It’s been a long, fantastic adventure,” she says now. “I’ve worked for 58 years in the film business, and I’m really surprised that, at 61, I think I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

Happy or not, she has recently stirred up some controversy for her criticism of her Gen Z workmates inciting their lack of work ethic and – shock – inattention to grammar.

Today, however, she is much more laidback. “It’s something about recognising that it isn’t my time any more,” she says.

“That it’s someone else’s time and being there to support them and bring whatever knowledge and wisdom that I’ve accrued over the years and being able to apply that and help a team effort.”

“It’s just so much more fun being part of a team than being all by yourself getting pelted. And I think now I’ve accomplished so many of the goals that I had, that I can put those aside now and just say, ‘What really gets me excited?’ And it doesn’t have to be a big thing – sometimes it can be just a sliver of something.”

Off the screen, she has been happily married for ten years to photographer Alexandra Hedison and has two sons, Kit and Charlie, now in their twenties. And that, she makes it plain, is as far as she wants to go on that particular topic.

“There’s a lot of things that I do,” she once told me pointedly, “that I don’t really talk about. Daniel Day-Lewis makes shoes, and I… well, I don’t make shoes but I do other things. I love movies, but I do have a wider life than making films.”

The last question then – having played an FBI agent in The Silence Of The Lambs in 1991, and a police chief in True Detective, does she think she could make a good detective in real life?

“No,” she says, firmly. “I would actually be a bad detective, because I’m really far-sighted [meaning long-sighted] and I don’t notice anything. So you could change your shirt or you could put on a false moustache or do anything, and I’d be just, like, ‘Oh. Whatever.’”

And Jodie Foster, 61 years old and happy in her skin, throws back her head with a roar of laughter.

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