Writer-director Drew Pearce hadn’t even sent out the script for his futuristic, hospital-for-criminals thriller “Hotel Artemis” when Jodie Foster called asking to be part of it.
Foster said she’s done that quite a few times: It’s a strategy for finding the best roles. The 55-year-old actress said she tries to read everything written for a certain age range, male or female. That’s how she became the first person to join “Hotel Artemis,” in which she plays a 70-something nurse and proprietor of a hospital for the bad guys in a riot torn Los Angeles alongside Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Sofia Boutella, Jenny Slate and Charlie Day. The film hits theaters Friday.
Foster spoke to The Associated Press recently about the film, directing and the stigma of failure.
Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: You haven’t put yourself in front of the camera very often recently. What was it about this film besides the age range?
FOSTER: I just love the idea. I’d been looking for a while and I really was hell-bent on wanting something that felt like a full transformation.
AP: It’s kind of unusual to have a woman of this age leading an action film.
FOSTER: I think it’s great. I mean, why not? And it’s funny because, I’m not sure I would call me an action hero, but I did a lot of movies with a lot of action in them and maybe I wasn’t like a sheriff or a police man, but I was the girl carrying her daughter to safety with the explosion in the background, so it’s fun to see me inhabit a movie like that but in a different capacity.
When people look back and they sum up my career and they say, “Well you played a strong woman in this movie and a strong woman in that movie and how’d you manage to do that?” And I’m like, “Uhhh, I don’t know? I saw the script and I was drawn to it because that’s who should fascinate me, she’s who I should be interested in.” I’ve never been interested in the girl who wears that jewelry so well or the wife of the interesting person. I wanted to be the central character.
AP: Do you have any directing projects coming up?
FOSTER: I don’t. I’m happy just being open to something coming along that I love and I feel passionate about and I never know where that is going to take me. There’s part of me that’s really scared because I’m kind of a good student and like, what college do I go to next? But I think it’s really good for me. It’s really good for me to be humble and say like maybe I’m going to act on an iPhone. Why do I have to keep proving to everybody over and over again something that I did 25 years ago?
I believe that “The Beaver,” for example, which I believe is my best movie and I know it’s not for everybody, but I do think people will look back on that movie and will finally say “Oh I see, it’s better than….” There was a lot of baggage that got hoisted onto the film. I feel like the film was really trying to say something important.
The truth about directing is I don’t really care, because, I got to make a movie that I love. And that is such a pleasure in itself that that really is the greatest reward. So I don’t really take a lot of offense about how it is received. I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and go “I’m sorry you didn’t like it” but I did my best. With acting it’s harder to do that because you’re not in charge.
AP: Have you ever been approached to direct a big tent pole?
Foster: Yes. And I’ve said no, and not because I’m so great. It’s because I just had a different idea of what I wanted my career to be as a director. It’s not because I’m too good for it. I just had a path I wanted to follow with my signature. And I’m not as interested in the abstract goal of being successful. It’s not popular to say, so I’m careful, because sometimes things get taken out of context, but you know, yes women have not had the same opportunities as men in terms of directing big franchise movies. But when a woman finally is able to direct a movie and become a director, after all the struggles you have to go through, when they’re finally able to have a career, it’s sometimes hard for them to go “Ok I’ll just sell out.” You’re like, “No, wait I’ve struggled my whole life to get here. And I want to have a signature. I don’t want to just sell out immediately.” I think sometimes it’s easier with guys. It’s almost easier for them to rationalize, because they’re always going to get another job and they’re always going to have another career.
It’s interesting because, and I don’t think it was a secret with “Hunger Games” but they really, really, really wanted a female director. They went after everyone. And people were like, “Yeah, that’s not what I want to do with my life.” And it was kind of an interesting reckoning.
I’m not against franchises. “Aliens 2” is fantastic. There’s a way of doing them but you’ve got to beat all the odds and a woman doesn’t very often — and this is true as an actress as well — get a second shot. So you don’t get the opportunity to fail and then somebody puts their hand out and goes, come on we love you. That doesn’t happen. You come to understand that failure can be very meaningful for you … Often you’re smarter to go a different way.
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