Jodie Foster's recent film roles include a mother terrorized by intruders ('Panic Room'), a mother whose daughter vanishes aboard an airliner ('Flightplan') and a traumatized-woman-turned-vigilante ('The Brave One'). It's not exactly family fare, which is why the mother of two (Charles, 9, and Kit, 6) was thrilled to make the retro kiddie adventure 'Nim's Island,' playing a neurotic fantasy author who must venture to a remote island to help a loyal reader (Abigail Breslin). We talked to the veteran actress about doing one for the kids, bonding with child stars and Gerard Butler's non-stop giggling.
1. Did you have your kids in your mind when you signed on for 'Nim's Island'?
Definitely. I wanted to make a movie that was more lighthearted and a movie that they could see and that they could actually be on set for, which was a first. They were able to read the book, so they were able to visualize it before the filming started. I see so many family films. I see them all the time, and having virtually not been in one for 15 years was really frustrating for me.
2. Are there any other movies of yours that they watch?
They've seen 'Freaky Friday' and 'Bugsy Malone.' Those are the only two movies that they've seen of mine. I don't have any of my Disney movies on DVD. They didn't have DVD in those days so I'm not even sure if they exist. It's funny though, I keep trying to get them to watch ['Freaky Friday'] with me again and they are like, "Eh, that's OK."
3. The movie's been drawing comparisons to old-school adventures like 'Romancing the Stone.' Were those similarities that you saw?
Yeah, that's really what they were going for. That's something that excited me. A movie that my kids could see [where] the adventure part would not be about laser beams and virtual worlds, that it was really about taking care of yourself and making dinner with roots and berries, and fixing things with your tool belt, and climbing up volcanoes. It's kind of retro and nostalgic, but that's the best part of our childhoods.
4. Was it refreshing to be on a less intense set than something like 'The Brave One' or 'Panic Room'?
Yeah, refreshing, but I love my dramas. I'll always go back to dramas because that's what I rent when I go to Blockbuster. I love dramas. Hopefully I'll be able to go back and forth between the two, but I know that good comedies are much harder to find. It took me 15 years to find a comedy that was worth fighting for, between this and 'Maverick.'
5. Do you think this is the most comedic role that you've taken?
Yeah, maybe. It might be. Well, 'Maverick' a little bit, too. I mean, in 'Maverick' she's a liar pretending to be somebody than she's not, so I think she's a bit more of a cartoon than Alexandra Rover.
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6. So how does one train in the art of physical comedy?
No idea. I don't know. You view lots of movies and get a lot of sleep and that's about it. That's the thing about comedy performances. It's entirely spontaneous. You don't really know until that day if you are going to come up with anything so a lot of it really is keeping a certain kind of energy. That's the challenge. Drama is about this very, very, very long willingness to hold onto an idea and explore it in its darkest place for a long, long period of time. That's just a completely different kind of endurance.
7. Are there comedians that you looked to for inspiration?
No, not really. I can't think of any. I probably should have. I probably should have rented some things and said, "I'm going to do something like that." I kept saying to the director, "You know Holly Hunter in 'Raising Arizona' ..." The thing that is so funny about Holly Hunter in 'Raising Arizona' is that she really wants that baby. It's not like she's funny because she's trying to be funny. She's funny because she is committed to her drama.
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8. Did you discover Abigail Breslin in 'Little Miss Sunshine'?
Yes, I didn't know her before then. Somebody had said to me, "Look, you gotta see this movie, but I don't want to talk about it because I don't want you to expect too much." And of course when anyone says that, I'm really prepared to really think the movie sucks. But I just loved it so much. I loved that film and I loved her in it and I loved all of the characters' relationships. It was just a great discovery.
9. Do you feel a special bond with Abigail, given that you were so young when you started your film career?
Well, I do work with a lot of child actors so it's something I'm used to. What's nice is that we've lived the same life so we don't have to talk about it. Some of the nicest times [I've had] working with actors come when you are stuck in a small space with them. For example, when I was with Kristen Stewart in 'Panic Room,' I was stuck with her for 110 days in a room the size of my closet, just lying around ... going like, 'What do you think of YouTube?'
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