Jodie Foster On Her Elysium Character, Socially-Conscious Themes, and Today’s Femme-Driven Blockbusters
Jodie Foster returns to the screen – and to sci-fi – in next spring’s Elysium, the latest from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp. Speaking with Movieline today at her first-ever Comic-Con, Foster described the dystopian future of the film, in which she plays a methodical bureaucrat controlling the “border” of an artificially-created space station (a character now named Delacourt - so take note, internet ). The movie-loving polymath also waxed ecstatic about her one-time Panic Room co-star Kristen Stewart, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and her current obsession: HBO’s True Blood.
Elysium takes place in a future in which overpopulation has driven the privileged to take up residence on a man-made space station while the poor remain on Earth; contrary to early reports, Foster says her character is named Minister Delacourt, a government official of French descent committed to keeping the “have-nots” out of paradise.
There’s been some secrecy surrounding Elysium’s plot, but we now have a synopsis and some additional hints at what to expect. How would you now describe the film and what it’s really about?
In the future, the haves and have nots have become more polarized; there are fewer and fewer haves and more “nots,” and the Earth has devolved. A few incredibly rich and powerful people have created their own habitat. It’s about the battle between those two worlds.
Your character could be described as the antagonist of Elysium, correct?
Yeah, she’s the antagonist. She’s the minister, she’s the person who controls who gets to come in and who doesn’t. She’s methodical, her antagonism has a point.
Where is she coming from?
She’s French! I speak a little French in there. This is an international place, obviously – there are people that come from all over the earth to be there. It does harken a bit back to the European history and this idea that there was something worth holding onto, something in our past and aristocratic past with class distinctions. She’s very hell bent on saying there’s a lot about the way that it was that’s better than it is now.
Between the imagery that we’ve seen and the themes within Elysium it seems to be of a piece with Neill’s previous film, District 9.
Yeah, it has a grittiness to it – more than half, I think 70 percent of the movie has this incredible grittiness, this romantic degradation.
Did you get to immerse yourself very much in that on set given that your character is more of a bureaucrat?
I’m in the polished world! Our world is very sterile and very inorganic. They’re trying to create a fake organic habitat, but it’s not organic.
There’s a bit of viral marketing on the Comic-Con convention floor in the guise of a futuristic Elysium border agent. What issues does Elysium address in its undercurrent of social commentary?
Immigration’s a big one. There’s increasing class separation in the world – what’s to become of the Earth when we’ve destroyed our planet, and where are we going to go after that?
What initially sold you on this project and this role when you first spoke with Neill?
It’s a great script, and him, honestly. I think he’s an incredibly talented director, and a lot of it is conscious but a lot of it is unconscious, too. I think he’s at this really interesting place in his life where he’s old enough and experienced enough to know how to tell the story, but also young enough to understand that there are things that he cares about that he doesn’t entirely understand.
The fact that Secretary Rhodes is a woman –
Her name is Delacourt now! They changed it. Minister Delacourt. The press kit must be wrong!
Are you telling me that everything you read on the internet is not necessarily true?
That’s right! Shocking!
So, Delacourt - she's a woman, and the main antagonist here, which is in itself a rarity. Do you feel that the genre world allows for more progressive characterizations of women?
I don’t know about that. I’m not sure that’s true.
Was the character always written as a woman?
It pretty much was. I mean, that’s an interesting idea. But I think genre films, because they have to, usually paint things much more in black and white, whether it’s women or not women, because the storytelling in ways is a lot more primitive.
If you look at recent films for example, you see a string of big-screen heroine tales – Kristen Stewart as Snow White, for example.
Which I loved! I loved it. To be so bold and so emotional, I just thought she was terrific. They were both great; Charlize Theron was fantastic. I really loved it, and I did not expect to like it. I didn’t think I was going to care, but it really got me.
Do you get out to see movies much?
Yeah, I go with my kids. I see all the big ones with my kids, but the smaller ones I tend to see on the small screen. I just went to see this movie yesterday that’s just unbelievable called Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s a life-changing movie. Talk about complexity. That whole ending part, I loved it. I loved her.
That’s another recent film revolving around a young heroine – add that to Snow White and The Hunger Games and they’re all stories about young women following the hero’s journey as the Chosen One.
That’s right, and that’s always been the domain of men. I remember feeling that about Silence of the Lambs; you look at that character and it’s a quintessential archetypal character. The young boy has to go find the panacea and they have to go through the Forest of Experience and meet gnomes and demons along the way and then slay them, and then he finds out in some way the things he didn’t know about himself were actually the demons that he had to slay… it’s always been reserved for men, and that’s changing. When you look at Hunger Games, there’s a lot to like, but I will say the thing I liked the most about The Hunger Games was seeing a woman in the number 1 point of view as the protagonist who changes and finds her strength, who you’re rooting for, and who saves the men – it’s fantastic. I’m so happy for her.
A few years ago there was word that you wanted to make your own science fiction film.
It didn’t work out! I do lots of things and develop lots of movies that don’t get made. It’s hard making personal films and the kinds of movies I like to make – very verbal, intelligent films – are hard to get off the ground.
Because we’re here at Comic-Con where fandom is celebrated, are there any geek properties that you’re way, way into?
I love True Blood.
Are you into vampire stories in general?
I like them all – zombies, all those stories. I just like A) that he does it with humor and that the writing is so good, and I think the characters are so fantastic. I just love them.
Elysium hits theaters March 1, 2013.