Jodie Foster on Hotel Artemis, directing, and working with a diverse cast

Jodie Foster talks Hotel Artemis, being a female director in Hollywood and working with such a talented and diverse cast. 

Hotel Artemis marks the directorial debut of Drew Pearce, the acclaimed screenwriter who is responsible for writing several films including Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Iron Man 3. Drew Pearce assembles an all-star cast to bring Hotel Artemis to life. I was lucky enough to sit down for a roundtable conversation with Jodie Foster, who plays Jean Thomas, in the film. Hotel Artemis is the first acting role for Jodie Foster in about six years. Foster had a lot to say about the film, what it has been like being a female director in Hollywood, and working with such a talented and diverse cast.

Q: This is your first movie in a while, in front of the camera, right?

Jodie Foster: Yeah, in front of the camera. I’ve been directing a lot.

Q: What’s it like being back in front of the camera?

Jodie Foster: It’s good. I mean, I’ve done it my whole life since I was three, so I’ve done it more than I’ve done anything else. It doesn’t feel foreign or anything to go back. I think it’s just such a luxury. It’s such an honor to be able to say, after 52 years in the film business, to be able to say, “I act because I love it, and that’s it. The only reason. There’s no other reason.” It might be on an iPhone, or maybe it’ll be a tiny little part, or maybe it’ll be a guest star on a TV show. I don’t know. I don’t have to check off any more boxes.

Q: So what’s it going to take to get more female directors?

Jodie Foster:  I don’t know. They’re doing interesting things in Europe now with quotas. You hear the word quota and you think, “That’s crazy.” The problem is systemic. They say, “Wait, but there aren’t enough women directors that we can turn to direct a $150 million dollar movie.” You’re like, “That’s because you didn’t a woman director to direct a $500,000 movie.” And when that movie was successful, that person didn’t get a second movie that brought them to $4 million dollars. You know I’m saying? The problem is the system, it’s not necessarily the … So, that’s why the quota system has been very interesting, that they’re doing stuff like that in Europe. It seems to be working.

Q: How satisfied are you with your career as an actress, and why did you switch to directing? 

Jodie Foster:  I didn’t really switch, I rebalanced. I directed my first movie when I was 26 (Little Man Tate) and then I had another five years until my next movie, Home For The Holidays, then another fifteen years, until I did The Beaver. That’s a long time in between directing. I started young, directing, and I’ve only directed four movies, so the balance was 10% directing and 90% acting, and I wanted to switch that balance. I knew I wanted to do that when I hit a certain age, and I became more interested, I think I was more interested in directing at that time. I can see the balance changing again when I’m older. I really want to be acting in my eighties. I think that’s going to be really exciting. I’m really excited about acting in my eighties.

For me it’s about performance, it’s not about whether I’m going to be on a billboard on Sunset Boulevard, or selling little toys. That’s not why I wanted to become an actor. It may be one end of the industry but I don’t need to participate in that part of the business in order to feel that I’m acting. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to acting in my later years, I think, because there’s a kind of richness of experience that comes with that face and that body, and I may be the only one out there that doesn’t like who I am.

Q: How did this film come about for you?

Jodie Foster: I found the script. My agent found the script and was like, “This hasn’t been released yet.” It was a friend of mine, somebody I knew very well, was producing it, and I was like, “I hear you have this script that you haven’t released yet.” So that’s how it happened.  I directed two movies and a whole bunch of television in between, in the last five years. I’ve been busy. That’s my priority, directing, and I’ve said that, that that was going to be my priority in my fifties, that directing would take priority and I needed to commit to that. That if I found something to act in that worked, then that would be great.

Scott Menzel: Can you talk a little bit about the diversity found in this film? That’s something that I loved about this movie, is that we see so much diversity. I feel like when you make a movie nowadays it’s either one way or the other, it’s all black cast, all white cast, all Latino cast. This has a nice mixture of everyone.

Jodie Foster:  Because it feels like real life in an urban place, whether you’re living in New York or Los Angeles, that’s what it feels like. It was written that way, it was written to feel like real life. The casting process was really fun. I was the first person brought aboard, and then I got to see how that all went down. Dave Bautista came second. That was something Drew really wanted to fight for, that vision of Los Angeles in the future. I have this experience because I’ve played women, I’ve flipped movies, for example, where I’ve had a script that was written for a man, and then we flip it and we turn it to a woman. Sometimes this happens and vice versa, and it is interesting how a female experience changes the character. Flight Plan was originally written for a man, and Elysium as well, so you get a whole different set of references the second you flip the gender.

And I think that happens with race as well. We know not all of the black experience is slave movies, right? We need to have black experience shown in everything; doctor, lawyers, airplane flight attendants, etc. When you flip the race, you do see the world through that lens, everything becomes richer. So, the character of the two brothers, for me that was really important. To Drew, I was like, “The two brothers, this idea of these two brothers, one is keeping the other one down because he just can’t stop putting dope in his arm. He just can’t stop being a fuck up. He just has this idea of what being a gangster is, and his brother’s just been trying to get out, but he’s never been able to.” That struggle, I thought, was really interesting when you flip races.

Scott Menzel:  Your character, the Nurse, was the only character who got to interact with every single actor in the film. Was there something you took away from each of these actors? 

Jodie Foster:  Oh yeah, that’s true. I don’t know about their personality, but I do know that they’re all different people and they’re all awesome. Obviously, there’s the tone of the Hotel Artemis, but each one of those rooms has slightly different tones. So Charlie Day’s acting style is very different than Sofia Boutella. Obviously, Jeff Goldblum is just a completely different style than somebody like Brian Tyree Henry’s. It’s interesting to go into, it’s like you open a door and it’s almost like a video game, right?  You open a door, go into a room and then there’s a different tone to each room. That was really Drew’s issue, he was like “I have to make sure these tones are wildly different, to make sure they’re married into the film as itself.”

Hotel Artemis opens in theaters on Friday, June 8, 2018 

Written by
Born in New Jersey, Scott "Movie Man" Menzel has been a film fanatic since he was three years old. Growing up, he watched as many movies as he could and was highly influenced by Tim Burton, John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis, and Steven Spielberg. Scott has an Associates Degree in Marketing, a Bachelors in Mass Media, Communications and a Masters in Electronic Media. He has been writing film reviews under the alias of MovieManMenzel since 2003 and started his writing career as a contributing critic at IMDB.com and Joblo.com. In 2009, Scott launched MovieManMenzel.com where he posted several of his film reviews but in 2011 decided to shut down the site when he launched We Live Film.com, which he founded. In 2015, We Live Film became We Live Entertainment. The domain name changed occurred after months of debate but was done so that he and his fellow staff members could write about anything and everything in the world of entertainment.

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