Jodie Foster: Even female studio execs 'see female directors as a risk'
In an era when women account for only 7% of the directors of Hollywood movies, Jodie Foster is the rare female whom financiers will back to helm any film, never mind a marketing challenge like "The Beaver," her upcoming $20-million tragicomedy about depression starring Mel Gibson.
When asked about the industry statistics during a recent interview promoting "The Beaver," Foster said she thought the low numbers of female directors were a result of studio executives' fears of uncertainty.
"I don’t think it’s a plot and these guys sat around and said let’s keep these women out," Foster said. "I think it’s like race psychology. When a producer hires a director, you’re hiring away your control completely. You’re bringing on somebody that will change everything. When you give that amount of power up, you want them to look like you and talk like you and think like you and it’s scary when they don’t, because what’s gonna happen? I’m gonna hand over $60 million to somebody I don’t know. I hope they look like me."
When it was mentioned that many studio executives do, in fact, look like her -- a 48-year-old white female veteran of the industry, Foster nodded. "And name the lists that come out of the female studio executives: guy, guy, guy, guy," she said. "Their job is to be as risk-averse as possible. They see female directors as a risk."
Foster got her first directing opportunity on 1991's "Little Man Tate" from male executives at Orion Pictures. In 1989, she won the lead actress Academy Award for "The Accused."
"I was acting in 'Little Man Tate' for almost no money and I had just won an Oscar," said Foster. "They were under almost no financial risk whatsoever. The real pioneers are someone that didn’t have the 'in' that I had. I had guys who knew me. I was like their daughter."
Foster, whose three films as a director have all been family dramas, said she isn't sure what she'll direct next and backed off comments she made at the South by Southwest Film Festival last month about helming a sci-fi thriller. "I’m not sure that’s gonna work out," Foster said. "But I’d like to apply what I know in other genres." Foster cited films she has appeared in as an actor, like the thriller "Panic Room," horror movie "Silence of the Lambs" and action film "The Brave One" as examples of genres in which she'd like to direct.
Asked if she would ever direct a $200-million effects-laden film, Foster said, "I would and I could, if at the heart of it there's something that moves me."
Photo: Jodie Foster walks the red carpet before a screening of her new film "The Beaver" at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Credit: Jack Plunkett / Associated Press