Why Jodie Foster Decided to Direct Even Though Her Mom Told Her Not To

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Jodie Foster opened up – in French – about her risk-taking, achievements and perceived failures during an intimate Q&A during the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday. And to the audience’s delight, the American-born, bilingual actress conducted the entire hour-long interview in the festival’s native language.

The publicity-shy star, who got her first acting job at the tender age of three, revealed she had twice defied her mother during her glittering career: the first time to go to Yale, where she majored in African-American literature, and the second to move into directing, shortly after winning a Best Actress Oscar for 1988 film “The Accused.”

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“I studied at Yale for 5 years,” she recalled. “Everyone was telling me ‘your career will be finished.'”

“And it certainly was,” Foster said drily, to the audience’s amusement.

“And then I became a director, just after the Oscar, and the same person – my mother – told me it was a very bad idea to be a director,” Foster said. “Since I was at the height of my acting career [and] at that moment I could make the most money, so it was a very bad choice, according to her. I did not listen and I’m very happy.”

Certainly Foster, who has won two Academy Awards, has gone on to have a stellar career. On Monday, during the opening of the festival, Foster received an Honorary Palme d’Or award from Spike Lee, who is this year’s Cannes jury president, and “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho.

However, she admitted her career hasn’t always been plain sailing, with her foray into producing proving commercially less successful. “We did some beautiful films, it was a very creative time for me to be able to create my own vision with myself and other directors,” she said. “But sometimes, I viewed this as a kind of failure because I didn’t make huge films that had tremendous box office receipts. And unfortunately Hollywood, in Los Angeles, it’s a bit unsettling.”

“I remember that I put everything I had into a film that I was making. It was released on Friday and on Saturday I went to given a conference and someone said ‘I’m so sorry about your movie,’ because there weren’t many admissions and I felt so embarrassed. I thought yes, it’s a real failure, and I’m really sensitive to failure. So we didn’t make huge films but I do think we made nice films with excellent people […] so I’m very proud.”

And while she sidestepped a question about whether audiences will ever see her in a Marvel movie (“They are fabulous films,” she replied. “But there is enough space for everybody, we are all different”) she admitted she would love to tackle something with the depth of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” calling it an “amazing film.”

“It was a thriller, it’s exciting, but it’s so deep psychologically and socio-politically, so well acted,” she said. “If it’s a film like that it’s the kind of thing I might like to do.”

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