MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Here are two thoughts you don't usually mention in the same breath: public radio host and vigilante. That's the double role Jodie Foster takes on in her new film "The Brave One."
(Soundbite of movie "The Brave One")
Ms. JODIE FOSTER (Actress): (As Erica Bain) I always believe that fear belonged to other people - weaker people. It never touched me. And now it did. And when it touches you, you know that it's been there all along, waiting beneath the surfaces of everything you loved.
BLOCK: That's Jodie Foster as New York radio host Erica Bain. She creates intimate essays, telling stories through sound about the city she loves, a city she says, that is disappearing before her eyes.
Ms. FOSTER: Then she and her fiance are brutally attacked while walking their dog. Her fiance is killed. Erica Bain gets a nine-millimeter handgun and soon she begins mowing down predators all around the city.
BLOCK: Well, Jodie Foster, I think if this…
Ms. FOSTER: That was weird.
BLOCK: Yeah. I think if this film thing doesn't work out for you, you might have a career on public radio.
Ms. FOSTER: Oh, that's big fantasy in mind. You know, I'm a big, big public radio fan and that was probably the reason why I wanted to bring this, to this movie.
BLOCK: I guess, you should say it's implied that you're a public radio host…
Ms. FOSTER: Oh, yes.
BLOCK: …although it's never stated as such.
Ms. FOSTER: No, because NPR really didn't want to be affiliated with it at all. But we understand that.
BLOCK: There is something about the vigilante thing. That's the reason…
Ms. FOSTER: Exactly. Exactly.
BLOCK: I've read that you've spent a lot of time working on the original script, and your character, Erica Bain, wasn't a radio reporter when you got the script in the first place.
Ms. FOSTER: No, not at all. She was a New York Times journalist and that just didn't really help the story. It didn't set a mood for the film and it wasn't as compelling in terms of the narrative. I mean, what's fascinating about the movie is that she is somebody that in some ways has been disembodied, and she's like a ghost, I guess, walking in the night. And when she buys this gun, it somehow materializes her.
There's this thing that happens, the power of this instrument. When you carry it in your pocket, it changes everything you are and everything you do and how you see the world, how you experience it. And in one gesture of firing it, it says I want to live. And of course, by juxtaposition, you're going to die.
BLOCK: I want to ask you about that moment of her first shooting, of the first time she actually uses the gun and killed someone. How would you describe that look on your face after that moment?
Ms. FOSTER: Gosh, I don't know. I guess shocked, entirely taken over by the experience. That's - the wonderful thing about this movie - I have to say I'm so proud of this film - is that it is a very sophisticated movie with a lot to talk about and yet it's in an unsophisticated genre that's really quite primal. Really, it's a very elementary, very kind of special experiencing this film. It makes you cheer in places that you wished you hadn't. It kind of taps in to this very true, very authentic, very human but also very shameful side of us.
BLOCK: That's an interesting thing to say, that primal nature of it, because you do find yourself - obviously, this is a sympathetic character and you want to believe in her and what she's doing - and she's going around committing horribly violent acts against reprehensible people.
Ms. FOSTER: Right.
BLOCK: But it's an emotional tug there.
Ms. FOSTER: Yes. And as an audience member, you're asked to progress on this journey through - with her. You know, it starts off perhaps you buy a gun and you say, well, this will make me feel better, it'll makes me sleep better. It doesn't mean I'm going to shoot anyone. And I think every audience member can relate to that. And then the next step is, you know, what if you're in a situation where you just happen to walk in to a domestic violence dispute and somebody's pointing a gun at you? You know, would you use it? Well, I think most people would say, sure, in a life or death situation, I would use it.
But then as the line keeps getting fuzzier and fuzzier, we sort of bring the audience on this journey where they have to cross the line with her. And suddenly it starts feeling very uncomfortable. And I think it's probably the most powerful moment in the movie when she finally accesses that pure rage that is in all of us, just like fear is in all of us waiting beneath the surface, sort of waiting for an event to bring it to life, to allow it to have a voice.
BLOCK: So you did feel like you could understand that part, that primal part of her?
Ms. FOSTER: Well, I had to. I mean, you have to, you know, I think we can, in some ways, strangely easier to relate to it viscerally than it is to relate to it intellectually. I think we all draw these lines, these ethical lines, and we say, oh, I could never do that. I mean, I could never pull a trigger. I could never do any of these things. And then you're forced to put your body and your heart into a situation, and suddenly you get to feel the reactions in kind of astonishing satisfaction that you feel when that gun is pulled.
BLOCK: The detectives who are trying to piece together these crimes all over the city are stomped when they start thinking that maybe it could be a woman, a woman who's on this train, for example. And they say - one of them says women don't do this.
Ms. FOSTER: Right, although I think the line is women hurt themselves. They drink themselves to death. They take abuse and rage and they turn it inwards. They shoot their husbands and they shoot their kids, they hurt their kids. They hurt people they love. I think there's this wonderful challenge of saying, as a woman, okay, that may be true. But what about if I stood up here today and said, I'm not going to destroy myself this time. I'm not going to be a victim like that. I'm going to destroy you.
And even just saying that has this astonishingly satisfying feeling for any woman to say there is a place inside of me that's ready to stop destroying myself and to turn my rage outwards. I'm not saying it's healthy. I'm just saying it is, in some ways, I think, a fantasy of every woman that she would be able to take control of her life and to take care of business in some ways.
BLOCK: Is that a tempting thing about a role like this?
Ms. FOSTER: I think it - sure. I think you want to explore really rich sides to yourself and you're always astonished at what you find. And I was amazed at how exciting it was.
BLOCK: The director of the film, Neil Jordan, said of you, I've never met an actor who has a dark side like Jodie and who is so unafraid to explore it.
Ms. FOSTER: Hmm. It's true. I enjoyed every minute of it. And I am a perfectly light person in life. You know, I don't live in a terrifically dark place and that's why I need the creative process because I need to walk down that path, and to live in there a little bit and to talk about those things that don't get talked about in my life, to admit things that I can't admit in my life, and to face things that in some ways, I'm too much of a woos to face in my life.
BLOCK: Would it be that same path that leads you to roles like the ones you played in "Flight Plan" or "Panic Room," other sort of psychological thriller movies that you've done recently.
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah. Hey, I love dramas. I just love dramas and the darker the better. I will make comedies here and there, and I'm just finishing a kid's adventure movie that I love, called "Nim's Island." But my heart will always come back to dramas.
BLOCK: So the kid adventure movie is a pleasant detour from the stuff that calls you, really or what?
Ms. FOSTER: Yeah, yeah, it is. And you know what's really funny about this film, "Nim's Island," is that I play a character who can't leave her apartment. She is plagued by fear, and, of course, on a comedy, being plagued by fear is a completely different deal.
But I realized somewhere halfway through the movie, like, oh my, gosh, I'm playing another person plagued by fear. It was so fun because I actually got to completely make fun of myself as an actor. And it's so wonderful to have my kids be able to come to set. It's the first time they've been able to come to the set, other than just lunch hour in my trailer. And, you know, "Nim's" has a lot of animals in it. There's a, you know, trained sea lions and bearded dragons and, you know, pelicans and all of these great animals that they were able to meet and do all, and you know, feed the kangaroos and the koalas on Australia. They've loved every minute of it.
BLOCK: Jodie Foster, thanks very much.
Ms. FOSTER: Thank you.
BLOCK: Jodie Foster's new movie is "The Brave One." You can see clips from the film at our Web site, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
In Jodie Foster's latest movie, she plays a character who is transformed by her fiance's murder. Foster talks about exploring a character who is faced with murky ethical choices.
In her new movie, The Brave One, Jodie Foster plays a character with an unlikely dual role: a public radio host and a vigilante.
Foster's character, Erica Bain, is a New York radio host who creates intimate sound essays about the city that she loves — a city that she says is "disappearing before her eyes." Bain's fiance is killed when they are brutally attacked while walking their dog. Bain's response: She gets a 9 millimeter handgun and takes the law into her own hands, mowing down predators all around the city.
In an interview with NPR's Melissa Block, Foster discusses her role and what it means to play a sympathetic dark character, blurring the ethical lines by meting out her own form of justice.
Foster says that the film genre creates an almost primal experience.
"As an audience member, you're asked to progress on this journey ... with her," Foster says of her character. "It makes you cheer in places that you wished you hadn't. It kind of taps into this very true, very authentic, very human, but also very shameful side of us."
Foster says that she enjoys the creative process, which allows her to assume roles and emotions she doesn't explore in her everyday life. By playing Bain, she could feel the power of a woman accessing her own rage — instead of turning it inward. It is that rage that confounds detectives who are trying to piece together the crimes. At first, they don't think a woman would commit those acts.
"Women hurt themselves. They drink themselves to death. They take abuse and rage and they turn it inwards," Foster says. "They hurt people they love."
Foster says she loves playing characters in dark dramas. Acting in The Brave One was "rich" and "exciting," she says, and it allowed her to explore the transformative process of a woman claiming her own rage.