Jodie Foster on Wall Streets Rigged System, Mel Gibson, and Stars Right to Privacy

The director of Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, opens up about the financial crisis and why she will always support her controversial pal Mel Gibson.


Almost five years to the date after releasing her last movie as director, two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster returns behind the camera onMoney Monster, a Wall Street thriller starring George Clooney as an egocentric cable finance news host whos taken hostage on-air by a disgruntled young investor.

Of course, even someone of Fosters caliber had a bit of a rough go the last time around.

One of the most recognizable names in Hollywood thanks to a nearly five-decade career that began at age 3 and includes films like Taxi Driver, The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs, Panic Room, and Little Man Tate, her first foray as a director, Foster had to hold it down on the press tour for 2011sThe Beaverwhen the controversial personal troubles of her star Mel Gibson turned America off of the film en masse.

Looking back now, Foster reflects on the public stand she took for her longtime friend. Ive known him for 20-something years, and hes someone that I really love and I really care about, she told The Daily Beast on a recent afternoon in Beverly Hills. I obviously cant condone his behaviorhis private behavior. What do I know about his private behavior? But Idoknow the man I know, who is an extraordinary artist. I know the experiences Ive had with him and thats really the only thing I can attest to.

I think if someone you love is struggling, you dont disown them and run in the opposite direction, she added. I think you try to be compassionate, and try to understand their struggle. Try to help them.

For her next directorial effort afterThe Beaver, Foster sought just the right project. She boardedMoney Monsterin 2012, choosing the story of a flawed and unlikeable male celebrity whose public ugliness is exposed as America watchesand whom the audience is then asked to give the chance to regain his humanity as the film progresses.

Foster confirms the unintentional parallels between Gibson and herMoney Monsterantihero: And I have real feelings about whats public and privateand a real sense of loyalty to the people who are struggling, trying to survive a public life. I think you feel terribly alone, and I guess Im out there saying, Youre not alone. Whether its him or other people that have gone through similar situations.

But Mel is an extraordinary director, and I have to say, I think hes the most loved actor Ive ever worked withnot just by me, by all the technicians and everybody whos worked with him, she added. Thats just the truth, and obviously we all have complicated truths that come with us.

Money Monsterarrives after the Academy Awards triumph of another financial wake-up call to America, ParamountsThe Big Short, put the twisty legalities and deliberately confusing jargon of Wall Street on display to shocking effect. But rather than finger the real-life figures culpable for the nations financial instability, the script by Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf, and Jamie Linden charts a more traditional fictional route through taut crime-thriller territory. Its more like, say, Inside Man, the 2006 hit Foster co-starred in for Spike Leeonly set against the chaotic backdrop of the country rebuilding itself after the housing crisis.

The mortgage crisis was fresh in our minds, and a lot of regulation has happened since then to try to sort of stump up the tide, Foster said. Wall Street is really back to business as usual with these regulations, which have created shorter margins for people. So they have to find new creative ways to make more amounts of money because its harder to make money now.

Thatswhere things get dangerous, she noted, and that was the inspiration for the plot of the movie. What are people going to have to do now that banks are closing, that the federal government has closed some of these loopholes? Where are they going to start pulling their money from?

The system is engineered specifically and the rules are written by the very few people who could ever understand the rules, so that they could benefit from them. It is a rigged system. We all know that, and weve accepted that. Its a system that was engineered to create middlemen so that the middlemen could take money from both sides. Like scalpers! And at some point there will be an implosion, because they have to keep finding more margins of benefit.

The incident that sparks working-class New Yorker Kyle Budwell (Jack OConnell) to sneak into the TV station where Lee Gates (Clooney) is broadcasting live to his audience of investment-hungry fans about a massive overnight loss of $800 million that trading fund Ibis Clear Capital blames on a glitch in their algorithm.

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There have been a lot of glitches, said Foster. Knight Capital lost $440 million in 30 minutes, and then went bankrupt that day. And it was a glitch. They didnt find out for a very long time what happened. It took them yearsand they still dont know. They believe it was whats called a fat finger, that somebody pushed a button on a zero and left it on there too long.

There was a crash not too long ago, a glitch crash that originated out of Chicago, and they still dont really understand it, she continued. Thats the problem. Technology has created these systems; weve created these computer systems and mathematical equations that are responding to each other. We dont control them, and now they are corresponding.

Its no coincidence that the men of Money MonsterClooneys unwittingly complicit Gates, OConnells desperate Budwell, and Dominic West as the CEO of Ibis Capitalare the ones whose collective hubris and need to find self-value in money initiate ruin for everyone around them. Gatess saving grace is his producer Patty Fens (Julia Roberts), who stays behind as the station is hijacked by a gunman and helps guide Clooneys self-centered talking head toward something resembling heroism.

Its a sad fact that all of these guys feel so bad about themselves, said Foster. I think thats an interesting part of the male psyche, that they are always looking for their value in other peoples eyesespecially the strong women that are disappointed by them. And in this film, we have three incredibly strong women that are dealing with babies, really.

Foster also happens to be issuing her warning shot to Americas financial institutions in a climate of looming doom and gloom, thanks to an all-too real circus thats mutated into something stranger than fiction: Novembers presidential election.

I couldnt make up whats happening right now! she laughed. I mean, itsabsurd. Its absolutely absurd. If I had put it in a movie they would have thought I was crazy. They would have said it was satire.

Its a really interesting time in history. And its symptomatic, I think, of people being just mad. People are mad, and they dont even know why. They just know that they dont want it to be the way it was, meaning that they dont want the status quo, and they want things to change. They also have this thirst for entertainment. They expect to be entertained 24-7.

Blame the never-ending news cycle that spits out figures like the fictional Gates to info-tain the nation every morning. Foster admits she was once much more of a newshound before the unrelenting stream of news became overwhelming.

For the first five years of that 24-hour news cycle you go, This isfantastic. I can turn on the news any time! And after a while, you dont want any more news, she smiled. Foster considered the paradox of modern existence: interacting with just about anyone these days when you, like her, have chosen to live a life unglued from your screens, your devices, and your television sets.

I dont really know whats going on, very much. Everybody else seems to. Like, Imsureyou saw that thing on YouTube But no! I dont know whats going on. I barely watch TV. Im never plugged in. Im not doing anything, thoughits not like Im getting a Nobel Prize for all the work Im doing in physics. Or reading, you know, Ulysses.

How do these people have all the time to know the things that they know? She searched for the answer to her own question, and smiled. I think Im just not Im not a fact person. I dont really care about facts. I dont even really retain them and I find them anxious-making. I likeideas.

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