Jodie Foster has established herself as one of the finest dramatic actors of her generation, whether she’s fighting a pair of airborne conspirators, as she did in “Flightplan,” or gunning down a gang of thugs, as she did in last year’s “The Brave One.”
But the two-time Oscar winner has rarely made movies fit for family consumption, much less her own two children.
That’s about to change with “Nim’s Island.”
In the movie, which opens Friday, Foster plays an agoraphobic San Francisco author who is compelled to overcome her demons thanks to a child stranded on a remote tropical island.
For Foster, it’s a movie even her kids can enjoy.
“I remember doing ‘Maverick’ about 15 years ago and thinking that I really needed to do another comedy,” she says. “It’s such a fun experience, and I was eager to explore that side of myself, but it took me this long to find a script that really captured my interest.
“It’s the first time my children [Charles, 9, and Kit, 6] were able to watch me act, and that was part of the appeal for me. Most of the time, they stay in the trailer and we have lunch together. This time, they came to the set and saw me in action, and that was something I really enjoyed.”
While Foster had not read Wendy Orr’s popular fantasy novel, which inspired the movie, she was drawn to it after accepting the role, though she prefers directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett’s cinematic treatment.
“It was such a great idea,” she says. “I think the characters Wendy Orr created are still there, though they’re a bit more developed in the movie. With comedy, you see drama flipped on its side. Personally, I love characters that have solitary, creative experiences and yet grapple with loneliness. I love women trying to figure out how to be heroes. In this movie, I found them, and I had a chance to poke fun at some of my more dramatic roles.”
Although Foster acknowledges her preference for drama, she remains open to the possibility of another comedy, so long as her character’s integrity is not compromised.
In “Nim’s Island,” she found a character she respects and can present to her children without any regrets.
“It’s refreshing to see a kid’s movie without laser beams and planets exploding,” she says. “This movie encourages us to be students of the planet — to learn how to cook for ourselves, to climb volcanoes and get our fingernails dirty. My character has to learn how to do that.
“If my own children watch it and want to get into the movies, I wouldn’t discourage it. Times have changed since I got into the business, and I would encourage them to experiment in community theater and test the waters in that respect. When they’re 18, they will make their own decisions. Until then, I change the subject whenever they talk about wanting to be on TV.”