Can ‘Brave One’ Star Jodie Foster Stay on A-List?
By Ian Spelling
Jodie Foster isn’t one of those actresses who turn up in every other movie. In fact, the two-time Oscar winner rarely appears in more than a film a year and occasionally even lets a couple of years go by without letting anyone see her name on a theater marquee. So it’s something of an event when Foster – who, unbelievably, will turn 45 years old on Nov. 19 – does in fact make a movie. Her latest project, the first since Spike Lee’s audacious “Inside Man” in early 2006, is “The Brave One,” which promises to be at least as controversial as it will be commercial.
Directed by Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”), “The Brave One” casts Foster as Erica Bain, a regular woman leading an ordinary life, at least until someone murders her boyfriend (“Lost”’s Naveen Andrews) and severely beats her in New York’s Central Park. Soon, Bain – a radio personality who hosts a local show called “Street Walk” – ventures harrowingly deep into vigilante territory in an effort to find the killer.
Meanwhile, Detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard), on the trail of the city’s mysterious and headline-grabbing vigilante killer, realizes that Bain just may be taking matters of justice into her own hands, literally, with an index finger placed firmly on a handgun’s trigger. And the closer Det. Mercer gets to hunting her down, the more Bain realizes that she might very well have evolved – or is that devolved? – into exactly the kind of person she herself thought she was after.
“I think we all have these ideas that there are lines that we would never cross and people we could never be,” Foster said. “And yet, you don’t know who you would become in a certain circumstance. You might assume, intellectually, what your ethics might be, but until you are forced into a situation that challenges you, that changes you, you can’t know who you’d be.”
Vigilante tales are common on screen. Charles Bronson starred in a seemingly endless string of vigilante movies, including “Death Wish” and its series of increasingly ridiculous sequels. Where “The Brave One” breaks the mold is the woman standing front and center, meting out revenge in the form of bullets. Foster has explored crime and consequences before in such projects as “The Silence of the Lambs” and “The Accused,” winning Academy Awards both times, but “The Brave One” pushes the envelop harder and in different directions.
Throughout her long career, Foster has unflaggingly done things on her own terms. With “The Brave One” she takes control as star and executive producer; this isn’t the fist time she has brought a strong woman to the screen, either on camera or behind it. The Los Angelino got her start at 3 years old, with a spot in a Coppertone ad, but it was her haunting portrayal of a headstrong preteen prostitute in 1976’s “Taxi Driver” that earned the actress her first Academy Award nomination.
She took this early success in stride, and though she had appeared on film and television more than 50 times before she was 20, in 1981 Foster took a break from Hollywood to study literature at Yale University. After graduating, she had difficulty reaching the level of success of “Taxi Driver,” and the late ‘80s saw both a string of box office flops before her Oscar-winning performance as a rape victim fighting for justice in “The Accused”. Foster welcomed the 90s with “Silence of the Lambs” and a second Oscar for her portrayal of detective Clarice Starling. Now, with “The Brave One,” Foster again enters dark territory.
“The second you put a woman in a role like this, you have to ask different questions because her actions are so uncharacteristic,” she said. “Generally speaking, women don’t kill people they don’t know; they don’t randomly kill, which I think makes the path Erica takes all the more interesting. It was interesting to explore her inner turmoil, her confusion. She doesn’t exactly know what she is doing or why she is doing it, but at the same time, she almost marvels at her actions. What she does understand is that fear has turned her into somebody unrecognizable and, in turn, caused her to assume the mantle of a killer.”
“Her encounters with danger change as the movie unfolds,” Foster continued. “The first time, it’s this anomalous thing and terrible violence comes to her. The second time it’s also happenstance; she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the next time, she realizes that she had the option of going to safety and she didn’t choose it. Perhaps it isn’t entirely clear to her what her motives are, but my feeling is that in reenacting a situation of the worst fear imaginable, she gets to experience it completely differently. She gets to change the characters and the outcome, and if she can change the outcome, then maybe she can bring back the dead, as crazy as that sounds.”
Audiences can decide for themselves just how crazy that sounds on Sept. 14, when “The Brave One” opens nationwide.
Photo: Jodie Foster in a scene from "The Brave One."