Jodie Foster is at Comic-Con for the first time, and she’s appropriately psyched. Foster’s new project Elysium is her first sci-fi film since the 1997 Robert Zemeckis movie Contact, and it’s one of the Con’s most anticipated titles: Directed by District 9 helmer Neill Blomkamp, it casts Foster as the adversary to Matt Damon in a futuristic parable about immigration. Vulture sat down with the Oscar-winning actress earlier today to discuss the difference in sci-fi filmmaking since Contact, and Foster was game to talk about the lasting legacy of her work as Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, as well as her favorite guilty pleasure on TV: True Blood.
You did a lot of blue-screen work on your last sci-fi film Contact. Was it the same situation for Elysium?
You know, they didn’t have the same level of CGI then. Nobody could have been as high on technology as Bob Zemeckis was then, but that technology has changed so much in the last ten or fifteen years. To be able to make a film like Elysium in 80 days? That’s crazy to me.
It’s just so much faster, and it allows you to be more spontaneous. I mean, in the days of Contact, I was all by myself doing green-screen work for four or five weeks. All by myself, no one else, for five weeks … and it was just for six or seven minutes of the film! That, now, is something you’d be able to get done in a day. Actually, you know what I really like about Comic-Con? I like the process of making a movie, of seeing something get built from an idea, but I was always worried for people to get to see that: I worried that the experience would be ruined if people got to see the seams. But it’s so nice to be at Comic-Con with people who actually enjoy seeing that process, and in some ways, it actually makes them love the film more to see how you got from here to there.
Tell me about your character in Elysium. What’s her relationship with Matt Damon like?
Not good! She’s the minister of this habitat, a political figure who’s making decisions on who gets to come there and who doesn’t. She’s quite hawkish and right-wing, and also very elegant and sophisticated. And she’s French!
She’s French! Whose idea was that?
It was my decision. It happens sometimes in sci-fi movies that it seems like every character is American, and you go, “Wait. This is a new planet; it should be pulling people from everywhere.” And so Neill made an attempt to create a much more international environment, and we thought, “Why not have her be French?”
You said last year that you had a sci-fi thriller in mind to direct. What’s the status of that?
It didn’t happen. I have a lot of things that I’m working on, and they almost never happen. It takes a lot to get a film off the ground.
Are you attracted to sci-fi in general?
I don’t know if this will be my genre. If it’s right for the story I’m trying to tell, then yes, but I like personal films. Although Elysium is a personal film, and when you see it, you’ll see that a lot of it is a very human story and it’s very gritty. You think it’s a CGI movie, but 75 percent of the movie is really, really gritty.
As was District 9. What did you make of that when you saw it?
I think it’s as close to a perfect movie as there is. And it came from the heart, which is something that Neill does in this genre that other people don’t do. It’s no accident that every single movie you’re going to be talking about here is a franchise, based a TV show, or a remake, but this movie is completely original and completely from Neill’s head. He didn’t do District 9 II, you know? And he wouldn’t want to do an Elysium II, either. That’s just who he is.
Speaking of franchises: Did you hear that Lifetime is developing a Clarice Starling TV show?
I’ve heard that. And a network show about Hannibal.
What do you make of the sudden surge of interest in those characters?
[Shrugs] I don’t make anything of it.
Do you think it’s a testament to how iconic Silence of the Lambs continues to be?
And that’s why they want to remake it? Well, it was a big film. It’s a good movie, a movie that tapped into the zeitgeist and the fears that people had so much that once they saw it, they couldn’t pull themselves away from it. And that was true of why we were attracted to the book.
Did you ever see Ridley Scott’s Silence sequel, Hannibal? Or would that have been just too strange?
Oh no, I’ve seen them all!
Really? You saw the remake of Red Dragon, too?
What was your take on those films?
I mean, I don’t really have an opinion on them, and certainly not for print, but they’re [based on] great books. What I think is interesting is all the other movies that got made subsequent to that that didn’t recognize what was great about Silence, you know? What was great about it was the point of view of this scared, small person who had been traumatized as a child. It wasn’t about blood or gore or “Isn’t this terrible, all of these terrible things?” There was a real goodness to that movie, and that’s what a lot of those other movies didn’t get. Although I do love Seven! For me, that’s my favorite serial killer movie.
There have definitely been a lot of serial killer movies since.
I remember at the time that I got involved with Silence I read some weird book that I pulled off the shelf at Doubleday about serial killers. And I was just obsessed and kept talking to people about it, and I talked to this guy who said, “You know, I just read this book that you should look at,” and he gave me the name, and I immediately tracked down Silence and tried to buy the rights to it. And Orion [Pictures] had gotten to it first, but that’s how I got involved with it.
I miss Orion. They put out four Best Picture winners in such a short time: Amadeus, Platoon, Dances With Wolves, and Silence of the Lambs.
Yeah, we all do! We all miss it. They inspired other places. Yeah, they made some great movies, but they were not very good businessmen.
Comic-Con is the place where you go to celebrate the things that you’re a total geek for. Is there anything you love that you fangirl out over?
Well, I do love True Blood. I’ve seen every single episode, and I will rewatch every episode before I watch the new season, so I do love it. I guess that’s my geeky side.
You should show up at their Comic-Con panel and ask a question!
I should, right? What would I ask? “Why are you guys so great?” I don’t know. Actually, I’m sure I would be like, “Why’d you have to go and do the fairies? The fairies were lame!” [Laughs]