Jodie Foster takes off in ''Flightplan'' -- The Oscar winning actress talks about being selective in her roles and her passion for directing

By Gillian Flynn
September 23, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Jodie Foster pours another cup of coffee, curls herself barefooted into an armchair, and dares you to think: ”Two-time Oscar Winner” or, you know, ”Precocious Child Actor Who Grew Up Gracefully, Went to Yale, and Then Forged a Brilliant Career With More of That Acting and Directing Stuff.” Foster, 42, looks like a slightly frazzled professor, with her smart-lady glasses, her hair a series of zings, and those just-discovered holes in her cardigan (”I’m finally going to have to give it the heave,” she sighs). Or maybe she just looks like a busy mom — much of her time will be eaten up chauffeuring sons Charlie, 7, and Kit, almost 4, now that school’s started again.

It’s been three years since Foster’s last starring role, as a desperate mother in Panic Room — now she’s back with a headlining turn in the psychological thriller Flightplan. And by headlining, we mean the poster features only a close-up of Foster’s distressed, heart-shaped face. The image graces several high-rises in Los Angeles, where she lives. ”I never had a movie where they put me on a building,” she muses. ”It’s a little weird.” In Flightplan, Foster plays another desperate — or disturbed? — mother, Kyle Pratt, a plane engineer whose daughter, Julia, disappears during a cross-Atlantic flight — sending Kyle into a panic, and the crew into doubt that Julia even exists. Producer Brian Grazer says she’s the only person he liked for the role (which is what most producers say, but with Foster, it’s believable). ”I wanted Tom Hanks for Apollo 13 — because who does the world want to get back to the Earth safely? Tom Hanks,” he reasons. ”The same thing here. Who does the audience want to get their child back? Jodie. But she has this other dimension, which is power. You’re allowed to let her be vulnerable or weak, because you know Jodie can recover from that and kick ass.”

Foster was less intrigued with ass kicking than with the kid angle — exploring the ties between mothers and their children. The role, originally written as a man who barely knows his child, was changed for Foster to a woman who’s intricately linked to her daughter. She believes the gender change makes the child’s disappearance more resonant. ”If you woke me in the middle of the night, I’d go: ‘Charlie, what’s up?”’ she says. ”I don’t actually sleep — they’re still in my head. I can’t escape them even if I wanted to.”

For the past few years, aside from a tiny part in 2004’s A Very Long Engagement, Foster has preferred staying at home with her boys to working. After 37 films, she’s defiantly picky. ”The last three or four movies I’ve done, I said, ‘I’m just not going to work with a director I don’t see eye to eye with,”’ she says. ”What a difference. Because I think I would have quit. I really believe that the director is the visionary of the film. So if you sign on and the guy locks himself in the bathroom and can’t make a decision? Well, you have to follow his vision. Even if he doesn’t have one. Or you [have the egotist], and your job is to make sure he feels really good about himself, even if he’s a moron.” Foster won’t name names — we can only hope she pursues her daydream of writing an Anonymous-style Primary Colors about moviemaking.