Things we learned from this new essay by Jodie Foster:
1. An 11-year-old Kristen Stewart once “begrudgingly danced around a sombrero” with Foster. Repeat: Kristen Stewart once danced around a sombrero with the star of Silence of the Lambs.
2. When Foster tells strangers that she’s managed to stay so well-adjusted because she’s “just boring, I guess,” she’s lying.
3. If the Academy Award winner were a young actor today, she “would quit before [she] started.”
Stewart’s Panic Room costar took to The Daily Beast this morning to defend her young pal, who’s been ripped to shreds by the press ever since her cheating scandal broke. Foster’s essay focuses on the difficulties facing celebrities in an age of constant surveillance and criticism. “In my era, through discipline and force of will, you could still manage to reach for a star-powered career and have the authenticity of a private life,” Foster writes.
Today, things have changed: “If I were a young actor or actress starting my career today in the new era of social media and its sanctioned hunting season, would I survive? Would I drown myself in drugs, sex, and parties? Would I be lost?”
The answer, she assumes, is “yes.” Foster says that she never would have been able to weather the pressures facing young actors — and worries that even if her most iconic roles had gone to someone else, that hypothetical actress would still find survival to be nearly impossible.
“Another actress might surely have taken my place as I write my essay, opened her soul to create those characters, surrendered her vulnerabilities,” the Taxi Driver star continues. “But would she have survived the paparazzi peering into her windows, the online harassment, the public humiliations, without overdosing in a hotel room or sticking her face with needles until she became unrecognizable even to herself?”
Foster goes on to recall the five months she spent filming Panic Room with Kristen Stewart in 2001. The future Twilight star was only a child then, and Foster remembers openly worrying — along with Stewart’s mother — that pursuing her acting dreams might harm Stewart. She paints a stark picture of how much has changed in 11 years: Foster imagines Stewart as a little girl, “twirling in the surf… singing at the top of her lungs, jumping and spinning around in the cold water, all salty, sandy, full of joy and confidence.”
Cut to a scene from the present day: “A beautiful young woman strides down the sidewalk alone, head down, hands drawn into fists. She’s walking fast, darting around huge men with black cameras thrusting at her mouth and chest. ‘Kristen, how do you feel?’ ‘Smile Kris!’ ‘Hey, hey, did you get her?’ ‘I got her. I got her!’ The young woman doesn’t cry. F— no. She doesn’t look up. She’s learned.”
Foster finishes with a paragraph partially written in the second person — perhaps her way of directly addressing her onetime costar. “Eventually this all passes,” she says. “The public horrors of today eventually blow away. And yes, you are changed by the awful wake of reckoning they leave behind. You trust less. You calculate your steps. You survive.”
Whatever your opinion of Stewart, you can’t deny that these are some powerfully written words from a Hollywood veteran — one who knows more than most about the perils of fame.