In the new movie Elysium (opening Aug. 9), written and directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9), Jodie Foster plays a sort of Secretary of Defense for Elysium, an elite satellite hovering above Earth, where the wealthy live apart from the wretched human life on a poor and polluted planet. Her character, Secretary Delacourt, is power-hungry and decidedly anti-immigrant.
In one of the film’s early scenes she orders her command center to blast two approaching space ships full of poor Earthlings into oblivion.
Foster, 50, signed on for the film simply because she was a huge fan of Blomkamp’s District 9. “I felt it was a perfect movie that I wished I’d been a part of,” she tells EW exclusively. “I was just like, ‘Whatever Neill does next, I’ll do.'”
Initially, though, there wasn’t a part for her. Her role was created as Secretary Rhodes, who was male. But then Blomkamp woke up one morning and it suddenly occurred to him the character could be a woman. He and one of his producers, Simon Kinberg, drew up a list of potential actresses, and Foster’s name was on it, but the director thought she would never do it. “I thought, ‘That would be f—ing awesome, but there’s just no way,” he says. “But then, within, like, a day I had a meeting with her and she said, ‘I want to play it.’ I was like, ‘Holy s—!'”
It is not the first time Foster has played characters originally written as male. Her lead role in Flightplan as a mother searching for her kid on a plane was a father, initially, and for years she asked her agent to seek out leading-man scripts that could be made into leading-lady ones. That technique has worked well for Angelina Jolie, too. Her spy thriller Salt, which earned $294 million worldwide, was originally a star vehicle for … Tom Cruise.
For more on Foster and Elysium, pick up this week’s Entertainment Weekly, on sale now.