Meet Jodie Foster, The New Femme Fatale
This story is part of a collection celebrating the best—and wildest—Warhol conversations from the Interview archives.
By the time she went to college, actress Jodie Foster had nearly 50 film and television credits and established herself as one of the foremost child stars of the ’70s. She earned a degree in literature from Yale and successfully navigated the often-perilous transition from child star to adult roles. Two leading actress Oscars and 45 years in the industry later, Foster accepted the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille award at the 2013 Academy Awards for her “definite impact on the world of entertainment.” Though normally tight-lipped about her personal life, she thanked her two sons and ex-partner of 20 years, whom she described as her “modern family.”
1976 was a huge year for the young actress. She starred in five films, including the critically acclaimed Taxi Driver and Bugsy Malone. Late in 1976 and just after hosting SNL (the youngest person to do so at that time), Foster talked with Warhol and Guinness about everything from being “done” with sex scenes to getting bit by a lion on the set of her second film. Her mother was with her, Warhol tried to order her a Bloody Mary, and she casually slipped in and out of French—already wise beyond her years.
Sunday, November 28, 1976, 1 P.M. Café Pierre, Hotel Pierre, Fifth Avenue and East 61st Street, New York. Back in November 1976, Andy Warhol and Catherine Guinness waited for Foster, then 14-years-old, who arrived a few minutes late accompanied by her mother, Brandy Foster. Jodie wore blue jeans tucked into knee-high black leather boots, a brown tweed jacket over a beige blouse, and a newsboy cap. Her voice was as low as her mother’s is high. During the interview Jodie drank tea.
BRANDY FOSTER: Hello. How do you do? I’m Jodie’s mother. I’m going to stay for a few minutes and then I’ll leave you.
ANDY WARHOL: Hi. How are you?
JODIE FOSTER: I’ve got the hiccups. And hives—from being nervous.
BRANDY FOSTER: It’s the first time she’s done a live show.
WARHOL: How was it?
JODIE FOSTER: Crazy.
BRANDY FOSTER: We haven’t been home for six months. We’ve just come from London.
WARHOL: We’ve been out on the road, too. We tried you in California but nobody answered. We went to Marisa Berenson’s wedding. It was so exciting.
[Jodie Foster hiccups.]
WARHOL: Do it on the tape.
JODIE FOSTER: How was it?
WARHOL: Tatum [O’Neil] wasn’t there but Ryan was.
BRANDY FOSTER: She’s registered in Jodie’s school this year.
WARHOL: You mean she can’t stay up late?
JODIE FOSTER: If you’re going to go to school the next day it’s kind of hard.
WARHOL: What did you have to do on Saturday Night Live?
JODIE FOSTER: A lot of weird things. It’s a very weird show but I love it. There was a skit about Tinkerbell who was going to take me to a land where you never grow up. It’s very weird but fun. I’ve never done anything live before.
BRANDY FOSTER: She missed one whole rehearsal and a blocking day.
JODIE FOSTER: It was Thanksgiving—a legal holiday.
WARHOL: But you’re so good. You probably didn’t need it. It was probably better.
JODIE FOSTER: They always have cue cards no matter what happens. It’s no problem.
BRANDY FOSTER: I’ve still never seen you so nervous.
WARHOL: How can big stars get nervous?
JODIE FOSTER: I wasn’t that nervous during the show but I was during the dress rehearsal because it’s very weird. Nobody claps. And at all the bad things they boo. The actual shoot was a lot better.
WARHOL: At one point during Marisa’s wedding everybody laughed. I don’t know why.
BRANDY FOSTER: She didn’t marry anybody in the industry, did she?
WARHOL: No, but he lives in Beverly Hills, so…
BRANDY FOSTER: What difference does it make?
WARHOL: We ran into Ingrid Bergman coming in here. It was so exciting.
BRANDY FOSTER: Her daughter Pia Lindstrom interviewed Jodie the last time she was here.
JODIE FOSTER: It’s funny. I’ve been in the business a long time but no matter who I see I always get excited and star-struck. I was sitting next to Henry Winkler and I went crazy.
BRANDY FOSTER: He came out to California to just do one segment of Happy Days and Jodie was testing for the Paper Moon pilot. He came over to the table and we didn’t know who he was.
JODIE FOSTER: I got to meet Laverne and Shirley, Juan Epstein…
CATHERINE GUINNESS: Have you met Starsky and Hutch?
JODIE FOSTER: Not yet. Everybody’s crazy about them. I’m not. Everybody likes Starsky a lot better than Hutch, but I like Hutch a lot better than Starsky.
WARHOL: So when are you going to get married?
JODIE FOSTER: Never, I hope. It’s got to be boring—having to share a bathroom with someone.
WARHOL: Gee, we believe the same things. I’m married to my dog. That’s what you should do.
JODIE FOSTER: Doesn’t he dribble all over the place?
GUINNESS: That’s the terrible thing about dogs.
JODIE FOSTER: Only certain kinds, though.
GUINNESS: The big ones, with a lot of fur and the dribble hangs… ooh, we better order quickly before we’re put off completely.
JODIE FOSTER: I’m not very hungry.
WARHOL: You’re not going to eat? You’ve got to. That’s our interview. I don’t know what to ask.
JODIE FOSTER: Strawberry shortcake? That’s supposed to show your personality?
WARHOL: No, it’s just that I never do my homework.
GUINNESS: Funnily enough, it happens that I have. I saw Echoes of a Summer, Bugsy Malone, and Taxi Driver.
JODIE FOSTER: All in one day?
GUINNESS: Of course. When you saw Echoes of a Summer, did you cry?
JODIE FOSTER: No, but I cried during the dailies. Did you like it?
GUINNESS: I cried from beginning to end. I can’t help it. If it’s a tear-jerker, I’ll be jerked.
WARHOL: What are you doing next?
JODIE FOSTER: I don’t know. I’m reading. Right now, it’s just like going to school.
BRANDY FOSTER: She’s just worked five months on a film.
JODIE FOSTER: It’s Disney—Candleshoot with David Niven.
RANDY FOSTER: Prior to that she did Tricky Friday [Freak Friday] with Barbara Harris. She had three weeks between the two films.
WARHOL: Who do you play in Candleshoot?
JODIE FOSTER: A very delinquent kid. I get kidnapped by Davdi Niven to portray the long-lost granddaughter of Helen Hayes. There’s a big treasure involved. It’s going to be a good picture.
GUINNESS: Is David Niven funny?
JODIE FOSTER: Marvelous—the stories he can tell!
BRANDY FOSTER: So then she was in Paris for 10 days. She loops a picture that’s going to be released there. She’s the first American actress to…
JODIE FOSTER: I’m already full and I haven’t eaten anything.
BRANDY FOSTER: She’s the first American actress to do her own looping, other than Jane Fonda.
WARHOL: “Horror looping”?
BRANDY FOSTER: “Her own” French looping.
JODIE FOSTER: Dubbing. I was there with Eléonore Hirt—terrific name, isn’t it? She’s married to Michel Piccoli.
WARHOL: How did you get the great frog accent?
JODIE FOSTER: Mon dieu, I don’t know. I go to a French lycée. It’s great, man. All the teachers are like 21 or 22 and have long hair and beards and everything. Being in this school, you don’t have to do anything.
GUINNESS: When you’re doing a film, do you have a teacher on the set?
JODIE FOSTER: Yeah, I have a welfare worker on the set.
WARHOL: A welfare worker? Really?
JODIE FOSTER: By law.
WARHOL: Oh. You should have something. How about a Bloody Mary?
JODIE FOSTER: Oh, yeah, sure.
WARHOL: You’re too young? You seem so grown-up to me. How old are you?
JODIE FOSTER: 14.
BRANDY FOSTER: Last week we went to Pearl’s. It’s her favorite restaurant in the whole world. I’m going to go. Should I come back?
JODIE FOSTER: I don’t care.
BRANDY FOSTER: She’s so tired.
WARHOL: We won’t give her any alcohol.
BRANDY FOSTER: She’s anxious to get back to school after being gone so long.
JODIE FOSTER: No, no, I don’t want to get back to school. I’d like to go back to California to catch up on all the movies.
BRANDY FOSTER: She’s a movie nut. In London, by the time they get a picture it’s five years old.
[BRANDY FOSTER leaves.]
WARHOL: How did you get… style? I mean, you have it. Did it just happen?
JODIE FOSTER: I don’t know. I started when I was three years old. You just read the lines and that’s all, I guess.
WARHOL: But I mean in colors and knowing how to dress and all that.
JODIE FOSTER: I don’t think I have any style. I just wear jeans and a t-shirt.
WARHOL: Do you mean you were in a movie when you were three years old?
JODIE FOSTER: No, I was doing commercials. My first one was Coppertone. I was the kid that got her pants pulled down.
WARHOL: Really? Are you serious? You mean, the most famous one? Gee. Really?
JODIE FOSTER: Mm-hmm.
WARHOL: Now I’m really impressed.
JODIE FOSTER: I did all sorts of television stuff. My first movie was when I was seven—a thing for Disney called Menace in the Mountains.
WARHOL: Did I see it?
JODIE FOSTER: I’m sure you didn’t. Not many people did. It wasn’t a good picture but it started me off with Disney. I’m not going to have escargots because I had some last night that gave me garlic poisoning. The place must be high class because the menu’s all in French.
WARHOL: You can tell me what it says.
JODIE FOSTER: I think its catching up on me. I came back from London thinking, “I’ll never get used to the time change so I can go out all night if I want to.”
WARHOL: You go out all night, then?
JODIE FOSTER: No, never. No way. But last night after finishing the show I felt like it was six o’clock at night because I was so nervous and wound up and I had to go somewhere. I talked with friends until four o’clock in the morning.
WARHOL: What did you drink? Shirley Temples?
JODIE FOSTER: 7-Up. I always used to think, “Why are they called ‘Shirley Temples’ and not ‘Jodie Fosters’?” So my brother and I said, “We’ll have a Jodie Foster.” And the bartender went, “What?”
WARHOL: Is your brother an actor, too?
JODIE FOSTER: Yes. He’s almost 20. He’s done a lot of things for television like a picture with Mercedes McCambridge and Six Million Dollar Man where he played a wolf-boy.
WARHOL: Do you have any sandwiches? [orders] Your part in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore was so strange. You couldn’t tell whether you were a boy or a girl.
JODIE FOSTER: What happened was I had beautiful long hair when I went for the interview and I said, “You know, if I do this picture, I’m going to cut my hair for Paper Moon.” He said, “Aw, don’t worry. I won’t change that much.” So I chopped it off, he had a heart attack and we just did the picture like that. He had no choice.
WARHOL: It actually made it better. Did you get any nut mail after you did Taxi Driver?
JODIE FOSTER: Nothing. But I wish I could do it over again for all the publicity I got from that! I hate the idea that everything thinks if a kid’s going to be an actress it means that she has to play Shirley Temple or someone’s little sister. That’s not reality anymore. I don’t think the majority of the public really want to see that. I hope not, anyway. I’m really not very good at tap-dancing.
WARHOL: When we were in California, we were with Liza [Minnelli] and [Martin] Scorcese was there, too.
JODIE FOSTER: New York, New York is going to be great. I was there one day and it was unreal. She didn’t even have a microphone—what Liza Minnelli can do! She’s great.
WARHOL: Then we went to the circus and she was performing. It was sort of great. Her bra broke and Halston, whose dress it was, had to go up and fix it. It was all on TV. Everything went wrong. And then someone got bit by a lion around the neck. It was so scary. But then it turned out to be a fake.
JODIE FOSTER: I got bit when I did a picture with a lion—right here.
WARHOL: Really? Are you serious? I guess you can’t do that sunburn commercial anymore.
JODIE FOSTER: That’s right. This was on my second film. There were two lions—one who was a stand-in, named Zambo, and another one who was 25 years old, named Major, who had all his teeth out and couldn’t do anything. It was really hot, like four o’clock in the afternoon, and you’re not supposed to work lions after three. And Major wouldn’t do it so they got Zambo to do it. Finally we got the shot. I was walking up the hill and the lion was behind me, being pulled by a piano wire—that was the only way they could get him to go. And I wasn’t walking fast enough. He came around and bit me, I rolled down the hill and…
WARHOL: Really? Did you sue?
JODIE FOSTER: Never.
WARHOL: Did they pay the hospital bill?
JODIE FOSTER: Yeah, but they’re still sending me bills. I always send them back to Walt Disney.
WARHOL: But who saved you when you were bit?
JODIE FOSTER: The lion trainer. When the lion had me in his mouth, he said, “Drop it!” and he did.
WARHOL: How old were you?
JODIE FOSTER: I was nine years old. I figured if I could get through that, I could be an actress for life.
WARHOL: And you’re still nervous?
JODIE FOSTER: Yes.
WARHOL: Do you have a scar?
JODIE FOSTER: I just have a cute little dimple on my back.
WARHOL: Which no one’s ever going to see because you’re not going to get married, right? Anyway, at the circus, Valerie Perrine was really great. She let this elephant really throw her around. But it was scary. The elephant could have just stepped on her. And then the great French girl who’s going with Al Pacino did this trapeze act.
JODIE FOSTER: It wasn’t Claudine Longet, was it? I’m only kidding. You see, we had a Patty Hearst sketch on Saturday Night Live. It was very good. She had this dog named Tanya that she locked up in the closet and blind-folded. I was supposed to play her little sister. But they cut it out at the last minute because they would have been sued the way they were sued for that Claudine Longet thing.
WARHOL: Did they lose? How much?
JODIE FOSTER: Not much—in the six figures. What happened was…
WARHOL: Six figures?
JODIE FOSTER: Yeah, not much.
WARHOL: I saw it. I thought it was really terrible.
JODIE FOSTER: They do very sick things.
WARHOL: You should start directing soon.
JODIE FOSTER: That’s what I want to do.
WARHOL: Next week, buy a script.
JODIE FOSTER: I would never do it with myself, though, when I first started. I don’t want to ruin my career. It’s better to ruin somebody else’s.
GUINNESS: You said you weren’t interested in clothes.
JODIE FOSTER: Not at all. You’d have to kill me to get me to go shopping. I hate it. I think it’s the most boring thing in the world.
GUINNESS: And make-up?
JODIE FOSTER: What’s the sense of putting it on if you just have to wash it off later? I’m going to wait as long as I can before I use it. I think it’s dumb for a kid.
WARHOL: Do you have your own car in California?
JODIE FOSTER: I can’t drive until I’m 16. But I’m getting an Alfa-Romero with a quad tape deck, a sunroof… I like it because if you go into a restaurant, there’s no way they’ll say, “You have to have a tie.” You just have to have shoes and a shirt. I love that. I love dressing up sometimes but you can always come to New York to dress up. It’s nice to be able to sit around in your jeans with green stuff on your face and nobody really cares. I’ve never had green stuff on my face—except for Halloween. I was a hanged person. I had a noose around my neck and a green face.
WARHOL: Whose party was this?
JODIE FOSTER: This was just trick or treating.
GUINNESS: Did you do any tricks?
JODIE FOSTER: I’ll tell you what happened. We went to this place where they gave us Pat Boone records. So we smashed their pumpkin. It’s a terrible thing to do, but it’s exciting. I’ve been caught. But I love Halloween.
WARHOL: But you were in London this year.
JODIE FOSTER: Yes, and they didn’t even celebrate it. That’s what I don’t like about England.
GUINNESS: But you don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes Day.
JODIE FOSTER: We celebrate Bastille Day, just to get off school. We celebrate anything. It’s no use coming to my school on the Jewish holidays because there’s nobody there—maybe two people.
[A French lady stops at the table.]
FRENCH LADY: Andy, how are you? Nice to see you. We met first at the Smiths’ in Monte Carlo and I am a friend of Craig Braun’s, too.
WARHOL: Hi. Oh, Cardy Smith is in…
FRENCH LADY: Los Angeles. I saw them. I was there for this terrible flop called the “Gala-Gala Circus.”
WARHOL: I was there. It was a great. I liked it a lot. Oh, this is Jodie Foster, Catherine Guinness…
FRENCH LADY: I hope to have you one evening at Regine’s. Michele Geurard is cooking for one week. Vous voulez diner un soir au Regine’s?
WARHOL: She’s leaving town tonight.
JODIE FOSTER: C’est vrai.
FRENCH LADY: Sans jeste? Pour travailler?
JODIE FOSTER: Pour quelque jours, et puis après je reviens à l’ecole.
FRENCH LADY: Ah, c’est bien!
JODIE FOSTER: Ce n’est pas tellement bien, mais c’est mieux que quelque choses.
FRENCH LADY: It’s not forever, you know. So Andy, I hope, one evening…
JODIE FOSTER: Nice to meet you.
[French Lady leaves the table.]
WARHOL: Gee, you were just invited to Regine’s. Too bad you have to leave town.
JODIE FOSTER: For some reason, they think I’m a terrific dancer or something.
WARHOL: I think you’re really something. You can speak French and everything.
JODIE FOSTER: Tatum will be able to in four months, five months—no problem. She’ll probably speak it better than I do. I’ve heard it from one of her teachers that she had a very good ear.
GUINNESS: Do you go out on dates?
JODIE FOSTER: I don’t have time with my movies, and that’s what’s important to me. It’s not only that. I think it’s dumb. I’ve got so much time for that. Why waste my terrific childhood life on being a young swinger?
GUINNESS: How do you feel about doing sex scenes, like in Taxi Driver?
JODIE FOSTER: I don’t do them anymore. First of all, I don’t do nude scenes—that’s for sure. I did that one picture—that is, my sister did it.
WARHOL: Really? You mean, you didn’t…
JODIE FOSTER: Oh, yeah. But now…
[End of Side A.] [Tape No. 1, Side B.]
GUINNESS: …have to do kissing things.
JODIE FOSTER: That’s nothing.
GUINNESS: But do they do it on the lips these days? Before they used to kiss not on the lips and then Greta Garbo came along and really opened her mouth.
JODIE FOSTER: I guess so. The camera sees.
GUINNESS: And you’re allowed to do that at 14?
JODIE FOSTER: Of course! Kissing is nothing.
WARHOL: I think it’s disgusting.
GUINNESS: How could you kiss somebody you don’t like particularly?
JODIE FOSTER: I don’t kiss them. They kiss me. That’s what’s nice about being a woman—you just have to sit there and that’s it.
WARHOL: Could I have your autograph?
JODIE FOSTER: Sure.
WARHOL: Do people tell you you’re beautiful?
JODIE FOSTER: My mother tells me I’m beautiful but I don’t listen to her.
WARHOL: But you are.
JODIE FOSTER: I can’t understand that. I think it’s really dumb. I look at myself—I’ve got a gap in my teeth, I’ve got an ugly nose. I’ve got blond eyebrows, which are the worst thing to have…
WARHOL: Who told you all this?
JODIE FOSTER: I have eyes that go down like this, I’ve got a red dot in my eyes, I’ve got puffy cheeks, I’ve got straight hair…
WARHOL: But that’s everything that everyone wants.
JODIE FOSTER: The worst thing for Tatum—apparently, because I haven’t been back to school—is that on the first day of school everyone came up to her and asked her for her autograph. And that can be kind of disturbing. When you first start school, you want to get away from that. It’s very embarrassing. But nobody’s ever asked me that. I was very unfamous when I came to the school, so they were all sick of me by the time… [she hiccups.]
Redacted by Chris Hemphill
THIS ARTICLE INTIALLY APPEARED IN THE JANUARY 1977 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.
Read more stories from the Celebrating Warhol collection.