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Interview of the week: Jodie Foster

By KAREN BUTLER

NEW YORK, July 18 (UPI) -- Two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster says she loves making films so much, she would take a job building sets if the acting and directing jobs dried up.

"I'm not really built to be an actor," confessed Foster, who most recently starred in David Fincher's thriller, "Panic Room," and who can now be seen playing a nun in the coming of age story, "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys."

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"I don't really have an actor's personality and in some ways (being known as an actor) has been a liability for me ... because I don't make movies to act. I just want to make movies. I really love movies. I want to be involved with them. If you said to me I had to be a (sound) mixer or a boom guy or a carpenter, I'd say: 'Okay. Right. I'm there...' I like to be a part of the storytelling," the former child model said.

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The 39-year-old Yale University graduate first grabbed the attention of movie audiences with her searing portrayal of a teen prostitute in Martin Scorsese's gritty 1976 crime thriller, "Taxi Driver." Foster followed that up with consistently terrific performances in films like "The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane," "The Hotel New Hampshire," "The Accused," "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Nell." She also has directed and produced numerous other films.

The single mother of two notes her experience as a director helps her consider acting roles in a manner that is different from the way most successful actors choose jobs. First, she considers the script, then whether she would like to work with the director, she said.

"Really, way down there, is the part," Foster stated. "Very often, if the part's just not good enough and the script is something I really like, I'll say, 'Okay, I'll work on the part.' That I can work on. But, most actors don't really have a director's sensibility. They have an actor's sensibility," adding many actors primarily are concerned with their own characters, not how they support the overall production.

While working on "Panic Room" with "The Crying Game" star Forest Whitaker, Foster found herself in a unique position, since both she and Whitaker are actors who also have spent time on the other side of the camera; Foster directed "Little Man Tate" and "Home for the Holidays," while Whitaker helmed "Waiting to Exhale" and "Hope Floats."

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"I think that helps somebody like David Fincher because we really know how hard it is to direct and we respect that we're there to serve him," she explained. "It's all about his vision, his story. We're helping him tell the story he wants to tell in the way that he wants and our job really is to find out how to add our little details onto his train."

The actress did double duty as star and producer of "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys," a coming of age story set in the 1970s and in theaters now. Even though that film was released amid a firestorm of sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests, Foster insists neither she nor her fellow filmmakers considered changing the film's name.

"That was the name of the book and the book is kind of a cult classic out there," she remarked. "It's also an indie movie and usually people who go see indie movies know what they're about. It's not like it's going to open in 3,000 theaters."

Although she has starred in numerous major studio films throughout her three-decade-long career, Foster says as a producer, she has no ambition to make "big popcorn movies."

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"Not that there's anything wrong with them," she clarified. "I like them a lot. I just don't need to produce those kinds of films. Even if I act in them, I don't need to produce them. I really want to produce different kinds of movies. I want to produce movies that made me want to be in the film business when I was a kid -- (namely the French films) 'The Four Hundred Blows,' 'Murmur of the Heart' and 'Jules and Jim.'"

Foster admits the aspect she most enjoys about being an actress is that she gets to experience different characters and lives for a brief period, then return to her own, relatively normal life.

"In a weird way, that's the beauty of being an actor," she offered. "You get to live out things that you're afraid of and you get to say, 'Well, maybe I can get to the end of it and survive it intact and I can be the hero of my own story.' It's kind of a way of exorcising fear."

After a stressful day on the set, there's nothing Foster likes to do more, she says, than go home and turn on the television.

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"I don't need to go to a club and go dancing, but I need to go home. I'm just one of those people (that) when I'm making a movie, I don't ever want to go out to dinner (with the cast) -- ever, ever, ever," Foster emphasized. "I don't like the outside world to intrude when I'm making a film. I like to either see my family or work, but I don't like to go out."

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