Martin Scorsese, Jodie Foster, and Robert De Niro at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.
Foster was 12 when she was cast as an underage prostitute in the drama.
Since she’s turned to directing, Jodie Foster does even less interviews these days than she did as an actress. But in honor of
’s 40th anniversary, the press-shy actress turned filmmaker has spoken candidly about her memories of working on the gritty Martin Scorsese drama as a kid, and what it was like playing an underage prostitute opposite an actor as famously intense as De Niro, in the role that earned her her first Oscar nomination.
, Foster reveals how she was cast at 12 after working on another Scorsese film,
“He called my mom about the part, and she thought he was crazy,” Foster says of the filmmaker. “But I went in to meet him for an interview. My mom thought, with my school uniform on, there was no way he’d think I was right for it. But he said yes, and she trusted him.”
“Part of the deal was that any scenes that felt uncomfortable sexually, they would have an adult be a stand-in,” says Foster. “So my sister Connie, who was over 18, stood in for a couple of over-the-shoulder shots.”
Foster had acted previously, and says that she assumed this film would be like her other jobs, but quickly realized otherwise—not just because of the script’s subject matter but because of the method preparation De Niro preferred.
“Robert De Niro and I had a bunch of outings, where he took me to different diners around town and walked through the script with me,” she says of their character prep. “After the first time, I was completely bored. Robert was pretty socially awkward then and was pretty much in character, which was his process. I think I rolled my eyes at times because he really was awkward. But in those few outings, he really helped me understand improvisation and building a character in a way that was almost nonverbal.”
Paul Schrader, who wrote the film, said that during preproduction, he stumbled upon a young woman (Garth Avery) who reminded him very much of Iris, the character Foster played, and invited her to have breakfast with him and Scorsese. Says Schrader, “We watched her pour sugar on top of her jam, the way she talked, and a lot of that is in the diner scene in the movie.”
Foster met her as well, and even acted alongside her.
“She plays the girl who stands next to me in the street in the movie,” Foster says. “I talked to her a little bit, but they were more interested in her mannerisms, how she dressed and walked. I hated my costumes, though. At the fitting, I was sniffing back tears because I had to wear those dumb shorts, platform shoes and halter tops. It was everything I hated. I was a tomboy who wore knee socks. But I got over it.”
Later this month, Foster, Scorsese, De Niro, and Schrader will re-unite in person to discuss the drama at the Tribeca Film Festival. Scorsese has said of the milestone, “It’s odd to think that four decades have passed since we shot
on the streets of a very different New York City. It was made in a surge of energy, starting with Paul’s one-of-a-kind script, and I was working with an extraordinary group of artistic collaborators as anyone could ever hope for—Jodie, who was 13 years old at the time, and Bob gave the picture something precious, dangerous, and altogether remarkable. I’m honored to take part in the celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.”
Photographed by Helmut Newton for the May 1989 cover. Styled by Natalie Zimmerman.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the October 1989 issue. Styled by Marina Schiano.
Photographed by Herb Ritts for the November 1991 issue.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the June 1994 issue.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the January 1995 cover.
Photographed by Herb Ritts for the October 1995 issue.
Photographed by Herb Ritts for the April 1996 issue. Styled by L’Wren Scott.
Photographed by Herb Ritts for the August 1996 issue. Styled by L’Wren Scott.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the February 1997 cover. Styled by Lori Goldstein.
Photographed by Bruce Weber for the December 1997 cover. Styled by Anne Christensen.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the January 1998 issue. Styled by Nicoletta Santoro.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the July 1999 issue. Styled by Bill Mullen.
Photographed by Herb Ritts for the April 2000 issue.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the April 2000 issue.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the June 2000 issue. Styled by Nicoletta Santoro.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the August 2001 issue. Styled by Bill Mullen.
Photographed by Herb Ritts for the December 2001 cover. Styled by Sarajane Hoare.
Photographed by Herb Ritts for the March 2003 issue. Styled by Deborah Waknin.
Photographed by Brigitte Lacombe for the April 2003 issue.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the March 2004 issue.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the October 2004 issue. Styled by Wendy Schecter.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the March 2006 issue.
Photographed by Mary Ellen Mark for the August 2006 issue.
Photographed by Norman Jean Roy for the November 2006 cover. Styled by Michael Roberts.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the April 2011 issue. Styled by Jessica Diehl.
Julie MillerJulie Miller is a Senior Hollywood writer for
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