Also in Slate, Dana Stevens reviews The Beaver.
Foster: Yeah, I would. I've rewritten, and I think I'm a better director than I am a writer. Writing's something you have to do over and over and over again.
Slate: Let's go back to an earlier part of your career. Last year you told Esquire, "You couldn't pay me to be in my twenties again." What was so difficult about that part of your life, and what would you tell a twentysomething now?
Foster: Don't worry so much. I had a different 20s than a lot of people did, because I had a lot of responsibilities. Most people in their 20s, they have themselves and their apartment and that's it. But I didn't. I had a whole host of other responsibilities. My anxieties were way more magnified than they should have been at that age. I should have been much less anxious about my future and whether I was going to make it and was anyone was ever going to love me. All those things that I worried about I probably shouldn't have been so anxious about. But I had a weird childhood, so …
Slate: But also I would think that because you were in the public eye those anxieties would feel completely magnified.
Foster: If most people made a mistake at 22 it wouldn't matter. I don't know that my problems really relate to other people in their 20s, but I just worried a lot, a lot about all the unknowns about what is going to happen to me. It just seemed too much to bear, really.
Slate: And how did you get out of it? What happened?
Foster: Time, really. And plus I think you do turn 30 and everything gets better. 30 was like, magical. And I think I found out who I was and who I wasn't. In your 20s you can be anyone, you could still be an Olympic athlete. You could be in a rock band. All those things! You could be a runway model. You hit 30 and you're like, ok, I'm probably not going to be in the Olympics. All right, I'm definitely not going to be a runway model. And I am not going to be in a rock band anymore, my time is over. So there's kind of a freedom to that, where there's all these things that you're actually not going to do anymore. So the ones that you are really interested in, are the ones you're more headed to anyway. You become more focused, and you're not so into being cool anymore.
Slate: Speaking of youthful struggles, the relationship between Mel's character and his teenage son in The Beaver—that was very well-done. Do you feel like as a parent, you had any particular insight into directing that? Was there anything you really wanted to come out of that relationship?
Foster: I'm just happy with it the way it is. I mean it was a difficult, really challenging movie for that, because it's the story of these two people, this father and this son, but they're barely ever on-screen together. They have no connection whatsoever in the film. And it's about them heading towards one another, and so we had to sort of artificially connect them. We had to connect them visually, Walter's world, Porter's world. There were visual similarities, the way they're shot, their traits. We had to keep connecting them and saying, look, these people are connected, but they're avoiding each other. So that you're really rooting for them to reconcile in the end.
Slate: Porter, the teenage son, writes down the traits he shares with his father on individual Post-It notes. He catalogues these traits so that he can reverse them and somehow avoid turning into his depressed dad. The visual choice really illustrates the fractured feeling of his anxieties. I read that you came up with that—how did that happen?
Foster: [Porter is] ritually trying to change. Like, if I cross myself, then this will happen. If I put a voodoo doll and put pins in it, then this will happen. And that's kind of what the Post-It notes are. If I identify every single trait that I hate, and I take this trip, I don't know how, but I can get rid of every single one of them. That's why there's 49 traits, because there's 49 states. There's this ritualized idea of I can do it, I can change; I can not be him, in this almost neurotic, very intellectual path. And of course it's not going to work [laughs]. Originally, he had a little journal he wrote in, and he was forever writing in this journal, and we were having to forever close on inserts of someone writing in a journal and it was just [pantomimes shooting herself], I'm going to shoot myself! There's no way I can cut to an insert of a journal, it's just not my style. It's bad storytelling. It seemed fake and expository and all that. So we did the Post-It notes.
Slate: Finally, what's the best thing on the Internet this week?
Foster: Everybody's going to say Osama Bin Laden! But I gotta tell you, [reading that] The Book of Mormon was nominated for a Tony [ed note: It was nominated for 14 Tonys!] made me really happy. I cannot believe The Book ofMormon is on Broadway. I'm so proud of us as Americans, it's such a genius work of art. It's so great and it's so inspiring, and it is so subversive. I just can't even believe it.
Interview has been condensed and edited.