Jodie Foster has been acting most of her life, beginning with a sunscreen commercial when she was three years old. In the latest installment of Rolling Stone‘s The First Time, Foster talked through some of her earliest acting experiences, like meeting her Taxi Driver co-star Robert De Niro.
“He picked me up from my hotel — I was staying at the Essex House in New York City,” she recalled. “We were gonna go to a coffee shop because he wanted to do rehearsals. But Robert De Niro was super method-y then, and he was very in-character, he was very Travis Bickle, so he didn’t say anything. He just looked awkward.”
She continued: “He took me to a diner, one of those deli-diners, and we were there for a really long time — it seemed like hours to me. And all we did was the lines. He couldn’t talk to me, or have any kind of a conversation. And then he came back, and he did this another three times, where he took me out. By the third time, I was like, ‘This is so boring,’ and I started talking to all the waiters and stuff because he was not much of a talker then.”
Although she didn’t fully understand De Niro’s method at the time, “I later understood that by running the lines over and over and over again — it wasn’t like I didn’t know my lines already, and this guy was making me run them over and over again — it gave him the ability to know his text well enough so that he could improvise, and we could always get back to it. I didn’t really understand that until we started shooting, and he started doing the improvisations that I was meant to respond to, and then we’d get back to the text.”
Foster also discussed meeting Mohamedou Ould Salahi, the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner whose memoir Guantanamo Diary provided the inspiration for the new film The Mauritanian, which Foster stars in. “We all arrived in rehearsal, and we all just couldn’t stop hugging each other,” she said. “He’s a very affectionate guy, very sweet and joyful and happy and he loves to tease. I just couldn’t stop smiling, my face was on fire.”
The Mauritanian will be released in theaters on February 12th.