Jodie Foster: “What counted was the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi”

The actress won a Golden Globe for her role in Named Guilty.

Update July 16, 2021: Postponed due to the health crisis, Designated Guilty is finally visible in French theaters, since July 14. A must-see thriller that earned Tahar Rahim a Golden Globe nomination, where her partner Jodie Foster was named Best Supporting Actress. She told us a few months ago that she herself pushed for the main role of the film to return to the character of Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

Article from March 1, 2021: Almost 30 years after its award for Thesilenceofthelambs, Jodie Foster won her third Golden Globe, this time in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in Designated Guilty (The Mauritanian in original version). A deserved trophy, snatched in the face of fierce competition (Olivia Colman, Glenn Glose, Amanda Seyfried …) and which rewards the career choices of the director and actress, who has only accepted for a few years the projects that really hold her to heart.

As Jodie Foster explained to us in the February issue of Première (always available on our online store), if she said yes to Kevin Macdonald’s film, it’s for the “fascinating personality“from lawyer Nancy Hollander, whom she plays in the film, but also for the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim, also nominated for the Golden Globes), a Mauritanian writer who was detained for 14 years at Guantanamo.

In this excerpt from the interview, she tells us in particular that the character of Nancy should initially have more importance, but that she personally insisted that it is indeed that of Mohamedou that is at the center of the story.

Jodie Foster: why she is becoming rarer as an actress

FIRST: This is your first time playing a real person. Does it change anything in your work as an actress?

The responsibility that this implies probably explains why I had never done it before. As an actress, I love nothing more than inventing, changing things from what is written in the script so that my character serves the story as well as possible. However, when we play someone who exists, we do not have the right. Finally, this is not quite true here because Nancy is not a personality known to the general public, I modified her character a little to make it useful to the story. In life, she is a thousand miles from the nastiness and rudeness that I play but I wanted it so that on the screen we can see how she evolves in contact with Mohamedou.

How did she react?

She immediately agreed. But that’s not the only change I asked for. In the initial scenario, Nancy took up more space. And I really insisted that her presence be reduced and that, like all the other characters, she be at the service of Mohamedou and his message. It was better for the project. It is the first great American film with an Arab face in the headliner when, with us, these characters are often invisible or caricatured.

With Designated guilty, the link you have with French cinema continues thanks to your collaboration with Tahar Rahim …

When I knew that Tahar was going to play Mohamedou, I literally jumped for joy: A Prophet is a major film. On set, Shailene [Woodley] and I savored every moment the honor of being in the same room as Tahar during his scenes. This is what pleases me the most in this profession of actor: to witness and support such performances.

Interview by Thierry Chèze

Leave a Reply