Jodie Foster, Patron Saint of Child Actors Who Grew Up and Didn’t Fuck Up Their Lives, worked with actress and tabloid-star Kristen Stewart eleven years ago in David Fincher’s claustrophobic thriller Panic Room. It was the bond the two stars shared while stuck in a closet (um, pun not intended) that inspired Foster to speak out about the public ridicule of Stewart following the news that she cheated on boyfriend and co-star Robert Pattinson.
In a terrific op-ed on The Daily Beast, Foster writes a very heartfelt piece about what it’s like to grow up in front of the cameras, and how, if she could do things differently, she would not have become an actor at all. In a particularly poignant anecdote, Foster recollects a conversation with Stewart’s mother on the set of Panic Room:
She turned 11 during our shoot and on her birthday I organized a mariachi band to serenade her at the taco bar while she blew out her candles. She begrudgingly danced around a sombrero with me but soon rushed off to a basketball game with the grip and electric departments. Her mother and I watched her jump around after the ball, hooting with every team basket. “She doesn’t want to be an actor when she grows up, does she?” I asked. Her mom sighed. “Yes … unfortunately.” We both smiled and shrugged with an ambivalence born from experience. “Can’t you talk her out of it?” I offered. “Oh, I’ve tried. She loves it. She just loves it.” More sighs. We watched her run around the court for a while, both of us silent, each thinking our own thoughts. I was pregnant at the time and found myself daydreaming of the child I might have soon. Would she be just like Kristen? All that beautiful talent and fearlessness … would she jump and dunk and make me so proud?
She goes on to defend Stewart, not for her behavior (which, despite happening in front of a paparazzo’s camera, was indeed part of her private life), but of the way she has handled the attention:
Cut to: Today … A beautiful young woman strides down the sidewalk alone, head down, hands drawn into fists. She’s walking fast, darting around huge men with black cameras thrusting at her mouth and chest. “Kristen, how do you feel?” “Smile Kris!” “Hey, hey, did you get her?” “I got her. I got her!” The young woman doesn’t cry. Fuck no. She doesn’t look up. She’s learned. She keeps her head down, her shades on, fists in her pockets. Don’t speak. Don’t look. Don’t cry.
My mother had a saying that she doled out after every small injustice, every heartbreak, every moment of abject suffering. “This too shall pass.” God, I hated that phrase. It always seemed so banal and out of touch, like she was telling me my pain was irrelevant. Now it just seems quaint, but oddly true … Eventually this all passes. The public horrors of today eventually blow away. And, yes, you are changed by the awful wake of reckoning they leave behind. You trust less. You calculate your steps. You survive. Hopefully in the process you don’t lose your ability to throw your arms in the air again and spin in wild abandon. That is the ultimate F.U. and—finally—the most beautiful survival tool of all. Don’t let them take that away from you.
It’s a pretty powerful message from a strong, accomplished woman who has learned how to keep distance between her personal and professional lives.