Jodie Foster Hasn’t Returned to Stage Acting Since Enduring a ‘Traumatic’ Theater Experience When She Was 18

There is a reason why Jodie Foster has never been on Broadway.

The actress told Interview magazine during a discussion with “The Bikeriders” star Jodie Comer that she has steered clear of theater acting after enduring a “traumatic” experience when she was 18.

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Foster, who catapulted to fame after her turn as a child prostitute in “Taxi Driver,” was at the center of a presidential assassination attempt after would-be-murderer John Hinckley publicly dedicated his act of violence to her. The assassination attempt took place during Foster’s one and only theater acting experience. Later, an audience member brought a gun into the theater during her play, and Foster has opted to never return to the stage.

“I’m finally able to admit that the one bit of theater I did when I was in college, there was so much trauma involved in it — well, just quickly, the play happened in two weekends, and I did the first weekend, and in between the first weekend and the second weekend, John Hinckley shot the president, and a few people around him, and it was a huge moment,” Foster said. “It was a long time ago. You probably don’t even know, but he shot him in order to impress me, and he had written letters to me, so it was a big moment in my life. The world fell apart, there were Secret Service people everywhere, I had bodyguards, and I had to be taken to a safe house, and I was in the middle of these two weekends of this play, and I had the dumb idea of ‘the show must go on.’ So I was like, ‘I have to do that second weekend.'”

Foster added that she was newly 18 years old and encountered a criminal who was on the run and decided to watch her performance onstage.

“I’d just turned 18. There were people everywhere, cameras everywhere, and there was a guy in the front row, and I had noticed that it was the second night that he’d been there, and I decided to, the whole play, yell, ‘Fuck you, motherfucker!’ I just decided that I was going to use this guy,” Foster said. “And then the next day, it was revealed that this particular guy had a gun, and he had brought it to the performance, and then he was on the run, and I was in a class, and the bodyguard guy came and threw me onto the ground while I was in the class, which was really embarrassing, because there were only 10 people there.”

She continued, “It was a traumatic moment, and I’ve never admitted that maybe that has something to do with how I never wanted to do a play again.”

Foster told fellow actress Comer during the interview that unlike Comer, she would be “terrified” to star in a theater production now.

“I’ve never really done theater. I did plays in college and high school. I was scared that there was some mysterious thing that I didn’t understand,” Foster said. “And also, because I’d had so much experience in front of the camera, there was something about theater that felt insufficient, where I was like, ‘You mean the audience can look wherever they want?'”

Upon reflecting further, Foster could pinpoint that her own experience onstage decades ago is why she has not returned to the stage.

“It was all part of that. I talked myself into loving theater and going to theater, but somehow feeling like I couldn’t make that commitment to ever do it again,” Foster said, while still keeping the stage door open to an extent. “I’ll be the first 80-year-old person to go onstage with my walker, perhaps.”

Read Foster’s essay for IndieWire about working with her “True Detective: Night Country” creator Issa López.

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