Following her breakout role in Steel Magnolias in 1989, Julia Roberts has received three Golden Globes (from eight nominations), and one Oscar (from four nominations) for her performance in Erin Brockovich in 2000. A frequent collaborator with George Clooney (the Oceans film series; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), Money Monster marks her first pairing with Jodie Foster and looks set to remind audiences, after a fairly fallow period, that the pretty woman has still more than got it.
Directed by Foster, the real-time high stakes thriller, which just played at the Cannes Film Festival to some acclaim, features Roberts and co-star Clooney as TV producer Patty Fenn and financial TV host Lee Gates – two colleagues who get more than they bargain for when irate investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) forcefully takes over their studio, demanding answers and restitution when a market anomaly destroys his life savings. During a tense standoff broadcast live to millions of viewers, Fenn and Gates must unravel the high-tech conspiracy lurking behind Budwell’s undoing.
How did your Money Monster role come about?
George [Clooney] reached out to me about it and I thought it sounded intriguing. And of course there was the element of Jodie Foster… I told him, of course, send it to me – I’d love to read the script. And I have to say, I do read a lot of them. But this was one of those things that I just sat down and read in one fell swoop; it was just so terrific. I was so excited about it.
What was it about your character, Patty Fenn, which ultimately caught your attention?
It was the stuff that will probably go unnoticed, not so much the foreground of the character but her background. I just thought of her as very much a New Yorker, third-generation in television – you know, that her dad was probably in television, her grandfather was probably in television. And that this is her world – that control room.
What was your first meeting with Jodie Foster like? I was surprised to learn that you two had never actually worked together before.
As many times as we’ve crossed paths over the years, I think I’ve actually only ever spoken to her, ever so briefly, a couple of times, ever.
If I was a fly on the wall for that first Money Monster meeting, what would I have seen?
Well, we were on the phone [laughs]… But she was so funny and entertaining. She was so fired up about the project and it was really infectious. She’s such a consummate actor that to get her incredible intellect as a director intertwined with the deliciousness of her acting, what more could anybody ask for?
What was it like when you were working with her on set with her?
Everything I could have hoped for, really. It’s funny, too, because she’s incredibly encouraging, almost to the point where I was like, “Come on, tear it apart! Tear my performance apart!” You know, “Fix it for me! Jodie-Foster it!” And she was like, “No, you’ve got it. You’re exactly right.” And I’m thinking, “I just want to be Jodie Foster.” [Laughs]
What was it like working with George Clooney again?
It’s my great fortune to have such talented friends. I just think we’re very much alike in our approach to work. We both really enjoy what we do and we put a lot of effort and joy into it. These days it’s just about fine-tuning.
And how about Jack O’Connell?
Jack is a great actor. I’m always knocked out by what he brings to these performances. He’s very invested. He takes it all very seriously. It’s a big role that he’s doing and he’s incredible doing it.
Does working with someone like Jodie inspire you to direct something yourself?
(Laughs)… No! It in fact inspires me to stay away from directing even more. It just makes me realise how totally unqualified I am for that job…
You recently starred in The Normal Heart for HBO. Do you have any desire to do a series?
Great movies are so few and far between that… I don’t know, it’s just a medium that I love and would love to explore more. But I think, if anything, I would want to go back to theatre. That I would love... I mean there’s nothing sitting on my desk that I’m being coy about. But I would love it.
Money Monster is out in cinemas across Dubai from Thursday May 26.
One to watch
Matt Fortune profiles the other star in Money Monster, Jack O’Connell
It would be disingenuous to call this Jack O’Connell’s big break, but it’s certainly the most pre-release hype the young Brit has experienced before.
Known at home for his gritty portrayals of tortured young men, from a feral and utterly unpleasant party animal in TV series Skins, to Manchester United’s Bobby Charlton coping with the Munich air disaster, as well as a soldier, twice – once caught behind enemy lines and the other a POW in Japan – the 25-year-old now stands on the cusp of the mainstream after again looking at home as a hard-knocked, downbeat and, as a result, aggressive protagonist.
In his nascent career, he can already count Michael Fassbender (Eden Lake), Michael Caine (Harry Brown) and Tim Roth (The Liability) as co-stars, as well as being directed by Angelina Jolie in Unbroken, and now by Jodie Foster. Despite that, it is for O’Connell one of the first times the film hasn’t been built around him and his character.
“It made a nice change to not feel like the film was being carried by what I was doing,” he tells Time Out. “It gave me freedom, I could relax a little more. Don’t get me wrong, I love leading movies – as I do in the theatre – and I hope to do it more and more, but with a cast like this, it was nice to be a complement to what they were doing.”