Jodie Foster on her role in The Mauritanian: My version of Nancy is a lot meaner

Jodie Foster describes her latest character on the big screen as an “amazing ball of contradictions”. She is talking about her role in The Mauritanian, which sees her playing tenacious real-life lawyer Nancy Hollander. Directed by Scottish film-maker Kevin Macdonald, the movie has been blazing a trail through awards season, with Foster having already won the best supporting actress prize at the Golden Globes. It’s also in the running for gongs at the forthcoming Bafta film awards, with nominations in the best film category and star Tahar Rahim nominated in the leading actor category.

Video Transcript

- You want to represent the head recruiter for 9/11?

- Mohamedou Ould Salahi, the Mauritanian, held in Guantanamo. He recruited the guys who flew your friend's plane into the South Tower.

- He put those men on my husband's plane?

- I'm going to make him pay.

- In the event the detainee lunges for you, push back away from the table. We'll get in there as quick as we can.

JODIE FOSTER: She's this amazing ball of contradictions. She wears bright red lipstick and bright red nails, and likes black leather, and race cars-- and yet she's this very sober, measured, calm presence with a steeliness to her, always suspicious, always looking around, noticing. That being said, I did take some license because I think my Nancy is a lot meaner than her Nancy. She's a lovely person. My Nancy is not so lovely, especially in the beginning. I really wanted to show that she changed over time and that Mohamedou as a person-- this extraordinary person that she was faced with-- that in ways allowed her to become more vulnerable and to soften up so that she could care for him.

- My client, he's not a suspect. He's a witness.

- Mr. Salahi, would you please raise your right hand and repeat after me?

JODIE FOSTER: It was an instant yes, I think, because I read it, couldn't stop reading it, was fascinated, and really wanted to be a part of telling Mohamedou's story. But it was a very long script, and it went off in a lot of different directions. So there was some work that needed to be done just to shape it and focus it. And I think that's really a testament to Kevin Macdonald-- the director-- that he was able to really identify the important part of the story and to keep moving in that direction. The important part was really Mohamedou's story.

- All my time here, I have been told you are guilty-- not for something that I have done, but because of suspicions and associations. I am innocent.

- He has been interrogated. He has been held against his will for six years without a single charge being laid against him.