…The Twenties for me were about learning to trust my instincts above all else. Being inside the dance without continual awareness of the choreography. That’s the most essential quality you can have as an actor and a director. The ability to dive headfirst into an unknown body of water and commit to the current with a lot of faith, no hesitation, and a big, fat smile on your face.
Now somewhere along the way I started looking over my shoulder and noticing a pattern and my work starting to take a shape. It wasn’t just about being hungry for more, it wasn’t about being richer or having whiter teeth than the guy before. It was about completing a recognizable spiritual and psychological agenda. So yes, I recognized the method to my madness. For example, I was compelled to play characters who had been overlooked, misunderstood, marginalized, victimized, or labeled as freaks. But they survive in the end.
I wanted people to recognize the humanity of these characters and decide for themselves, to redeem them, and in turn simply get better because of that self acknowledgment and self-acceptance. Now that’s perhaps very foolish and naive — so what? that’s why they call it the movies.
My Yale experience has given me the luxury of choice. I’ve chosen to make my life, my work, my love, my characters stand for something, however small and insignificant that legacy may be. And each one of you will have your own way, your own battles, your own process. But ultimately it’s up to you alone to find the way that’s appropriate for you. No one can tell you what that is because no one else has ever been there before. You find your way home again.
My way has brought me toward a narrowing focus at the beginning of my thirties. I want to change the system from within the system. And that means focusing and specializing. I can’t fight every monster, every ogre anymore. I’ve got to be precise. So you know I don’t read three newspapers a day. I don’t know a lot about music anymore or important current events that are shaping our nation. I don’t know very much about some very basic things. But if you start talking about weird French films from the seventies or the latest studio merger, I’m liable to go off and get all sweaty and indignant and passionate. Telling stories — that’s my Olympic event. That’s the revolution I choose to fight in. And you’re no good to the revolution if you’re dead or unprepared.
So what exactly did I want to pass o n to you? What personal agenda do I bring to this sort of throwing of the caps and smoking of the pipe and donning of the gown? I want you to continue living. Continue searching harder, deeper, faster, stronger, and you’ll be called upon to use all that you’ve amassed in the process. With that wealth of self-knowledge, you keep your eyes open and your hearts surface. What moves you, what repels you, and what compels you. Become human first and identify what exactly that is later.
Let how you live your life stand for something, no matter how small and incidental it may seem. Because it’s not good enough to put change in the meter without questioning what the meter’s doing there in the first place. It’s not good enough to let life pass you by in the name of some greater glory. This is it. This is all you get. So love this life, curse this life and claim this life for your very own. Do it for yourself, do it for the Fat Lady hiding in the ivy, smiling and waving and laughing at the absurdity of all this. She’ll be dancing with you tonight, jiggling her body this way and that to some funky hip-hop graduation haze. She’ll go on following you year after year, sitting in the back rows, beaming proudly, loving you unconditionally, and all that she asks is that you choose the becoming. And you do that alone, but in her gaze.
Now you have fun. Breathe deeply and kick ass in the process.
– Jody Foster, Speaking at the Yale University graduation on May 23, 1993