Director Jodie Foster’s ‘Money Monster’ reveals financial wrongs

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Hard to believe, but filmmaker and two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster just got a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on Wednesday. | Invision / AP photo

Jodie Foster knows the challenges of directing movies. The two-time Oscar winner (for acting) has now directed four features, plus several TV episodes.

But the filmmaker said directing “Money Monster” (opening May 13) “had us facing so many technical challenges. You can only imagine how difficult it was to film in a TV control room where the monitors and consoles are bolted to the floor. We were literally stuck filming in a room where you can’t move the furniture.”

“Money Monster” stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, an over-the-top, flashy, hugely popular television financial network star. Julia Roberts is Clooney’s longtime producer and muse — and the only person who can rein in Gates’ uber-ego.

The movie takes on a thriller aspect as a working-class guy — played by Jack O’Connell (“Unbroken”) — breaks in to the network’s studio during a live broadcast. Armed with a gun, O’Connell’s Kyle character straps what he claims is a bomb vest to Gates and insists the show continue its live broadcast.

He’s angry because he lost an inheritance, which he blames on following Gates’ advice to invest in a stock that crashed.

Foster said “Money Monster” is “certainly an action film and a thriller and captures a story that is, in some sense, ripped from the headlines. It’s about financial misdeeds, but it also is filled with lots of comedy and satire.

“There’s the backdrop of the financial world, the backdrop of television entertainment and news — and that weird intersection of the two. There’s also the emphasis on the technology of today’s world, where we are now constantly in immediate contact and communication. Today’s world is fast, fast, fast. Some of that is great for humanity, and some of it is terrible for humanity.”

Foster said “Money Monster” has an intimate theme at its core.

“This is still basically about two guys — two guys in a room, George Clooney’s character and Jack O’Connell’s character — sharing their shames and admitting their failures, all of it broadcast for the entire world to see.

“This is, in a sense, a tiny theater piece about those two guys and the woman who is producing their hoped-for ultimate survival. That dynamic is shown and broadcast for the whole world to suck on like vampires!”

George Clooney and Julia Roberts share a laugh with director Jodie Foster on the set of “Money Monster.” | TriStar Pictures

George Clooney and Julia Roberts share a laugh with director Jodie Foster on the set of “Money Monster.” | TriStar Pictures

And the intersection of entertainment with the world of financial news reporting?

“Financial entertainment — how did that ever happen?” Foster said. “I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised because it’s a reflection of our society and a reflection of our financial world.

“Today, so much of what’s happening is gambling. It’s gaming. It’s all about this idea of abstract value. It’s about people who have great wealth and equate that with true meaning. It’s about people who think they will be more meaningful if they can take $10 and turn it into $30, sometimes in seconds. Though that extra $20 means nothing to them — it’s not going to change their life — they psychologically think it’s the end of their life if they lose that $20.

“Gates is such a complicated character to play. He starts out as a jerk — somebody who is completely self-absorbed. He’s totally unconscious of how he’s perceived. He’s in love with his own persona. He’s kind of lost but doesn’t know it.

“Then, he shows his mortality side. We see him become bitter, until by the end of the movie he does remember who he is — and he is shepherded into that realization by a powerful woman who has been taking care of everything.”

Foster thinks Clooney tackled the role in part because of a family connection. His father, Nick Clooney, was long a newsman and broadcaster in Cincinnati. “Responsible journalism is important to George,” she said.

Foster said digital technology is “something we embrace, but it has changed our culture. Yes, the film focuses to a certain degree on the blurring of entertainment and news. But it also shows the bad guy hides behind technology to pull off the big con. It’s all about these supposedly brilliant people telling everybody it’s ‘too complicated’ to understand.

“And that’s how they then pull off their sleight-of-hand, using technology to take advantage of people.

“But I hope our message is that people who don’t have money or power can come together and right wrongs.”

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