Jodie Foster Says Her Stalker Who Shot Reagan Kept Her From Doing Theater Ever Again: ‘I’ve Never Admitted That’

Jodie Foster admitted she was “not naturally an actor” and that the traumatic experience of a stalker coming to see her on stage, then shooting President Ronald Reagan to get her attention, is the reason she stopped performing live at 18. In 1981, John Hinckley Jr. made the assassination attempt while Foster was still a college student. “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,” she told Jodie Comer in a conversation for Interview Magazine.

“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,” Foster explained.

“And a few people around him, and it was a huge moment,” she continued. “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.”

Following the shooting, Foster added, she was assigned bodyguards and was taken to a safe house — but somehow she thought she still needed to finish out the second week of the play. “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, ‘F–k you, motherf–ker!'”

“I just decided that I was going to use this guy,” she 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.”

The two also spoke about Comer’s time onstage in Broadway show “Prima Facie,” which closed on July 2, 2023. Comer told Foster the experience was “a sheer terror” and recounted that director Justin Martin taught her to “act on the line.”

“I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘You’re given the line and then you are evoking your emotion,’ because it’s true,” she said. “You get used to being on a set and you’re like, ‘OK, the camera is so close, or they’re on a track. There’s a moment there, a breath here.'”

“Whereas with the play, it was just the pace and the musicality of it, and I was doing a lot of dramatic pauses, and Justin was like, ‘Act on the line,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, act on the line. OK.’ It was a lightbulb moment,” she added.

Hinckley shot Reagan in Washington D.C. on March 30, 1981, and also wounded police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy,and White House Press Secretary James Brady, who later died of his injuries. Hinckley was ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity and was institutionalized for three decades.

During his trial, Hinckley admitted he became fixated on Foster after he saw the 1976 movie “Taxi Driver.” He temporarily moved to Connecticut after Foster went to college at Yale and tried getting Foster’s attention by writing her poems and letters. When that failed, he hatched the plot to assassinate the president, planning to become as famous as she was.

In 1980, Hinckley first followed then-President Jimmy Carter from state to state until he was arrested in Nashville with three unloaded guns in his luggage. He spent several months in a mental health facility before traveling to D.C. the following year with his sights set on Reagan.

On March 30, 1981, Hinckley wrote to Foster, “Over the past seven months I’ve left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself. … The reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you.”

Following his trial, Hinckley said the shooting was “the greatest love offering in the history of the world.” He was released from a psychiatric facility in 2016. His obsession was also dramatized in the Stephen Sondheim musical “Assassins.”

You can read the full interview between Jodie Foster and Jodie Comer in Interview Magazine.

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