I don’t consider Los Angeles a city. I consider it a series of small towns that come together. You have all the things you need from a big city. If you need to go to a 14-plex or you need to buy kimchi or you need a weird book on something no one else has ever heard of, you can do it here. You have to look, but you can do it. But it doesn’t feel like a city at all.
I grew up just across Highland Avenue from the Hollywood Bowl. My mom and we four kids lived right beneath that cross off Cahuenga Boulevard. We were sandwiched between the hill and the freeway. We didn’t go to the Bowl a lot, but we would hang outside my mom’s bathroom window and listen to it, because the sound bounced off the hills. You could hear perfectly.
My mom was kind of a frustrated city planner. That’s what she was fascinated by. She’d buy all these books about architecture. She was a very visual person. When we were little, none of us liked the same food. We were so difficult that my mom stopped wanting to cook. So she would take us to various fast-food places. We’d go to Der Wienerschnitzel, and whoever wanted a hot dog would have that. Then we’d go to this weird place outside the Farmers Market that sold cooked chicken gizzards and livers, and my sister liked that. Then we’d go to Taco Bell. Then we’d all have our food in the car—maybe we’d go and get ice cream—and then my mom would take us up and down all the streets in Hancock Park. She would analyze each house: “That column doesn’t belong there because you can see that the original house was meant to be here.” Or, “That’s a Doric column.” She would talk about each house and what she liked and what was good and what was bad: “This is Tudor, this is colonial, this is Spanish.”
I am the queen of what things used to be. Where the Beverly Center is, was Ponyland. And Tail o’ the Pup, the giant hot dog house, was there, too. You know where Pan Pacific Park is? There used to be a great drive-in. My mom would take us there, and she’d make us all go in the trunk. She’d take maybe one of the kids in the front and say, “Just one child!” And then we’d all tumble out of the trunk. We thought that was so fun. One of my really early memories is going there to see Doctor Zhivago. We brought our sleeping bags, and my mom had us put them on the roof of the station wagon, up on the luggage racks. After we got bored with buying popcorn, we lay on the roof. She watched the movie, and we’d fall asleep. That’s one of my earliest memories: opening my eyes and seeing frozen tundra, then closing my eyes and going back to sleep, then opening my eyes again—more Omar Sharif! » Foster, 48, is a two-time Academy Award winner.
Photograph courtesy Flickr/Victoria Riverola