Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster was an American actress, producer, and director who successfully embodied several contradictions throughout her long and storied career: a child star who grew up in public yet fiercely maintained privacy for herself and her family, a box office draw who brought sheer artistry to every role, winning two Best Actress Academy Awards in the process, and a woman who refused to play by Hollywood's standards, yet still enjoys a rewarding and lucrative career to this very day. She was born Alicia Christian Foster in Los Angeles, CA. The youngest of four siblings, Foster's parents divorced shortly before her birth, and she never quite established a bond with her father, a successful real estate broker and decorated Air Force officer from a wealthy Chicago family. Foster's mother, Brandy, worked as a publicist for film producer Arthur P. Jacobs before she became a full-time manager for Foster and her older brother, Buddy. At an early age, Foster's older siblings gave her the nickname "Jodie," and it stuck. When Foster was three, her mother brought her along to one of Buddy's auditions, for a Coppertone ad. However, when the casting agents noticed Foster, they put her in the ad instead, branding her as the Coppertone girl for life. This spot lead to more advertising work, and in 1968, at the age of six, Foster made her TV debut on an episode of "Mayberry R.F.D." (CBS, 1968-1971). It was apparent from an early age that Foster was a gifted child: she learned to read when she was three years old, and attended a prestigious French-language prep school, the Lyceé Français de Los Angeles (to this day, Foster is fluent in French, and often dubs herself in the French-language versions of her English-language films.) When not preoccupied with school, Foster continued to act in TV shows, mainly short-lived ones based on popular films, including appearances on "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (ABC, 1969-1972), "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" (ABC, 1973), and "Paper Moon" (ABC, 1974). Foster made her film debut in "Napoleon and Samantha" (1972), before going on to enjoy small roles in "Kansas City Bomber" (1972), "One Little Indian" (1973), "Tom Sawyer" (1973), and "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974). That film's director, Martin Scorsese, was impressed with how she handled the small role he gave her, and decided that he wanted to cast her in his next project, "Taxi Driver" (1976). In the film, Foster would play a child prostitute who finds an unlikely guardian angel in Robert De Niro's psychotic cabbie, Travis Bickle. Although Foster's mother encouraged her to take the part, the Los Angeles Welfare Board would not allow it, due to the film's violent content, until governor Pat Brown intervened, and she was assessed by a UCLA psychiatrist. Even then, a social worker was required to be on set during her scenes, and Foster's older sister Connie acted as a stand-in during some of the more sexually explicit scenes. "Taxi Driver" was an instant classic upon release, winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and earning Foster her first Academy Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actress. On the other end of the spectrum, Foster also co-starred that year in "Freaky Friday" (1976), a family body-swap comedy that cemented her status as a teen idol. After starring in two more acclaimed films, "Foxes" (1980) and "Carny" (1980), Foster decided to take a break from acting, and enroll full time at Yale University. Though she would later describe her time at Yale as "a wonderful time of self-discovery," it proved to be a trying period for Foster. The few films she starred in during these years, including "O'Hara's Wife" (1982), "The Hotel New Hampshire" (1984), and "The Blood of Others" (1984), were all critical and commercial flops. Even worse was the situation that unfolded when an unhinged fan, John W. Hinckley Jr, began stalking her during her freshman year. Hinckley had become obsessed with Foster after seeing "Taxi Driver," and began harassing her via letters and phone calls, even going so far as to move to New Haven to be near her. Foster did her best to ignore his harassment, but that would be impossible after the events of March 30, 1981, when Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, wounding him and three others. When authorities apprehended him, Hinckley said his motivation for the crime was to impress Foster. The deeply private star soon found herself hounded by the media, and had to be accompanied by bodyguards while on Yale's campus. After providing video testimony in Hinckley's criminal trial, Foster did all she could to put the incident behind her. To this day, she rarely comments on the ordeal publicly. After she graduated (magna cum laude, with a degree in literature), Foster had a rocky time trying to get her career back on track. Her first few post-graduation films, "Siesta" (1987), "Five Corners" (1987), and "Stealing Home" (1988) were all bombs. At first, Foster didn't have much hope for her next project, "The Accused" (1988), in which she played a waitress looking for justice after being horrifically gang raped. Producers were weary to cast her, and she only got the part after several other actors turned it down. The shoot was difficult due to the film's heavy subject matter (the scene in which Foster's character is gang raped took five days to complete), and when Foster saw the completed film, she was unhappy with her performance. However, critics disagreed, and gave her and the film rave reviews. At the 1989 Academy Awards, Foster took home the Oscar for Best Actress. For her follow-up, Foster turned in another iconic performance, playing FBI trainee Clarice Starling, a tough Southern belle haunted by a dark childhood, who gets caught up in a mental game of cat and mouse with incarcerated serial killer Dr.Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) while trying to apprehend another serial killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), in Jonathan Demme's horror classic "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991). Released in February of 1991, "Lambs" was a legitimate cultural phenomenon, earning rave reviews, doing big business at the box office for almost the entire year, and becoming one of the few films to win the Big Five at the Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Demme), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), Best Actor (Hopkins), and Foster took home her second Best Actress Oscar. However, despite all of the acclaim, the film did stir up controversy: some critics argued that "Lambs" was misogynistic due to the brutal murders committed against women by Buffalo Bill in the film, and some in the LGBT+ community condemned the film as homophobic since the villainous Buffalo Bill is portrayed as bisexual and transgender. This outcry lead to public speculation about Foster's sexuality, as certain activists told the press that the actress was a closeted lesbian. The questions about her orientation would follow Foster around for the next two and a half decades. Foster, for her part, kept her head down and continued to work. In October of 1991, she released her directorial debut, "Little Man Tate" (1991), about a child prodigy coming of age. The following year, she founded her own production company, Egg Pictures, which would go on to produce six independent features overall. Foster also continued to be a box office draw, wowing both critics and audiences in the Civil War romance "Sommersby" (1993), the Western comedy "Maverick" (1994), and the prestigious drama "Nell" (1994), in which she played a woman who grew up isolated in Appalachia and speaks her own invented language. The film earned Foster her fourth Oscar nomination. Foster's luck began to run out when her second directorial effort, "Home for the Holidays" (1995) was a critical and commercial flop, and she was forced to drop out of David Fincher's thriller "The Game" (1997) due to creative differences, but she bounced back by playing a scientist who discovers extraterrestrial life in Robert Zemeckis's sci-fi drama "Contact" (1997). As the 90s turned into the 2000s, Foster decided to slow down and focus on family. She had two sons during this time: Charles "Charlie" Foster, and Christopher "Kit" Foster. Meanwhile, her career hit another rough patch: the period drama "Anna and the King" (1999), a dour, stuffy take on the musical "The King and I," was panned by critics and mostly ignored by audiences. She disappointed fans by declinging to reprise the role of Clarice Starling in "Hannibal" (2001), reportedly objecting to the film's violent content. She instead focused on her next directorial effort, "Flora Plum," a drama set around a 1930s circus that was set to star Claire Danes and Russell Crowe. Unfortunately, Crowe was injured while performing a trapeze stunt on set, and the film was shut down shortly afterwards. However, Foster found a way to bounce back: she reinvented herself as a star of pulse-pounding, crowd-pleasing thrillers. She reunited with David Fincher for "Panic Room" (2003), playing a woman who hides in a high tech panic room with her daughter during a home invasion that goes awry, subbing in at the last minute when original star Nicole Kidman had to leave the film following an injury on set. The film was a box office hit, and soon Foster was on a roll: after a quick detour spent putting her French to use in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's period romance "A Very Long Engagement" (2004), over the next few years she appeared in a number of like-minded thrillers, including "Flightplan" (2005), playing a woman whose daughter mysteriously vanishes during an overnight flight, Spike Lee's "Inside Man" (2006), a bank heist caper set on Wall Street, and "The Brave One" (2007), in which Foster becomes a vigilante after the murder of her fiancé. That same year, during a speech at The Hollywood Reporter's "Women in Entertainment" breakfast, Foster publicly acknowledged her relationship with Cydney Bernard for the first time. The pair had met and began dating on the set of "Sommersby" in 1993. They split after 15 years together the next year. Foster would also make some conflicting allusions to her sexual orientation in 2011, during her Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech at the 70th Golden Globes, while never actually using the words "lesbian" or "gay." Galvanized by the success of her run of thrillers, Foster decided to return to directing, this time taking on the bizarre black comedy "The Beaver." The tale of a depressed suburban dad (Mel Gibson) who finds a new lease on life when he begins talking through the titular hand puppet, the concept of the film, and the handling of the material, rubbed some people the wrong way, and that was before tapes of Gibson making anti-semitic, racist, and sexist comments surfaced. Though Foster stood by her star and close friend, "The Beaver" was received with confusion by critics and totally ignored by audiences. Following that fiasco, and the failure of her next film, the high concept sci-fi drama "Elysium" (2013), Foster decided to focus on directing television for the first time. She would spend the next few years helming episodes of such programs as "Orange Is the New Black" (Netflix, 2013-19), "House of Cards" (Netflix, 2013-19), and "Black Mirror" (Channel 4/Netflix, 2011-). In 2014, Foster got married to actress and photographer Alexandra Hedison. Two years later, her fourth feature film, the financial world thriller "Money Monster" (2016), starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, was released. Foster was next seen playing Jean "The Nurse" Thomas in the futuristic action thriller "Hotel Artemis" (2018).