Jodie Foster is a celebrity that wants to lead a private life. She's been a star since she was three. She unwittingly served as the source of a presidential assassination attempt. So, can you hardly blame her? It may have taken her a while for her to embrace who she is publicly. But, she came out and did it all her own way. On this day of Pride Month there's no better person to highlight than Jodie Foster.
How You Know Her
Ever prolific, Jodie Foster is one of those actresses that generations keep discovering. She started out as a child star appearing on various shows and Disney films throughout the 60s. In the '70s, she redefined herself as a teen star with her breakout role as Iris in Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver." For this, Foster landed her first Oscar nomination. In the 80's she became an Oscar winner in Jonathan Kaplan's still-timely drama "The Accused." In the '90s she won the golden statuette again as FBI Agent Clarice Starling in "The Silence of the Lambs."
Other notable turns include the title role in "Nell" (for which she earned another Oscar nod). In 1997, she took to the stars in "Contact" as E.T. investigator Eleanor Arroway. Foster fell in love with the King of Siam in "Anna and the King," and fought off home burglars in "Panic Room." She led a space station for the super-rich in "Elysium," and defended a Guantanamo detainee in "The Mauritanian."
Foster became an equally prolific director, leading various kinds of projects. She started directing in the '90s with the award-winning "Little Man Tate." Most recently, she helmed the finance thriller "Money Monster," starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Foster has also lent her directing duties to some of TV's top dramas. This includes Netflix's "House of Cards," and "Orange Is the New Black." Most recently, she directed the "Arkangel" episode of "Black Mirror" and the final episode of Amazon's "Tales from the Loop."
Her Life So Far
Born Alicia Christian Foster ("Jodie" is a family nickname), Jodie Foster began her professional career as a child model at age three. In the 1960s, she came on the scene as a precocious child star. Along with acting in commercials, her first TV appearance was on the sitcom "Mayberry R.F.D." Her brother Buddy Foster was a regular cast member.
Throughout the '60s Foster broke out in a handful of Disney films. She also appeared on the TV versions of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," and "Paper Moon." See? Turning popular movies into TV shows is not anything new.
In the 1970s, as she entered her teens, she redefined herself beyond kid roles. One of her last roles as a "child" was in Martin Scorsese's first big Hollywood picture, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More." Scorsese would keep Foster in mind two years later as he began casting his more darkly themed follow-up "Taxi Driver."
Foster's role as Iris in "Taxi Driver" was nothing short of life-changing. On the one hand, it let her grow as an actress, opened the door to more serious roles, and led to her first Oscar nomination. On the other hand, the part inspired a real presidential assassination attempt. Foster was bewildered over her indirect role in the shooting. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr., was a stalker trying to get her attention.
1976 ended up being a huge year for Foster. Not only did she receive critical acclaim for "Taxi Driver," but she also turned in more daring roles. This included the musical comedy "Bugsy Malone," the indie drama "Echoes of Summer," and the horror/thriller "The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane." Also that year she starred in Disney's original "Freaky Friday," and became the youngest person to host "Saturday Night Live." Drew Barrymore later took that crown in 1982.
Foster continued acting through the '80s. But no role would be more daring for her than that of Sarah Tobias in "The Accused." In the film, Foster's Tobias is brutally raped in a bar as onlookers cheer. In spite of Tobias's own checkered past, she fights a system that seems built to protect the wrong people. "The Accused" was bold in 1988, but the film rings even more true today. Foster won her first Academy Award for her performance. And her performance continues to rank among one of the great screen performances of all time.
Foster won the Academy Award a second time in 1991 for "The Silence of the Lambs." Her role as FBI agent Clarice Starling is perhaps her most well-known. Then, in 1994, Foster received her second Academy Award. This was for her stunning performance as the title character in Michael Apted's "Nell."
Throughout the '90s Foster continued to appear in commercially successful projects. This included the Western comedy "Maverick," and the sci-fi drama "Contact." In the '90s, she also started directing. The same year she starred in "Silence of the Lambs," Foster made her directorial debut with the family drama "Little Man Tate." She returned to the directing chair again with the Thanksgiving dramedy "Home for the Holidays."
In the 2000s, Foster faced some career hardships. Even so, she turned in a riveting performance in David Fincher's "Panic Room." Fincher's thriller stands as Foster's highest-grossing movie to date.
In 2011, Foster went behind the camera once again, with the indie comedy-drama "The Beaver." The film starred her "Maverick" co-star Mel Gibson. As a result, the film succumbed to all the public controversy surrounding Gibson at the time. Foster continued to direct throughout the 2010s. This included the aforementioned "Money Monster" and many TV projects.
In 2013, Foster received the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes. It was in this speech where she approached the subject of her sexuality. She had already come out in 2007 during another award speech in which she thanked her then-partner, Cydney Bernard. This speech was different. The very private Foster felt the need to speak out again. She did it in her own way, but critics assailed her for not being direct. Foster was trying to make a point about the scrutiny of public figures. Yet, for a big star like herself, coming out and saying it makes an even more impactful statement. This past year, Foster turned it all around in a very loving moment with her wife, when she received -- coincidentally, enough -- a Golden Globe.
Jodie Foster keeps her life private, but she has contributed to LGBTQ advocacy. In 1994 she privately donated to the short film "Trevor." The film is about a teen who attempts suicide after realizing he is gay. "Trevor" went on to win the Academy Award that year for Live Action Short Subject. The filmmakers later founded the Trevor Project. In 2007, Foster's donation helped the Trevor Project launch a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline.
In film critic Gene Siskel's otherwise negative review of "Echoes of Summer," he proclaimed that Foster is the film's saving grace. For Siskel, Foster was not just "a good child actress; she's just a good actress." The fact that Foster was able to break through the stigma of being a child star and have such a long career, is a testament to her strength and success.
Interesting side fact: On her dad's side, Foster can trace her roots all the way back to the Mayflower. Her father's distant relative is John Alden, who was one of the ship's crew members. Alden became an active public servant in Plymouth Colony, and upon his death in 1687, he was the last surviving signer of the Mayflower Compact.
The Movie to See
Considering Jodie Foster's long acting legacy, it's hard to pick one movie. But, since we gotta pick just one, we'll go with her most recent award-winning turn in the legal drama "The Mauritanian."
In a flooded awards season that was anything but usual, it was easy to overlook Foster's performance in "The Mauritanian." Strong and capable, Foster's Nancy Hollander is a woman that believes in justice. She takes the case, not because she believes Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) is innocent or guilty. She takes the case because the men detained in Guantanamo Bay, whether criminals or not, deserve to have a fair trial.
The performances of Foster and Rahim make this worth a watch alone. And it comes as no surprise that Foster ended up winning the Golden Globe for her performance. Foster's win, in pajamas, pup, and all, was one of the highlights of the award broadcast. Foster kissing her wife Alexandra Hedison became a "milestone" moment. Not only for her coming full circle since coming out but for Hollywood, itself.
What's Up Next
Jodie Foster does not appear to have any projects on the calendar as of yet. But, this would be a good time to revisit her back catalog. Foster's filmography is not short on good films to watch. We've already highlighted a few above.
February 12, 2021
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.