Interviews


Jodie Foster


Occupation: Actress, Director, Producer
Date of Birth: November 19, 1962
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, Calif., USA
Sign: Sun in Scorpio, Moon in Virgo
Relations: Father: Lucian (real-estate agent); mother: Evelyn "Brandy" (publicist); brother: Buddy (child actor, construction worker, author); sisters: Lucinda, Constance; son: Charles Foster
Education: Yale University; graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in literature

 

LOTS of toddlers are photogenic, but how many of them are so remarkably darling that they get featured in a national TV ad campaign? Young Jodie Foster had such a unique rapport with the camera, and as a pig-tailed tyke of three, she appeared in her first commercial, a widely circulated pitch for Coppertone suntan lotion. One TV advertisement does not an actress make, but by the time Foster had reached the age of eight, her repertoire had expanded from one commercial to forty, and there was little doubt that the Coppertone tot was no mere cutie pie--she was a genuine prodigy. Both television series and feature films were old hat for Foster by the time she won her first Oscar nomination, at age fourteen, for her performance as a twelve-year-old prostitute in Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese's seminal mean-streets drama. Childhood celebrity can be emotionally scarring under the best possible circumstances, but Foster suffered through one of the most bizarre episodes of fan worship in Hollywood history, when would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley, Jr., shot Ronald Reagan in 1981, then claimed that he had done it to impress the young actress, who was in her freshman year at Yale at the time of the incident. Somehow, in spite of all the madness, Jodie Foster grew up to be a thoroughly likeable, emotionally stable adult, not to mention one of Hollywood's most respected actresses.

Jodie's father hit the road while she, the youngest of his four children, was still in the womb, leaving his wife Evelyn to raise the brood on her own. Everyone has embarrassing baby pictures taken of them, but Foster suffered the indignity of going bare-bottomed before the eyes of an entire nation after Coppertone ad executives spotted her at one of her brother Buddy's auditions and showcased her--sans clothing--in one of their commercials. Jodie's fortuitous sunscreen stumping prompted Evelyn to quit her job as a Hollywood publicist to manage the acting careers of her children full-time. At the age of six, Foster spoke her first line of dialogue--"I'm the good fairy"--in an episode of Mayberry R.F.D., a sitcom on which Buddy appeared regularly. Buddy's career petered out not long thereafter, but Foster went on to win a recurring role on the short-lived series The Courtship of Eddie's Father; soon, her acting jobs were supporting the entire family. At ten, Foster made the leap from the small to the big screen for the Disney flick Napoleon and Samantha (1972), sharing top billing with fellow cute-as-a-button kiddie star Johnny Whitaker. Producers at United Artists liked the pairing so much that they cast Foster and Whitaker as Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer in Tom Sawyer the following year. By the time she delivered her knockout performance in Taxi Driver, Foster had five feature-film roles under her belt.

Moving around became a way of life for Foster, who spent a great deal of her teenage years living in hotels and working on movie sets; she even called Paris home for a year. She attended the exclusive Le LycTe Frantais prep school in Los Angeles, graduating as class valedictorian (she delivered her valedictory speech in flawless French), and switched coasts in 1980 to attend Yale University. During her high school years, Foster appeared in a string of largely forgettable movies, such as Disney's Freaky Friday and the angst-ridden Foxes, offerings that disappointed the nation's film critics, who believed she was capable and worthy of much more challenging fare. While at Yale, Foster disappeared into her comparative literature studies and attempted to maintain a low profile, efforts that were complicated immeasurably by the publicity surrounding her entirely circumstantial connection to the psychotically obsessed Hinckley. In the months following Hinckley's attempt to assassinate Reagan, Foster was so bedeviled by newshounds that she published an essay titled "Why Me?" in Esquire, and refused to discuss the incident further with anyone. After years of adamant silence, Foster eventually opened up in a 1997 interview published in Premiere magazine, in which she told interviewer Holly Millea: "People go through worse shit. So I've always hated the 'poor me' idea. But it was a hard time. It took me many, many, many years to figure all that out."

After graduating with honors from Yale in 1985, Foster slogged through several films that were critical and commercial disappointments before finally coming of age in director Jonathan Kaplan's 1988 courtroom drama, The Accused. Scoring a Best Actress Oscar for her astounding performance as a rape victim who fights an extended legal skirmish to see that her attackers receive just punishment, Foster fully realized the promise she had first evidenced so many years before in Taxi Driver. Taking full advantage of her reborn celebrity, Foster made her directorial debut with the 1991 drama Little Man Tate, in which she also starred; the luster of her Oscar triumph had scarcely faded when she scored another huge hit with The Silence of the Lambs that same year. Although her performance as federal agent Clarice Starling in that film was somewhat overshadowed by Anthony Hopkins's magnificent turn as Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, Foster's dead-on Appalachian accent and convincingly professional manner were believable enough to warrant a second Best Actress Oscar. In 1994, her production company, Egg Pictures, released the acclaimed Nell, which earned her another Best Actress nomination. Justifiably rewarded with her pick of scripts, Foster demonstrated both romantic and comedic flair--in Sommersby and Maverick, respectively--before stepping behind the camera again for 1995's Home for the Holidays.

Intensely private with respect to the details of her personal life (she remains adamantly close-mouthed about who fathered her son Charles, born in 1998), Foster rarely discusses her romantic attachments, and in general struggles valiantly to stay out of the limelight. Not surprisingly, Foster often feels more at home making movies than living out her "normal" life; as she told one interviewer, "I can't go to Disneyland without having a specialized experience, with V.I.P. passes and people treating me differently. But I can play someone who goes to Disneyland. Onscreen, I can have a life I've never been able to have." Foster delivered an utterly captivating, not to mention Golden Globe-nominated, performance as an astronomer searching for extraterrestrial life in 1997's Contact. Two years later, the new mother tackled the title role of the plucky and proper British schoolteacher in Anna and the King, the latest retelling of the cherished Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical. Foster is attached to direct and produce her third behind-the-camera project, Flora Plum, for Disney's Touchstone Pictures. She has six other pictures currently in development at her thriving production company, including a screen adaptation of Margaret Atwood's best-selling novel, Alias Grace, which she may also direct.

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