Nationality: American. Born: Alicia Christian Foster in Los Angeles, California, 19 November 1962. Education: Attended Lycée Français, Los Angeles; Yale University, B.A. 1985. Career: Actress in TV commercials from the age of three, original "Coppertone Girl" character in suntan lotion ads; 1969—acting debut on TV in Mayberry, R.F.D.; 1972—film debut in Napoleon and Samantha for Disney; 1970s—much work for TV, including TV series Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1973, and Paper Moon, 1974–75; 1991—directed first film, Little Man Tate. Awards: U.S. National Film Critics Award, and Los Angeles Film Critics Award, for Taxi Driver, 1976; British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards for Best Supporting Actress and Most Promising Newcomer, for Taxi Driver and Bugsy Malone, 1976; Academy Award for Best Actress, for The Accused, 1988; Chevalier dans l'Orde des Arts et de Lettres, 1995; Governors Award, American Society of Cinematographers, 1996. Agent: ICM, 8942 Beverly Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
Menace on the Mountain (McEveety—for TV) (as Suellen McIver)
Napoleon and Samantha (McEveety) (as Samantha); Kansas City Bomber (Freedman) (as Rita)
Tom Sawyer (Taylor) (as Becky Thatcher); One Little Indian (McEveety) (as Martha); Rookie of the Year (Elikann—for TV)
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (Scorsese) (as Audrey); Smile Jenny, You're Dead (Thorpe—for TV) (as Liberty)
Echoes of a Summer (The Last Castle) (Taylor) (as Deirdre Striden); Freaky Friday (Nelson) (as Annabel Andrews); Bugsy Malone (Alan Parker) (as Tallulah); Taxi Driver (Scorsese) (as Iris Steensman)
The Little Girl Who Lives down the Lane (Gessner) (as Rynn Jacobs); Candleshoe (Tokar) (as Casey Brown); Il casotto (The Beach House) (Citti) (as Teresina)
Moi, Fleur Bleue (Stop Calling Me Baby!) (as Fleur Bleue)
Foxes (Lyne) (as Jeanie); Carny (Kaylor) (as Donna)
O'Hara's Wife (Bartman) (as Barbara O'Hara); Le Sang des autres (The Blood of Others) (Chabrol) (as Hélène); Svengali (Harvey—for TV) (as Zoe Alexander)
The Hotel New Hampshire (Richardson) (as Franny Berry)
Mesmerized (Shocked) (Laughlin) (as Victoria, + co-pr)
Siesta (Lambert) (as Nancy)
Five Corners (Bill) (as Linda); The Accused (Kaplan) (as Sarah Tobias); Stealing Home (Kampmann) (as Katie Chandler)
Backtrack (Catchfire) (Dennis Hopper—released in U.S. in 1991) (as Anne Benton)
The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme) (as Clarice Starling)
Shadows and Fog (Woody Allen) (as prostitute)
Sommersby (Amiel) (as Laurel); It Was a Wonderful Life (Ohayon—doc) (as narrator)
Maverick (Richard Donner) (as Annabelle Bransford); Nell (Apted) (title role, + co-pr)
Contact (Zemeckis) (as Dr. Eleanor Ann Arroway)
Anna and the King (Tennant) (as Anna Leonowens)
Films as Director:
Little Man Tate (+ ro as Dede Tate)
Home for the Holidays (+ co-pr)
Films as Producer:
The Baby Dance
Waking the Dead
By FOSTER: articles—
Interview in Ciné Revue (Paris), 1 July 1976.
Interview in Screen International (London), 8 October 1977.
Interview, by Foster, with Nastassia Kinski, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1982.
"Why Me?," in Esquire (New York), December 1982.
Interview, by Foster, with Rob Lowe, in Interview (New York), May 1984.
Interview in Time Out (London), 8 November 1984.
Interview in Interview (New York), August 1987.
Interview with Linda R. Miller, in American Film (Los Angeles), October 1988.
"American Original," interview with Michael A. Lerner, in Interview (New York), September 1989.
"I'm An Outsider," interview with Derek Winnert, in Radio Times (London), 25 May 1991.
Interview with Rod Lurie, in Empire (London), June 1991.
"Learning by Doing," interview with V. Antonelli, in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), September 1991.
Interview with Ingrid Sischy, in Interview (New York), October 1991.
"Wunderkind," interview with Arion Berger, in Harper's Bazaar (New York), November 1991.
"A Life in the Pictures," article and interview with Brian Case, in Time Out (London), 15 January 1992.
"L'impulsive," review and interview with Philippe Piazzo and Isabelle Danel, in Télérama (Paris), 22 February 1995.
"Jodie Foster Goes 'Home' for Her Second Feature," interview with Jon Stevens, in DGA (Los Angeles), January-February 1996.
On FOSTER: books—
Sinclair, Marian, Hollywood Lolita: The Nymphet Syndrome in the Movies, London, 1988.
Chunovic, Louis, Jodie: A Biography, Chicago, 1995.
Kennedy, Philippa, Jodie Foster: A Life on Screen, New York, 1996.
Smolen, Diane, The Films of Jodie Foster, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1996.
Foster, Buddy, and Leon Wagener, Foster Child: A Biography of Jodie Foster, New York, 1997.
On FOSTER: articles—
Van Meter, Jonathan, "Child of the Movies," in New York Times Magazine, 6 January 1991.
Clark, John, filmography in Premiere (New York), March 1991.
Hirshey, Geari, "Jodie Foster," in Rolling Stone (New York), 21 March 1991.
Cameron, Julie, "Burden of the Gift," in American Film, November/December 1991.
Current Biography 1992, New York, 1992.
Schnayerson, Michael, "Pure Jody," in Vanity Fair (New York), May 1994.
Abramowitz, Rachel, "Fearless," in Premiere (New York), January 1995.
Gendron, Sylvie, "Jodie Foster: une certaine idée de la femme," in Séquences (Montreal), January-February 1995.
Lane, Christina, "The Liminal Iconography of Jodie Foster," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington), Winter 1995.
Radio Times (London), 31 August 1996.
Sight and Sound (London), August 1996.
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Chameleon-like Foster was so versatile and invested her star-power into so many different film genres, it was difficult to find a tidy critical pigeonhole for her. Elusive in interviews, the intensely private Foster turned her attention to directing as a natural offshoot of her precise acting; a few years ago, her style-in-progress was pristine and liberal-minded, and non-threateningly offbeat. Now, that style just seems non-threatening.
There was something strikingly quirky about Foster at the start—or at least from her fifth film appearance as the tomboyish Audrey in Alice Doesn't Live Her Anymore. Since that cherished feminist road show, Foster has taken acting risks but has steered clear of the androgyny that was so arresting in her early films as a child. Certainly, it was brave of this young actress to explore adult psychosexuality by impersonating a teen streetwalker in Taxi Driver. That she succeeded so uncondescendingly in evoking this callow runaway's unblinking acceptance of hooking is a testament to Foster's innate talent. Too original a presence as a youngster, Foster simply did not have it in her to become America's sweetheart, although Disney tried. The subversiveness of her brand of innocence (corrupted in Taxi Driver; turned homicidal in The Little Girl Who Lives down the Lane), found fuller expression in the teenaged angst of Foxes, an underappreciated examination of drifting adolescents turned off by parental hypocrisy and societal pressures. At this point, Foster might have become fossilized as a symbol of teen anomie, but she broadened her horizons by attending Yale and expanded the intelligence that had informed her work since childhood. Surviving the terrifying public ordeal of being stalked by John Hinckley, who shot President Reagan to impress her, she exhibited grace under fire, graduated with honors from school, and resumed her career with honors, too.
Before her breakout role in The Accused, nothing Foster chose was conventional, and, even in such pretentious misfires as Five Corners and Carny and in bombs such as Siesta and The Hotel New Hampshire, she infused the roles with keen self-awareness, a quality that stamped her as much too independent a presence to be at home in standard girlfriend roles. If The Accused is really a politically correct television movie at heart, Foster was a revelation as the trailer-trash hedonist filing rape charges in order to regain the self-respect stolen in the assault. A female buddy-buddy movie to boot, The Accused stands or falls on Foster's performance as a survivor who refused to be further victimized by the courts or by the caveman ideology of her attackers. Winning an Oscar for this and for a second less flashy role in The Silence of the Lambs, Foster found her niche as a feminist role model with a specialty in playing against-all-odds heroines. Battling her own psychological demons in Silence of the Lambs (a film turned down by several Hollywood names including Michelle Pfeiffer), Foster's Clarice Starling not only proved she was just as good as the FBI's male professionals but also outwitted two men, Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lechter, who happen to be serial killing monsters. Since starring in a movie that ranks among the scariest of modern times, Foster has bewitchingly acquitted herself in period costumes as the staunch widow in Sommersby and played the Hollywood shell game deftly in the big-budgeted Maverick, in which she tantalizingly revealed a glib, subtly sexy movie star presence.
Confident enough to breeze through Maverick on charm, she won another Oscar nomination as the wild child adjusting to civilization in Nell, a film that would have seemed preposterous without her conviction. Sensitively piloting her debut film Little Man Tate, she floundered with her helming of the more-frenetic than-funny Home for the Holidays.
When one reads about Foster nowadays, however, she's either directing another well-intentioned movie, discussing motherhood, or listing reasons for rejecting the Silence of the Lambs sequel. Although one can't blame her for criticizing "Hannibal," a best-seller that trashed her beloved character, the roles she has chosen showcased a surprisingly reined-in demeanor. Has there ever been a more sanctimonious bore than Contact, a cosmos opera that tries to locate Heaven as if it were the Bermuda Triangle of outer space? Although this movie was another box office salvo for Foster, one cannot make nobility one's trademark without sending audiences into the arms of fallen angels elsewhere; just ask Greer Garson or Norma Shearer.
Working sporadically, Foster turned her back on the unconventional roles that once defined her stardom. Foolishly stepping into the hoopskirts memorably tailored to Irene Dunne and Deborah Kerr, Foster remade Anna Leonowens' memoirs, while struggling with an English accent and a porky vis-à-vis. Although never a powerhouse in the sexuality department, she was believably smitten in Sommersby and Maverick, vehicles that revealed an allure that her latest, disappointing films lack; all she transmitted in her recent work is the primness of a schoolmarm. Although no one would insist she go cannibal for Hannibal, she shouldn't continue performing in a vein that seems more like lecturing than acting. Once an artistic gambler, Foster now seems to be hiding from herself in roles that limit her range. She acts like someone who's already won a lifetime achievement award and doesn't want to choose any films that might mar her record.