Foster in 2011
Alicia Christian Foster
November 19, 1962
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||Yale University (BA)|
|Occupation||Actress, director, producer|
|Relatives||Buddy Foster (brother)|
Alicia Christian "Jodie" Foster (born November 19, 1962) is an American actress, director, and producer. She has received and been nominated for many awards, including two Academy Awards, three British Academy Film Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award. For her work as a director, she has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.
Foster began her professional career as a child model when she was three years old, and she made her acting debut in 1968 in the television sitcom Mayberry R.F.D. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, she worked in several television series and made her film debut with Disney's Napoleon and Samantha (1972). Following appearances in the musical Tom Sawyer (1973) and Martin Scorsese's comedy-drama Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), Foster's breakthrough came with Scorsese's psychological thriller Taxi Driver (1976), in which she played a child prostitute; she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her other roles as a teenager include the musical Bugsy Malone (1976) and the thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976), and she became a popular teen idol by starring in Disney's Freaky Friday (1976) and Candleshoe (1977), as well as Carny (1980) and Foxes (1980).
After attending college at Yale, Foster struggled to transition into adult roles until she gained critical acclaim for playing a rape survivor in the legal drama The Accused (1988), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She won her second Academy Award three years later for the psychological horror film The Silence of the Lambs (1991), in which she portrayed Clarice Starling. Foster made her debut as a film director the same year with Little Man Tate, and founded her own production company, Egg Pictures, in 1992. The company's first production was Nell (1994), in which she also played the title role, garnering her fourth nomination for an Academy Award. Her other successful films in the 1990s were the romantic drama Sommersby, western comedy Maverick (1994), science fiction Contact (1997), and period drama Anna and the King (1999).
Foster experienced career setbacks in the early 2000s, including the cancellation of a film project and the closing down of her production company, but she then starred in four commercially successful thrillers: Panic Room (2002), Flightplan (2005), Inside Man (2006), and The Brave One (2007). She has concentrated on directing in the 2010s, directing the films The Beaver (2011) and Money Monster (2016), as well as episodes for Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, and Black Mirror. She also starred in the films Carnage (2011), Elysium (2013), and Hotel Artemis (2018).
Alicia Christian Foster was born on November 19, 1962 in Los Angeles as the youngest child of Evelyn Ella ("Brandy"; née Almond) and Lucius Fisher Foster III. Foster is of German and Irish heritage. On her father's side, she is also related to John Alden, who arrived in North America on the Mayflower in 1620.
Foster's parents' marriage had ended before she was born, and she never established a relationship with her father. She has three full siblings, Lucinda (born 1954), Constance (born 1955) and Lucius, nicknamed "Buddy" (born 1957), as well as three half-brothers from her father's earlier marriage.
Following the divorce, Brandy raised the children with her partner in Los Angeles. She worked as a publicist for film producer Arthur P. Jacobs, until focusing on managing the acting careers of Buddy and Jodie. Although Foster was officially named Alicia, her siblings began calling her "Jodie", and the name stuck.
Foster was a gifted child who learned to read at the age of three. She attended a French-language prep school, the Lycée Français de Los Angeles. Her fluency in French has enabled her to act in French films, and she also dubs herself in French-language versions of most of her English-language films. At her graduation in 1980, she delivered the valedictory address for the school's French division. Foster then attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She majored in African-American literature, writing her thesis on Toni Morrison under the guidance of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and graduated magna cum laude in 1985. She returned to Yale in 1993 to address the graduating class, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 1997.
Foster's career began with an appearance in a Coppertone television advertisement in 1965, when she was three years old. Her mother had intended only for Jodie's older brother Buddy to audition, but had taken Jodie with them to the casting call, where she was noticed by the casting agents. The television spot led to more advertising work, and in 1968 to a minor appearance in the sitcom Mayberry R.F.D., in which her brother starred. In the following years Foster continued working in advertising and appeared in over 50 television shows; she and her brother became the breadwinners of the family during this time. She had recurring roles in The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969–1971) and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1973), and starred opposite Christopher Connelly in the short-lived Paper Moon (1974), adapted from the hit film.
Foster also appeared in films, mostly for Disney. After a role in the television film Menace on the Mountain (1970), she made her feature film debut in Napoleon and Samantha (1972), playing a girl who befriends a boy, played by Johnny Whitaker, and his pet lion. She was accidentally grabbed by the lion on set, which left her with scars on her back. Her other early film work includes the Raquel Welch vehicle Kansas City Bomber (1972), the Western One Little Indian (1973), the Mark Twain adaptation Tom Sawyer (1973), and Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), in which she appeared in a supporting role as a "Ripple-drinking street kid".
Foster said she loved acting as a child, and values her early work for the experience it gave her: "Some people get quick breaks and declare, 'I'll never do commercials! That's so lowbrow!' I want to tell them, 'Well, I'm real glad you've got a pretty face, because I worked for 20 years doing that stuff and I feel it's really invaluable; it really taught me a lot.'"
Foster's mother was concerned that her daughter's career would end by the time she grew out of playing children, and decided that Foster should also begin acting in films for adult audiences. After the minor supporting role in Alice, Scorsese cast her in the role of a child prostitute in Taxi Driver (1976). To be able to do the film, Foster had to undergo psychiatric assessment and was accompanied by a social worker on set. Her older sister acted as her stand-in in sexually suggestive scenes. Foster later commented on the role, saying that she hated "the idea that everybody thinks if a kid's going to be an actress it means that she has to play Shirley Temple or someone's little sister". During the filming, Foster developed a bond with co-star Robert De Niro, who saw "serious potential" in her and dedicated time rehearsing scenes with her.
She described Taxi Driver as a life-changing experience and stated that it was "the first time anyone asked me to create a character that wasn't myself. It was the first time I realized that acting wasn't this hobby you just sort of did, but that there was actually some craft." Taxi Driver won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival; Foster also impressed journalists when she acted as French interpreter at the press conference. Taxi Driver was a critical and commercial success, and earned her a supporting actress Academy Award nomination, as well as two BAFTAs, a David di Donatello and a National Society of Film Critics award. The film is considered one of the best in history by the American Film Institute and Sight & Sound, and has been preserved in the National Film Registry.
Foster also acted in another film nominated for the Palme d'Or in 1976, Bugsy Malone. The British musical parodied films about Prohibition Era gangsters by having all roles played by children; Foster appeared in a major supporting role as a star of a speakeasy show. Director Alan Parker was impressed by her, saying that "she takes such an intelligent interest in the way the film is being made that if I had been run over by a bus I think she was probably the only person on the set able to take over as director." She gained several positive notices for her performance: Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated that "at thirteen she was already getting the roles that grown-up actresses complained weren't being written for women anymore", Variety described her as "outstanding", and Vincent Canby of The New York Times called her "the star of the show". Foster's two BAFTAs were awarded jointly for her performances in Taxi Driver and Bugsy Malone. Her third film release in 1976 was the independent drama Echoes of a Summer, which had been filmed two years previously. The New York Times named Foster's performance as a terminally ill girl the film's "main strength" and Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune stated that she "is not a good child actress; she's just a good actress", although both reviewers otherwise panned the film.
Foster's fourth film of 1976 was the Canadian-French thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, in which she starred opposite Martin Sheen. The film combined aspects from thriller and horror genres, and showed Foster as a mysterious young girl living on her own in a small town. The performance earned her a Saturn Award. In November, Foster hosted Saturday Night Live, becoming the youngest person to do so until 1982. Her final film of the year was the Disney comedy Freaky Friday, "her first true star vehicle". She played a tomboy teen who accidentally changes bodies with her mother, and she later stated that the film marked a "transitional period" for her when she began to grow out of child roles. It received mainly positive reviews, and was a box office success, gaining Foster a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
After her breakthrough year, Foster spent nine months living in France, where she starred in Moi, fleur bleue (1977) and recorded several songs for its soundtrack. Her other films released in 1977 were the Italian comedy Casotto (1977), and the Disney heist film Candleshoe (1977), which was filmed in England and co-starred veteran actors David Niven and Helen Hayes. After its release, Foster did not appear in any new releases until 1980, the year she turned eighteen. She gained positive notices for her performances in Adrian Lyne's debut feature film Foxes (1980), which concerns the lives of Los Angeles teenagers, and Carny (1980), in which she played a waitress who runs away from her former life by joining a touring carnival.
In 1980, Foster became a full-time student at Yale, and her acting career slowed down in the following five years. She later stated that going to college changed her thoughts about acting, which she had previously thought was an unintelligent profession, but now realised that "what I really wanted to do was to act and there was nothing stupid about it." She continued making films on her summer vacations, and during her college years appeared in O'Hara's Wife (1982), television film Svengali (1983), John Irving adaptation The Hotel New Hampshire (1984), French film The Blood of Others (1984), and period drama Mesmerized (1986), which she also co-produced. None of them were successful, and Foster struggled to find work after graduating in 1985. The neo-noir Siesta (1987), in which she appeared in a supporting role, was a failure. Five Corners (1987) was a moderate critical success and earned Foster an Independent Spirit Award for her performance as a woman whose sexual assaulter returns to stalk her. In 1988, Foster made her debut as a director with the episode "Do Not Open This Box" for the horror anthology series Tales from the Darkside, and in August appeared in the romantic drama Stealing Home (1988) opposite Mark Harmon. The film was a critical and commercial failure, with critic Roger Ebert "wondering if any movie could possibly be that bad".
Foster's breakthrough into adult roles came with her performance as a rape survivor in The Accused (1988). Based on a real criminal case, the film focuses on the aftermath of a gang rape and its survivor's fight for justice in the face of victim blaming. Before making the film, Foster was having doubts about whether to continue her career and planned on starting graduate studies, but decided to give acting "one last try" in The Accused. She had to audition twice for the role and was cast only after several more established actors had turned it down, as the film's producers were wary of her due to her previous failures and because she was still remembered as a "chubby teenager". Due to the heavy subject matter, the filming was a difficult experience for all cast and crew involved, especially the shooting of the rape scene, which took five days to complete. Foster was unhappy with her performance, and feared that it would end her career. Instead, The Accused received positive reviews, with Foster's performance receiving widespread acclaim and earning her Academy, Golden Globe and National Board of Review awards, as well as a nomination for a BAFTA Award.
Foster's first film release after the success of The Accused was the thriller The Silence of the Lambs (1991). She portrayed FBI trainee Clarice Starling, who is sent to interview incarcerated serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in order to hunt another serial killer, Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb (Ted Levine). Foster later named the role one of her favorites. She had read the novel it was based on after its publication in 1988 and had attempted to purchase its film rights, as it featured "a real female heroine" and its plot was not "about steroids and brawn, [but] about using your mind and using your insufficiencies to combat the villain." Despite her enthusiasm, director Jonathan Demme did not initially want to cast her, but the producers overruled him. Demme's view of Foster changed during the production, and he later credited her for helping him define the character.
Released in February 1991, The Silence of the Lambs became one of the biggest hits of the year, grossing close to $273 million, with a positive critical reception. Foster received largely positive reviews and won Academy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA awards for her portrayal of Starling; Silence won five Academy Awards overall, becoming one of the few films to win in all main categories. In contrast, some reviewers criticized the film as misogynist for its focus on brutal murders of women, and homo-/transphobic due to its portrayal of "Buffalo Bill" as bisexual and transgender. Much of the criticism was directed towards Foster, whom the critics alleged was herself a lesbian. Despite the controversy, the film is considered a modern classic: Starling and Lecter are included on the American Film Institute's top ten of the greatest film heroes and villains, and the film is preserved in the National Film Registry. Later in 1991, Foster also starred in the unsuccessful low-budget thriller Catchfire, which had been filmed before Silence, but was released after it in an attempt to profit from its success.
In October 1991, Foster released her first feature film as a director, Little Man Tate, a drama about a child prodigy who struggles to come to terms with being different. The main role was played by previously unknown actor Adam Hann-Byrd, and Foster co-starred as his working-class single mother. She had found the script in the "slush pile" at Orion Pictures, and explained that for her debut film she "wanted a piece that was not autobiographical, but that had to do with the 10 philosophies I've accumulated in the past 25 years. Every single one of them, if they weren't in the script from the beginning, they're there now." Many reviewers felt that the film did not live up to the high expectations, and regarded it as "less adventurous than many films in which [she] had starred". Regardless, it was a moderate box office success. Foster's final film appearance of the year came in a small role as a sex worker in Shadows and Fog (1991), directed by Woody Allen, with whom she had wanted to collaborate since the 1970s.
Foster next starred in the period film Sommersby (1993), portraying a woman who begins to suspect that her husband (Richard Gere) who returns home from the Civil War is an impostor. She then replaced Meg Ryan in the Western comedy, Maverick (1994), playing a con artist opposite Mel Gibson and James Garner. According to film scholar Karen Hollinger, both films featured her in more "conventionally feminine" roles. Both Sommersby and Maverick were commercially successful.
Foster had founded her own production company, Egg Pictures, a subsidiary of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment in 1992, and released its first production, Nell, in December 1994.[a] It was directed by Michael Apted and starred Foster in the titular role as a woman who grew up isolated in the Appalachian Mountains and speaks her own invented language. The film was based on Mark Handley's play Idioglossia, which interested Foster for its theme of "otherness", and because she "loved this idea of a woman who defies categorization, a creature who is labeled and categorized by people based on their own problems and their own prejudices and what they bring to the table." Despite mixed reviews, it was a commercial success, and earned Foster a Screen Actors Guild Award and nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her acting performance.
The second film that Foster directed and produced for Egg Pictures was Home for the Holidays, released in late 1995. A black comedy "set around a nightmarish Thanksgiving", it starred Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr.. The film received a mixed critical response and was a commercial failure. In 1996, Foster received two honorary awards: the Crystal Award, awarded annually for women in the entertainment industry, and the Berlinale Camera at the 46th Berlin International Film Festival. She voiced a character in an episode of Frasier in 1996 and in an episode of The X-Files in early 1997.
After Nell (1994), Foster appeared in no new film releases until Contact (1997), a science fiction film based on a novel by Carl Sagan and directed by Robert Zemeckis. She starred as a scientist searching for extraterrestrial life in the SETI project. The film was a commercial success and earned Foster a Saturn Award and a nomination for a Golden Globe.[b] Foster next produced Jane Anderson's television film The Baby Dance (1998) for Showtime. Its story deals with a wealthy California couple who struggle with infertility and decide to adopt from a poor family in Louisiana. On her decision to produce for television, Foster stated that it was easier to take financial risks in that medium than in feature films. In 1998, she also moved her production company from PolyGram to Paramount Pictures.
Foster's last film of the 1990s was the period drama Anna and the King (1999), in which she starred opposite Chow Yun-Fat. It was based on a fictionalized biography of British teacher Anna Leonowens, who taught the children of King Mongkut of Siam, and whose story became well known as the musical The King and I. Foster was paid $15 million to portray Leonowens, making her one of the highest-paid female actors in Hollywood. The film was subject to controversy when the Thai government deemed it historically inaccurate and insulting to the royal family and banned its distribution in the country. It was a moderate commercial success, but received mixed to negative reviews. Roger Ebert panned the film, stating that the role required Foster "to play beneath [her] intelligence" and The New York Times called it a "misstep" for her and accused her of only being "interested ... in sanctifying herself as an old-fashioned heroine than in taking on dramatically risky roles".
Foster's first project of the new decade was Keith Gordon's film Waking the Dead (2000), which she produced. She declined to reprise her role as Clarice Starling in Hannibal (2001), with the part going instead to Julianne Moore, and concentrated on a new directorial project, Flora Plum. It was to focus on a 1930s circus and star Claire Danes and Russell Crowe, but had to be shelved after Crowe was injured on set and could not complete filming on schedule; Foster unsuccessfully attempted to revive the project several times in the following years. Controversially, she also expressed interest in directing and starring in a biopic of Nazi film director Leni Riefenstahl, who did not like the idea. In addition to these setbacks, Foster shut down Egg Pictures in 2001, stating that producing was "just a really thankless, bad job". The company's last production, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2002. It received good reviews, and had a limited theatrical release in the summer.
After the cancellation of Flora Plum, Foster took on the main role in David Fincher's thriller Panic Room after its intended star, Nicole Kidman, had to drop out due to an injury on set. Before filming resumed, Foster was given only a week to prepare for the role of a woman who hides in a panic room with her daughter when burglars invade their home. It grossed over $30 million on its North American opening weekend in March 2002, thus becoming the most successful film opening of Foster's career as of 2015[update]. In addition to being a box office success, the film also received largely positive reviews.
After a minor appearance in the French period drama A Very Long Engagement (2004), Foster starred in three more thrillers. The first was Flightplan (2005), in which she played a woman whose daughter vanishes during an overnight flight. It became a global box office success, but received mixed reviews. It was followed by Spike Lee's critically and commercially successful Inside Man (2006), about a bank heist on Wall Street, which co-starred Denzel Washington and Clive Owen. The third thriller, The Brave One (2007), prompted some comparisons to Taxi Driver, as Foster played a New Yorker who becomes a vigilante after her fiancé is murdered. It was not a success, but earned Foster her sixth Golden Globe nomination. Her last film role of the decade was in the children's adventure film Nim's Island (2008), in which she portrayed an agoraphobic writer opposite Gerard Butler and Abigail Breslin. It was the first comedy in which she had starred since Maverick (1994), and was a commercial success but a critical failure. In 2009, she provided the voice for Maggie in a tetralogy episode of The Simpsons titled "Four Great Women and a Manicure".
In the 2010s, Foster has focused on directing and taken fewer acting roles. In February 2011, she hosted the 36th César Awards in France, and the following month released her third feature film direction, The Beaver (2011), about a depressed man who develops an alternative personality based on a beaver hand puppet. It starred Maverick co-star Mel Gibson and featured herself, Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence in supporting roles as his family. Foster called its production "probably the biggest struggle of my professional career", partly due to the film's heavy subject matter but also due to the controversy that Gibson generated when he was accused of domestic violence and making anti-semitic, racist, and sexist statements. The film received mixed reviews, and failed the box office, largely due to this controversy. In 2011, Foster also appeared as part of an ensemble cast with John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz in Roman Polanski's comedy Carnage, in which the attempts of middle-class parents to settle an incident between their sons descends into chaos. It premiered to mainly positive reviews and earned Foster a Golden Globe for Best Actress nomination.
In 2013, Foster received the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 70th Golden Globe Awards. Her next film role was playing Secretary of Defense Delacourt opposite Matt Damon in the dystopian film Elysium (2013), which was a box office success. She also returned to television directing for the first time since the 1980s, directing the episodes "Lesbian Request Denied" (2013) and "Thirsty Bird" (2014) for Orange Is the New Black, and the episode "Chapter 22" (2014) for House of Cards. "Lesbian Request Denied" brought her a Primetime Emmy Award nomination, and the two 2014 episodes earned her two nominations for a Directors Guild of America Award. She also narrated the episode "Women in Space" (2014) for Makers: Women Who Make America, a PBS documentary series about women's struggle for equal rights in the United States. In 2015, Foster received the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award at the Athena Film Festival.
The fourth film directed by Foster, hostage drama Money Monster, premiered out-of-competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2016. It starred George Clooney and Julia Roberts, and despite mixed reviews, was a moderate commercial success. The following year, Foster continued her work in television by directing an episode, "Arkangel", for the British sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror (2011-).
As the decade drew to a close, Foster continued to mix acting with directing. She starred together with Sterling Brown in the dystopian film Hotel Artemis (2018). Although the film was a commercial and critical disappointment, Foster's performance as Nurse, who runs a hospital for criminals, received positive notices. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle's stated that "not enough can be said about the performance of Foster in this film. She brings to the role a quality of having seen the absolute worst in people, but also the suggestion that, as a result, she accepts them on their own terms and knows how to handle any situation." Rick Bentley from Tampa Bay Times declared Foster's performance one of her "best and most memorable performances." The same year, Foster co-produced and narrated Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (2018), a documentary on one of the first female film directors.
Foster directed the finale of the 2020 science fiction drama Tales from the Loop. Her next project was the legal drama The Mauritanian (2021), in which she stars as the lawyer of a prisoner (Tahar Rahim) at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Foster won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for her performance.
Foster met producer (then production coordinator) Cydney Bernard on the set of Sommersby (1993). They were in a relationship from 1993 until 2008 and had two sons (born in 1998 and 2001) together. In April 2014, Foster married actress and photographer Alexandra Hedison after a year of dating.
Foster's sexual orientation became the subject of public discussion in 1991 when publications such as OutWeek and The Village Voice, protesting against the alleged homophobia and transphobia in The Silence of the Lambs, claimed that she was a closeted lesbian. While she had been in a relationship with Bernard for 14 years, Foster first publicly acknowledged it in a speech at The Hollywood Reporter's "Women in Entertainment" breakfast honoring her in 2007. In 2013, she addressed her coming out in a speech after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 70th Golden Globe Awards, which led many news outlets to describe her as gay, although some sources noted that she did not use the words "gay" or "lesbian" in her speech.
During her freshman year at Yale in 1980-1981, Foster was stalked by John W. Hinckley, Jr., who had developed an obsession with her after watching Taxi Driver. He moved to New Haven and tried to contact her, both by sending letters and by phone. On March 30, 1981, Hinckley attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ronald Reagan, wounding him and three other people, claiming that his motive was to impress Foster. The incident attracted intense media attention, and she was accompanied by bodyguards while on campus. Although Judge Barrington D. Parker confirmed that Foster was completely innocent in the case and had been "unwittingly ensnared in a third party's alleged attempt to assassinate an American President", her videotaped testimony was played at Hinckley's trial. While at Yale, Foster also had other stalkers, including a man who planned to kill her but changed his mind after watching her perform in a college play.
The experience was difficult for Foster, and she has rarely commented publicly about it. In the aftermath of the events, she wrote an essay, "Why Me?", which was published in 1982 by Esquire on the condition that "there be no cover lines, no publicity and no photos". In 1991, she canceled an interview with NBC's Today Show when she discovered Hinckley would be mentioned in the introduction, and the producers were unwilling to change it. She discussed Hinckley with Charlie Rose of 60 Minutes II in 1999, explaining that she does not "like to dwell on it too much... I never wanted to be the actress who was remembered for that event. Because it didn't have anything to do with me. I was kind of a hapless bystander. But... what a scarring, strange moment in history for me, to be 17 years old, 18 years old, and to be caught up in a drama like that." She stated that the incident had a major impact on her career choices, and acknowledged that her experience was minimal compared to the suffering of Reagan's press secretary James Brady, who was permanently disabled in the shooting and died as a result of his injuries 33 years later, and his loved ones: "whatever bad moments that I had certainly could never compare to that family".
Foster is regarded as one of the best actresses of her generation.
In 2003, Foster was voted Number 23 in Channel 4's countdown of the 100 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time. Entertainment Weekly named her 57th on their list of 100 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time in 1996.
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|Awards and achievements|
| Best Actress in a Leading Role
| Best Actress in a Leading Role
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