An expert on both sides of the camera, Jodie Foster marks 55 years of filmmaking

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

As part of our Tribute Series, FF2 Media celebrates the work of female filmmakers. Be sure to click on the film titles for full reviews & see where you can stream on JustWatch.com.

Jodie Foster, born in 1962 in Los Angeles, California, has been in the film industry since the age of two. In 1980, Foster graduated top of her class from the College Lycée Français de Los Angeles. Her proficiency in French allowed her to act in French films and also dub herself in French versions of a lot of her English-language films. She then began studying English Literature at Yale University. She graduated in 1985 magna cum laude. In 1997, Foster was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. 

Jodie Foster’s career began with a television appearance as the Coppertone girl in an advertisement in 1965. Originally, the audition was only meant for her older brother, Buddy, but since Jodie went with him and their mother Brandy to the casting call, the casting agents noticed her. This led to more advertising work, which then led to her minor appearance in Mayberry R.F.D, where her brother starred in. Following this, Foster continued to appear in advertisements and over fifty television shows. These jobs, along with her brother’s acting gigs, caused the two young children to earn money for the family in these years. 

In order to avoid losing an acting career, as it is difficult to transition from being a child actor to an adult actor, Foster’s mother decided Jodie should act in films with an older audience. Her first big break was Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), where Foster played a child prostitute. Due to the film’s violence, Foster had to be accompanied by a social worker on set, and her older sister, Connie, stood in for her in the more sexual scenes. Foster and her co-star, Robert De Niro, worked well together and they both dedicated a lot of time rehearsing scenes. Taxi Driver was a life-changing experience for Foster, as it kick-started her acting career, and was the first time she acted someone other than herself. The film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. During the press conference, Foster acted as the French interpreter, which impressed the French journalists. The critically acclaimed film won two BAFTAs, a David di Donatello and a National Society of Film Critics Award. Foster gained an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in this role. Taxi Driver is considered one of the greatest films in the history of the American Film Institute.

LITTLE MAN TATE

Foster continued to act in other films such as the 1976 Bugsy Malone, where the director Alan Parker was so impressed with the way Foster was fascinated by filmmaking, that he felt she was the only other person on set able to take over as director. Her fourth film was a Canadian-French thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Foster won a Saturn Award for the film. Later that year, Jodie Foster became the youngest person to host Saturday Night Live until 1982. She then played in Freaky Friday (1976), her final film of that year. This movie acted as a “transitional period” when she was growing out of playing child roles. Jodie Foster gained a Golden Globe nomination due to her performance in this film. Foster’s award-winning performance of a rape survivor in The Accused (1988) was her breakthrough into adult roles. Knowing that child actors often don’t succeed as adult actors, Foster enrolled as a full-time student at Yale in 1980. During the following five years, her acting career slowed down, and her perspective on acting really changed. Where she thought it was an unintelligent profession, she then realised that acting was her passion, and there was nothing unintelligent about it. 

Her next successful thriller after The Accused was the well known Silence of the Lambs (1991). Foster said that playing the FBI trainee “Clarice Starling” was one of her favorite roles. Initially, director Jonathan Demme did not want to cast her in the role even though she was very enthusiastic about the film, but producers rejected that decision and so she was cast. Throughout the production, Demme’s opinion on Foster changed, and later credited her for co-defining the character. This film was so popular that year that it grossed almost $273 million and won many awards.

In October of 1991, Foster debuted herself as a director in her first feature film Little Man Tate, a drama about a very smart child, a prodigy, who struggles with loneliness. Foster directed and starred as the boy’s mother, “Dede Tate”. The film’s budget was estimated to be around $10 million, and grossed $25,010,896 worldwide. It won two awards––the Jupiter Award for Best International Actress and Young Artist awards, a Special Award for Most Promising Young Newcomer. The film also got nominated for a CFCA Award for Most Promising Actor. In 1995, Jodie Foster directed her second movie, Home for the Holidays. The film is about a woman facing her family for the holidays after losing her job, making out with her soon-to-be ex-boss (which complicates things), and finding out that her daughter “Claudia” plans to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend. This comedy earned two nominations; GLAAD Media Awards for Outstanding Film and Young Artist Award for Best Young Leading Actress –  Feature Film (Claire Danes).

MONEY MONSTER

In 2011, Jodie Foster directed and co-starred in the movie The Beaver. “Walter Black” (Mel Gibson) is troubled, struggling with depression, and sleeps all day. His wife, “Meredith” (Jodie Foster), loses hope on helping her husband. Walter finds a beaver hand puppet, which helps him talk to himself and work through his problems. The beaver shows a light at the end of a tunnel. The drama won awards such as the Young Artist Award. It also gained 12 nominations such as the AARP Movies for Grownups Awards for the Best Grownup Love Story and the CinEuphoria Awards for Best Director – International Competition. 

Foster’s most recent directed film is 2016’s Money Monster. The crime thriller follows the story of a financial TV host “Lee Gates” (George Clooney) and his producer “Patty” (Julia Roberts) being put in an extreme situation. An angry investor takes them and their crew hostage. Foster brings us “a gripping thriller following a high-stakes, real-time, hostage situation”, according to FF2 Media’s Editor in Chief, Jan Lisa Huttner. The movie’s budget was estimated to be around $27 million and grossed $93,282,604 worldwide. The film also gained two nominations––Globes de Cristal Awards, France, for the Best Foreign Film, and a Jupiter Award. Foster has also directed various episodes in series such as Black Mirror and Orange is the New Black. 

© Sophia Jin (5/18/20) FF2 Media

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