Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jodie Foster

World Famous People

Jodie Foster

World Famous People - Jodie Foster (actress). One of the saddest by-products of the Hollywood fame game is the Teenage Burn-Out. Once puberty robs them of their angelic looks and innate cuteness, child stars traditionally have a terrible time keeping their feet on the ladder. In a time when image and box office records mean everything, they've not only become another person but also carry the burden of not being able to provide what they once did. Think Macaulay Culkin, or the awful fall of Drew Barrymore.

It should have happened to Jodie Foster, too. In fact, many people think it did. Popular wisdom has it that she broke precociously through as a 12-year-old whore in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, enjoyed a brief spell of success then disappeared, only to struggle heroically back with her Oscar-winning performance, ten years later, in The Accused. But this is far from the truth. Jodie had actually been a Face from the age of 3, starring in TV commercials. Then came many TV and film roles, meaning that, come Taxi Driver she was already a seasoned veteran. After that burst of teen stardom, she chose college over a short-term career, then returned in a series of deliberately chosen "interesting" roles, as she studied techniques on both sides of the camera. And now, due to these efforts, she's a producer, director, double Oscar-winner AND, as 2002's hit Panic Room proved, a $10 million-a-picture actress, capable of carrying a Number One movie on her own.

She was born Alicia Christian Foster on the 19th of November, 1962, in Los Angeles. She was nicknamed Jodie by her three older siblings - Buddy, Lucinda and Constance. Her father, Lucius, left the family when mother Evelyn (known as Brandy) was pregnant with Jodie. And it was the ambitious Brandy, who worked for a film producer and thus had connections, who first pushed Jodie into the spotlight.

Actually, she first pushed Buddy. By the mid-Sixties, he'd already made many appearances on TV and in commercials (he'd later leave it all behind and eventually become a construction worker). Then came a big campaign for Coppertone sun lotion. Buddy was up for the ad but, seeing young Jodie, the casting directors had her star instead. So, at age 3, having her swimsuit pulled down by a dog and revealing her little bottom in one of the most popular adverts of its day, she first became nationally known.

Brandy was persistent. By the age of 8 Jodie had appeared in over 40 commercials, and had turned up in several TV shows, such as Adam-12, The Courtship Of Eddie's Father (the father was Bill "Hulk" Bixby - Jodie played Eddie's girlfriend Joey Kelley) and Daniel Boone.
She'd made her screen debut in 1968, in Mayberry RFD, a comedy series about a farmer and community council member in Mayberry, North Carolina, which sprang from the Andy Griffith Show. Buddy starred in all 76 episodes, as Mike, the near-grown son of star Ken Berry. But this is not to say Jodie's education was ignored. Fiercely intelligent, she'd been reading since age 3, and Brandy was keen to give her kids an all-round and international schooling, starting with the food they ate. She'd constantly be taking them to restaurants specialising in exotic cuisines.

. Come the Seventies and Jodie was working in earnest. She made her TV movie debut in Vincent McEveety's Menace On The Mountain, as the sister of a young boy who has to run the family when his dad goes off to war. Next she provided the voice of Anna Chan, helping to solve ingenious crimes in the cartoon series The Amazing Chan And The Chan Clan.

Now came her film debut proper, in Napoleon And Samantha, directed by Bernard McEveety, Vincent's brother. Here a young kid looks after a lion for a friend in the circus then, when his guardian grandfather dies, takes off across country, with the lion and his best buddy, played by Jodie. It must have been strange for the young actress, and a mite intimidating as, while filming an ad a few years before, she'd actually been mauled by a lion and, briefly, carried around in its mouth.

After this came Kansas City Bomber, a roller derby drama starring sex siren Raquel Welch, then she played Becky Thatcher, girlfriend of the titular Tom Sawyer in a bizarre musical version of Mark Twain's classic, memorable mostly for the sight and sound of crusty old Warren Oates singing. Next she was the voice of Pugsley in the cartoon series of The Addams Family (which saw the mighty Ted Cassidy return as Lurch). Then came Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a TV series based on the hit movie, which featured Anne Archer and was part-directed by Leo Penn, father of Sean and Chris.

The work kept coming. Jodie now played Sharon Lee, a young girl breaking into the strictly male preserve of baseball in Rookie Of The Year (the first of many feminist roles to come), then came One Little Indian, a comedy western starring James Garner and once more directed by Bernard McEveety. Then there was Smile, Jenny, You're Dead, a pilot for the hugely successful Harry O series, with David Janssen as the scruffy private dick. As a sign of things to come, Jodie shone in the movie as a young urchin waiting for her mother to get out of jail, nabbing all the best lines and delivering them in a manner that would have seemed precocious were it not so damned professional.

Now, after a full decade in the biz, came the Big Time. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, directed by an up-and-coming fellow named Martin Scorsese, saw Ellen Burstyn taking off for a better life with her 11-year-old son.
She gets involved with a beastly Harvey Keitel, and the son hangs out with unruly tom-boy Audrey (this is Jodie), as they seek a second chance in life. Jodie would play a tom-boy in her next production, too. This was The Secret Life Of TK Dearing, an emotional drama where she forged a relationship with her ageing grand-dad. Before this had come Paper Moon, a TV series spin-off from the hit movie starring Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, with Jodie playing Addie Pray, the little girl who helps her con-man father sell bibles and trick the unwary. Then there was serious drama, with Echoes Of A Summer, directed by her Tom Sawyer boss, Don Taylor. Here Jodie was Deirdre, a young girl suffering from an incurable heart condition. Her mum and dad (Richard Harris) decide to take her to Canada for the last few days of her life. She meets a boy, begins to live, then dies. Heart-warming, and heart-breaking, both.

. When looking to cast Iris, the 12-year-old prostitute in Taxi Driver, Scorsese had to look no further than the tom-boy he'd hired for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. And Jodie - once she'd been checked by a psychiatrist to make sure she was "normal" enough to play a 12-year-old prostitute - proved to be perfect. Jodie later said this was the first time she'd really had to act, to play someone who wasn't herself, and recognised that acting was actually both work and an art. In the movie, Robert De Niro, a Vietnam vet waiting for a "real rain to come", decides to clean up the streets himself. First he considers assassinating a presidential candidate, then he goes after the pigs who are pimping Iris, who he's seen on the street and whose plight disgusts him. His revenge is unbelievably violent.

De Niro of course dominated the film with his "You lookin' at me?" psychosis. But his out-there performance is allowed to work by the brilliance of the supporting cast who create an almost surreally degraded world for him to rail against. And Jodie was a major part of this - hard as nails when touting for trade, a giggling girl with her friends (one of whom was played by the real-life prostitute Jodie studied for research), and a vulnerable young woman, lulled into inaction by the loving words of Harvey Keitel's disgraceful pimp, Sport. Quite rightly, she received an Oscar nomination, though that's not her in every sequence. Too young to appear in the more explicit shots, her place was taken by her sister, Constance, eight years older.

1976 really was an exceptional year for Jodie, by anyone's standards. After Taxi Driver, she was wonderful as the gangster's moll Tallulah, singing and pouting her way through Alan Parker's delightful Bugsy Malone, a Mob musical played entirely by kids. Then she was Annabel Andrews in the excellent Freaky Friday.
This was the first and best of the switching roles movies (Dudley Moore and Judge Reinhold would later have a go) where Jodie and mum Barbara Harris, both thinking the other has it easy, exchange bodies for one day - to the bemusement of husband and father John "Gomez Addams" Astin. Jodie - spookily good - was nominated for a Golden Globe. And then came The Little Girl Who Lived Down The Lane, a superior thriller where Jodie claims her father is away but is clearly hiding something in the cellar. Then molester Martin Sheen takes notice.

. Still managed by the cosmopolitan Brandy, Jodie now went international, starring alongside Jean Yanne and Sydne Rome in the French movie Moi, Fleur Bleue. Fluent in French from the age of 14, Jodie delivered all her own lines (she always dubs the French prints of her movies herself, too). Then it was off to Italy for Il Casotto, a bizarre, arty comedy about assorted oddballs on a beach. Jodie played a pregnant nymphet whose grandparents are trying to get some boy to sleep with her so they can claim he's the father. Extraordinary stuff, all the more so for the presence of the preternaturally demure Catherine Deneuve -Il Casotto was a direct forerunner of the gross-outs of the Farrelly brothers.

After these came Candleshoe, another kids' classic. Here hustler Leo McKern believes there's hidden treasure in the mansion of Helen Hayes, so he gets young Casey Brown (Jodie) to pose as the old lady's long lost grand-daughter, so they can get in and search. Unfortunately for McKern, Jodie has a change of heart and ends up helping the butler and a bunch of other kids save Hayes' bacon.

Throughout the mid-Seventies, Jodie had enjoyed enormous success - she was nearly cast as Princess Leia in Star Wars. But now her education was to come first. She was enrolled at the College Lycee Francais, a private academy in Los Angeles, and threw herself into study, eventually graduating as valedictorian in 1980. Two more Jodie films would be released that year. First came Foxes, directed by Adrian "Fatal Attraction" Lyne, where she played the leader of a bunch of girls struggling with sex, drugs, and their weight and boyfriends in the San Fernando Valley (Scott Baio appeared here, having earlier co-starred with Jodie in Bugsy Malone, and there's a very early spotting of Keanu Reeves). Then came Carny, where she played a small town waitress who takes off with the carnival, having been impressed by the antics of Gary Busey and Robbie Robertson.

Now Jodie took a serious break from the movies, when she enrolled at the prestigious Yale to study English Literature. It began cheerily enough, Jodie making great efforts to be just another student. She joined in with an off-campus student play called Getting Out, concerning a former prostitute jailed for murder. Sadly, she would not be able to escape into normality so easily.
In Colorado, a young man named John Hinckley, obsessed by Taxi Driver and by Jodie in particular, had been following her movements. Discovering that she'd gone to Yale, he made up a story about having to attend a writers' workshop in New Haven in order to get money from his parents, and travelled to Yale. Within hours of his arrival, he called Jodie at her dorm and managed to speak to her. For four days he called, finally she wouldn't answer him any more. So he stalked her, before finally returning to Colorado and making his plans.

. On March 30th, 1981, those plans came to fruition when John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley was quickly overpowered and the President survived, but Jodie's nightmare was just beginning - for Hinckley now claimed that the attempted assassination was all for her. After being committed, he wrote to Time Magazine saying "The most important thing in my life is Jodie Foster's love and admiration. If I can't have them, neither can anyone else. We are a historical couple, like Napoleon and Josephine, and a romantic couple like Romeo and Juliet". To Jodie's immense consternation, the press came down on Yale like a herd of buffalo.

The furore went on for months, and was enflamed once more by one Edward Richardson, who claimed that he, too, was obsessed by Jodie and had followed her across campus with a loaded gun. Eventually, he claimed, he'd decided she was "too pretty" to kill. For years, Jodie would struggle to come to terms with it all, terminating interviews the moment Hinckley's name was mentioned. Just at the point in her life when she was deliberately stepping out of the limelight into normality, she had become world-famous, tied in with one of the century's most infamous acts. The injustice of it must have been crushing. And for an exceedingly intelligent, independent, decent young woman to have her name attached to that of an obsessive crackpot, with herself powerless to prevent it, well, that was hard to swallow.

How she kept up her studies is anyone's guess. That she made movies in her vacations is miraculous. But she graduated, magna cum laude, in 1985 (she'd receive an Honorary Doctorate from Yale in 1997), with another four movies on her CV. There was O'Hara's Wife, where Jodie played the grown-up kid of Ed Asner, a workaholic whose dead wife returns to get him to slow down and rediscover his children. There was Svengali, with Peter O'Toole as the master teaching Jodie to sing (with Holly Hunter in only her second role). Then there was John Irving's bizarre and moving Hotel New Hampshire, where a thoroughly strange family struggles to get by, despite their individual weirdness - Nastassja Kinski, for instance, is a hideously shy girl who lives in a bear suit.
And then came The Blood Of Others, written by Simone de Beauvoir and directed by Claude Chabrol, where Jodie played Helene, a woman in occupied Paris who's torn between Resistance fighter Michael Ontkean and a Nazi administrator, played by Sam Neill. Jodie also took her first real shot at directing, helming an episode of Tales From The Darkside.

. Getting back into cinema full-time, she now chose some personally challenging, low-budget projects - her ambition being to learn the craft and eventually direct for real. She co-produced Mesmerized, set in New Zealand and based on a true case from 1880, where she played an orphaned girl who marries and is horribly abused by wealthy older man, John Lithgow. Finally, she decides to kill him via hypnosis. Then came Five Corners, an oddity set in the Bronx in 1964 where - in a strange twist on real life - she played a girl being pursued by an obsessive psycho (John Turturro) who once tried to rape her. For this she won an Independent Spirit award. Next was Mary Lambert's truly weird Siesta, and then Stealing Home, Jodie's first brilliant performance since leaving Yale. Here Mark Harmon, as a washed-up baseball player, returns home after learning that his first love (Jodie) had committed suicide. With their relationship played out in flashback, he gradually realises what he's lost, and finds himself again.

1988 saw Jodie back on top again, after 10 years. In The Accused, she played a woman gang-raped in a bar while onlookers cheer the perpetrators on. Being a sexually active drinker and pot-smoker, she's deemed to have "asked for it", something assistant DA Kelly McGillis must prove is absolutely not the case. Jodie could have played Sarah Tobias as a simple victim, but she didn't. Her Tobias was one of the deepest, most complicated and consequently most sympathetic characters in years and she deservedly won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Now she went to work for herself. Starting a production company, Egg, with friend Meg Le Fauve, she moved into directing and producing, and threw herself into Little Man Tate. Here she played Dede Tate, the single mother of a prodigy, who must ensure the boy is given every opportunity for happiness, rather than condemned to a 24/7 life as an academic. It was an excellent directorial debut, pointed and charming, but it was somewhat overshadowed by Jodie's other starring role that year.

The role of FBI agent Clarice Starling in The Silence Of The Lambs had already been turned down by Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan, so Jodie stepped in at the last minute to do psychological battle with Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter. Smart but often out-done, courageous but often terrified, Starling must convince Lecter to help the Bureau catch serial killer Buffalo Bill, then ends up battling Bill herself.
It was a superb thriller and, after It Happened One Night and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, became only the third movie to take all 5 major Oscars, Jodie also snapping up another Golden Globe. This made Jodie the first actress to win two Oscars before the age of 30 - and this a woman who'd never taken acting classes. But when given a chance to reprise the role in Hannibal she turned it down, feeling Clarice was not well treated by the script - Julianne Moore would step in.

. After Woody Allen's Shadows And Fog where, alongside Lily Tomlin and Kathy Bates, she played a prostitute, came Sommersby. This was a remake of the French classic Le Retour De Martin Guerre, where Gerard Depardieu came back from war to his wife Natalie Baye, but wasn't quite how she or the townsfolk remembered him. Was he her husband or an imposter and, being as he's so much nicer, does she care? Jodie took Baye's part, with Richard Gere in Gerard's and it was a strong enough romance. It's worth noting that Jodie's character owns a cow called Clarice.

Ever interested in feminism, Jodie now contributed to a documentary about middle-class women made homeless, lent her voice to the miniseries A Century Of Women, and hosted a profile of Bette Davis. Then, continuing her habit of balancing big-budget productions and her own, smaller films, 1994 saw her appear in both Maverick and Nell. In Maverick, based on the hit TV series starring James Garner, she played Mrs Annabella Branford (another role turned down by Meg Ryan), a smart thief who, like Mel Gibson's Maverick is trying to raise money to enter a Winner Takes All poker game in the Old West. It was a slick and action-packed comedy. Nell, on the other hand, was a deadly serious drama, where she played Nell Kellty, a girl raised by her mother in the backwoods of North Carolina who's never met another soul. When her mother dies, she's discovered (speaking her own language) by doctors and scientists who must decide whether to let her live how she is, or spend her life being studied in a laboratory.

Nell, Egg's first production, featured one of Jodie's best performances and she was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe yet again. Now she moved back into directing with Home For The Holidays, where Holly Hunter returns to Baltimore to celebrate Thanksgiving with her seriously deranged family. It was a strong cast to have to control, including Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Chaplin and Robert Downey Jr (hamming wildly as the gay brother), but Jodie pulled it off. And she brought on another starlet, Claire Danes, who she'd later cast as Flora Plum. Jodie would also be involved in producing The Baby Dance, where Hollywood wife Stockard Channing wants to adopt an unwanted baby from Louisiana trailer-girl Laura Dern (who'd made her debut back in Jodie's Foxes). It was a fascinating clash of cultures, with Jodie being nominated for an Emmy.

Now came Contact where Jodie was Dr Ellie Arroway, a scientist who, after years of searching, suddenly receives radio proof that aliens exist. It was less a sci-fi movie than a theological argument, proposing that we should combine science and religion in our search for truth. But it was stimulating, with good central performances, Jodie herself receiving another Golden Globe nomination.

After Contact, Jodie began a new balancing act. Her strict grip on her own privacy had meant she'd never appear in public with men, or anyone for that matter. So tongues had wagged, and rumours of lesbianism abounded - as they so often do when brilliant women fail to publicly chase after men. Then, in 1998, Jodie bore a son, Charles (the pregnancy causing her to drop out of Double Jeopardy). Yet more rumours circulated, claiming the father was Randy Stone, a casting executive at 20th Century Fox and a close friend of Jodie's. But she remained tight-lipped, as she would in 2001 when her second son, Kit, arrived (she says she'll reveal the father's identity to her sons when they're old enough). No one protects their home-life as well as Jodie (considering the Hinckley experience, no one's had as good a reason to learn). She is a shining example to anyone whining about press intrusion, and should be closely studied by all wannabe celebrities (though not to the point of stalking, please).

After the birth of Charles, Jodie decided to make one major picture every two years. In 1999, it was Anna And The King, about a British schoolteacher's romance with the King of Siam in the 1860s, the King being played by John Woo's favourite lead, Chow Yun Fat. Then, after playing Sister Assumpta next to Cathoic schoolboys plotting a reputation-making heist in The Dangerous Lives Of Altar Boys, came David "Seven" Fincher's Panic Room. This, another US Number One, came about when Nicole Kidman, who'd hurt her knee during the filming of Moulin Rouge, pulled out after 18 days. In stepped Jodie, as she had with Silence Of The Lambs, and out popped another superb performance (despite Jodie's being pregnant during filming - some re-shooting having to be done in the autumn of 2001, after Kit was born).

Panic Room was a wonderful thriller with Jodie playing a mother who, her husband having left her, seeks a new life in New York with her young daughter. They take a property which features a panic room, an impregnable place you can hide if intruders break in. And break in they do - a bickering trio including Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto - and, unfortunately, what they're looking for is in the panic room with Jodie and daughter!

After a break of some two years, Foster would return with a small role in the French epic A Very Long Engagement, which saw the reunion of Audrey Tautou and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet after their worldwide hit Amelie. This would see five French soldiers in WWI accused of harming themselves to escape the trenches and sent out into No Man's Land to die. Tautou would play the girlfriend of one of them who, believing him to have survived, goes on a quest to find him, questioning all relevant parties. Foster, naturally speaking perfect French and adding weight to proceedings, would play the mistress of another of the condemned men, pining badly for her lost love.

2005 would see a return to Hollywood with Flightplan, a kind of airborne Panic Room where Jodie was a grieving widow returning from Germany with her daughter, her dead husband being in the hold. Waking from a nap she discovers her daughter is gone, and no one believes she was ever there. So, is Foster traumatised and fantasising or is this some creepy conspiracy? As with Panic Room she played the strong but struggling mother with great panache and the movie hit Number One at the US box office for two weeks. Her ability to carry a big movie had clearly not waned.

The next year would bring Inside Man, where Denzel Washington would play a tough cop trying to talk crim Clive Owen down when a smart heist degrades into a desperate hostage situation. Foster would appear as a sharp lawyer representing behind-the-scenes interests and complicating an already tense stand-off.

And what of Flora Plum, a pet project of Jodie's about a penniless girl in the 30s who's taken in by a circus freak? This was to see her directing once more, but would cause a great deal of heart-ache. First original star Russell Crowe injured his shoulder, then was committed to A Beautiful Mind. Then star Claire Danes had to return to Yale (she has very much in common with Jodie). Finally, finally, it would all come together - though without Crowe. And then it would stall again. There would also be talk of a biopic of Leni Riefenstahl, the model-come-director who was a favourite of Hitler and who directed a brilliant documentary on the Berlin Olympics.

Having closed Egg down, lessened her work-load and concentrated on her sons, Jodie Foster has built a life to be proud of. She enjoys kickboxing, yoga, karate, and weightlifting, and collects fancy kitchenware and black and white photos. Her one regret, she says, is that she'll never know what it's like to not be famous. Ah, well. Her loss has been everyone else's gain.

Dominic Wills

Jodie Foster, actress, world famous people, biography


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