The Silence of Jodie Foster
Issue 12, Volume 111
By Zoe Buff
Jodie Foster is a beauty. With large blue eyes and a gorgeous smile, she possesses intoxicating charisma and a charming presence that is impossible to ignore. She speaks articulately, with energy and excitement, and is clearly used to performing in front of a camera. And yet, that is exactly what it is: a performance. Foster is notoriously private. She calls herself an “internal person” and doesn’t mind being solitary. Despite starting her career very early in life, she was uncomfortable with emotional expression throughout her youth.
Foster’s most notable childhood role, Iris in “Taxi Driver” (1976), was portrayed with such raw candor and mature strength, that it’s easy to forget she was only 12 years old. As an adult, the highlights of her career include Clarice Starling in “Silence of the Lambs” (1989), Sarah Tobias in “The Accused” (1988), and Meg Altman in “Panic Room” (2002), with her appearances in the former two winning her two Academy Awards for Best Actress.
As a child actress, Jodie Foster had a psychological understanding of the dramatic roles she played, such as Iris in “Taxi Driver,” which she drew from her real life at home, growing up with a single mother. She also experienced several traumatic events in her early career, including the lion-mauling that happened on the set of “Napoleon and Samantha” (1972) when she was 10 years old, and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by a crazy stalker who was obsessed with her performance in the “Taxi Driver.” Many child actresses fade into obscurity when they reach adulthood, but Foster executed the transition seamlessly, “prioritizing [her] own self-worth and psychological health above all. And if not, [she doesn’t] know where [she] would be today,” Foster told Porter in an interview. “I mean, there is a carpet of ex-child actors who did not make it.” Being thrown into fame at such a young age didn’t hinder Foster’s future career at all. As an adult, she has starred in nearly 40 film projects and won over 40 awards in total.
However, her acting career has slowed down recently. In the last decade, Foster has only participated in a total of five films. In an interview with the Daily Beast, she discussed her decision to only take part in projects she thinks are meaningful. Another reason that she’s taken less work as an actress is to focus on another aspect of film: direction. As a director, Foster is able to take more creative control and express her ideas with more clarity than when she’s in front of the camera.
Directing is something Foster started later in her career, shortly before she hit her thirties. Having grown up in the public eye, she had an advantage when it came to earning the trust of those in the industry, despite the fact that she hadn’t attended film school. She says she mostly learned by observing the directors she was working with. For Foster, filmmaking is about telling stories and trying to make them as real as she can. The movie screen is a canvas for her personal essays. Her passion for her work is palpable, even through the screen. She always brings a strong vision to her projects, such as the “Arkangel” episode of “Black Mirror”. The story focuses on the use of futuristic technology by a mother to constantly monitor and protect her child. Foster uses that to create an analogy for how humankind responds to technology and what that says about them personally. “Though all of the shows are about technology, none of the shows are really about technology at all,” she explained in an interview with The Guardian. “All of them are about relationships and the emotional damage we all carry, which is highlighted by the Klieg light of technology.”
Jodie Foster has proven her creativity and wisdom countless times throughout her career. Though she isn’t always relatable as a public figure, the characters she brings to life are. Her story is one of the great success stories of child actress to film icon, something which she followed with a career as an acclaimed director. “I don't intend to quit acting,” she reported in an interview with German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine, “but I only take jobs that I really love. After 52 years as an actress, I think that's the greatest luxury of all.”