Alice Vincent: Why Jodie Foster got the Cecil B DeMille Award
Published 14/01/2013 | 10:50
AFTER Jodie Foster was honoured with the Cecil B DeMille award at the 2013 Golden Globes, we look back on the films and roles which have shaped her career.
This year, the Cecil B. DeMille Award was awarded to Jodie Foster at the Golden Globe awards. It’s a prize which recognises "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment", and has been given to Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese in the last 60 years. At 50, and after 47 years of acting, she’s the second youngest woman to receive it (after a 39-year-old Judy Garland was hounoured in 1962). We look back on her career.
A Hollywood veteran with two Academy Awards, plenty of others and a reputation for making and starring in films which study the human condition, Jodie Foster’s fascination with film has been life-long.
Much of Foster’s Los Angeles childhood was spent inside the film industry’s workings, a time when she nurtured the affection for independent films which was to shape her later career. She appeared in TV commercials during toddlerhood, and her first film role was as a title character in Disney’s Napoleon and Samantha, released while Foster was appearing in dozens of other TV programmes in the early Seventies.
Foster’s appearance in Taxi Driver as pre-teen prostitute Iris opposite Robert De Niro marked her seamless progression from child to adult in Hollywood’s eyes. Unlike other child stars, her career was not going to end with Disney. Instead, the 13 year-old was nominated for four Best Supporting Actress awards, including an Oscar, and won a BAFTA for the provocative role. Foster also won BAFTAs for playing the speakeasy queen Tallulah in Bugsy Malone and starred in Freaky Friday in the same year.
Foster’s enrollment at Yale in 1980 marked a period where, surrounded by the warm blanket of academia and new-found freedom, she doubted her career. She wrote that university gave her the knowledge of “how it felt to be out of control, completely lost, without prior experience”, relics left over from a childhood spent around meeting tables and in front of cameras.
However, this illusion of anonymity was to end drastically. Foster’s Freshman Year was marked by the shooting of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr - a fan of Foster’s who had become obsessed with Taxi Driver, and wanted to assassinate the President to impress her. The actress said it was an “enormously impactful event on [her] life.”
Hope came in the arrival of a script for 1983 TV series Svengali, which caused her to “fall in love with a project” for the first time since the shooting. Five years later she starred as the victim in one of the first Hollywood films to deal directly with rape; The Accused. She won her first Oscar as a result for Best Actress, the only Academy Award nomination the film received.
Like Taxi Driver, the film made critical waves, although Foster remained a relatively unknown actress. Roger Ebert identified the importance of the warning of verbal sexual harassment in the film. For Foster, playing working-class party girl Sarah Tobias, it proved her dedication to playing “characters who have been overlooked, misunderstood, marginalized, victimized or labeled as freaks”, and have people recognise their humanity.
When Foster played the title role in Nell, a young woman who has grown up outside of society and developed her own language, her capability for understanding human vulnerability was celebrated again. The part took awards and Oscar nominations, and Foster’s “strange beauty”, according to Ebert, as Nell was critically seen to upstage the film as a whole.
But it was her appearance as Clarice Starling, the FBI student from The Silence Of The Lambs, which shot Foster into the spotlight, and gave her another Oscar. A proud feminist, her acceptance speech dedicated the award to “all of the women who came before me who never had the chances that I’ve had, and the survivors and the pioneers and the outcasts.”
Starling was a role originally intended for, and rejected by, Michelle Pfeiffer, but appealed to Foster because of the mythology she associated with a female hero, and the rarity of a woman saving other women was in cinematic history. “
Blockbusters such as Panic Room, Flightplan and The Brave One followed. As did Foster’s directorial debut in Little Man Tate, a film about a child prodigy and his mother (played by Foster). Her direction of offbeat comedy The Beaver, however, demonstrated her skills and saw her reunited with Mel Gibson following the 1994 film Maverick. The film follows the emotional breakdown of the head of toy company. It’s a film she said is about people in “spiritual crisis”, a motivation behind her directing it.
Her career, as recognised by HFPA president Dr. Aida Takla O’Reilly, is set to continue as prolifically as it has started. 2013 alone sees her star in sci-fi film Elysium and direct Wall Street-based film Money Monster and a TV series. Silence co-actor Anthony Hopkins once commented, “Jodie Foster, through her career, has given such high-powered performances that she stands alone. There is no one to touch her." With the Cecil B. DeMille to join the other awards cluttering up her Californian mantelpiece, others may well agree.
By Alice Vincent, Telegraph.co.uk