Best known for her dramatic portrayals of misfit characters set against intimidating challenges, Jodie Foster was born Alicia Christian Foster on 19 November 1962 in Los Angeles, as the youngest child of Evelyn Ella Brandy and Lucius Fisher Foster III, a wealthy businessman. Unfortunately, her parents' marriage had ended before she was born and Brandy raised the children with her partner in Los Angeles, while working as a publicist for film producer Arthur P Jacob. Although she was an art expert and film critic, her profession was not enough to make ends meet for her family.
However, Alicia ended up in the showbiz, due to her mother’s professional connections. Nevertheless, Alicia Foster was a gifted child, who learned to read when she was only three and attended the Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles, a private French-language prep school in Los Angeles. Consequently, she could speak fluently in French, which enabled her to act in French films too. She was only three, when the doll-faced little girl began her career by appearing in a Coppertone television advertisement as a toddler on a boat with her family in 1965.
The successful campaign of the Coppertone television advertisement led Alice Foster to more advertising work and in the following years she continued to appear in various advertisements and in more than 50 television shows, along with her brother Buddy; to become the breadwinners of the family. Evelyn Ella Brandy Foster dragged Alice's older brother Buddy to an audition, along with Alice, for securing the role of Ken Berry’s son in the popular sitcom Mayberry RFD (1968), where Alice was noticed by the casting agents and she bagged a minor role in the serial. Although she was officially named Alicia, since that time she came to be known as Jodie, as her siblings used to call her.
After appearing in several teleserials like The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and My Three Sons, Jodie made her big screen debut in the Disney movie Napoleon and Samantha (1972), in which she played the role of a girl who befriends a boy, played by Johnny Whitaker and his pet lion.
During the filming, she was once accidentally grabbed by the lion on the set, which left her with scars on her back. Later, when she appeared naked in certain films, she was photographed from specific angles to conceal the scars. Apart from that, her early films include Kansas City Bomber (1972), One Little Indian (1973) and Tom Sawyer (1973).
After the grand success of Napoleon and Samantha, Jodie was much in demand, although she was usually cast in oddball child roles due to her un-starlike facial features. However, she appeared in a bit of role in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), directed by Martin Scorsese, who was almost a new name in the industry at that time. But after that, she bagged her breakthrough role, when she was cast in what remains one of her most memorable roles, as the preteen prostitute, Iris, who becomes the object of the title character’s obsession, in the psychological thriller Taxi Driver (1976), directed by the same Martin Scorsese.
During the filming of Taxi Driver, both the director and the set supervisors took utmost care so that Jodie would not be psychologically damaged by the sleaziness of her character's surroundings and lifestyle. Even, her older sister acted as her double during the sexually suggestive scenes. Later, Jodie described it as a life-changing experience and stated that it was the first time anyone asked her to create a character that was not herself. The film was commercially and critically a grand success, Jodie was critically acclaimed and earned an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her precocious and complex performance in the film. Taxi Driver is considered one of the best in history by the American Film Institute and has been preserved in the National Film Registry.
In the same year, Jodi Foster also appeared as a teenager in the musical Bugsy Malone (1976), for which she earned two BAFTA Awards, for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles and Best Supporting Actress; as the 13-year-old Rynn Jacobs in the thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976), for which she received the Saturn Award for Best Actress at the age of 15, the youngest actress to earn the honour; as little Annabel in Freaky Friday (1976), for which she received a nomination for Golden Globe Award for Best Actress; and as the ailing Deirdre Striden in Echoes of a Summer (1976).
In 1980, Jodie Foster graduated as the best of her class from the College Lycée Français and took a courageous step to take a break from her film career to study African-American literature at Yale University. It was reported that her mother tried to dissuade her, as she thought it would ruin her acting career. Later she confessed that life in the university changed her outlook on acting, which she thought was an unintelligent profession but realised there was nothing stupid about it. At the university, she also learnt how to read deeply, which later helped in her work as an actress. During those years in college, she continued her acting during her summer vacations and appeared in films like O’Hara’s Wife (1982), television film Svengali (1983), The Hotel New Hampshire (1984) and the period drama Mesmerized (1986), none of which could make any impact.
Strangely enough, after Jodie graduated magna cum laude in 1985, she did not get any offer for two long years. During that period, at the end of the 1980s, the yellow press somehow got hold of several semi-nude photographs of Jodie. Although the source is still unknown, it was considered by many that in preparation for her role in Taxi Driver, the 15-year-old Jodie posed for her sister in that photo shoot and later, in dire necessity of money, her mother sold them to some paparazzi. However, it did not bother her in the least, as she became mentally prepared for a peaceful life, dedicating herself to literature. Under the circumstances, Siesta (1987), her first film after college, proved to be a failure and although the independent film Five Corners (1987), was only a moderate critical success, it earned her an Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead, for portraying the role of a young woman in the film, who was hounded by a just-released convict, who previously tried to rape her. However, her breakthrough in the adult role came with her performance as Sarah Tobias, a gang rape victim, who fights for justice in the face of victim blaming in Accused (1988), directed by Jonathan Kaplan.
Before the making of Accused, Foster had her doubts about whether to pursue her career in acting or to continue further studies and finally decided to give acting at least one last try. Although she was eager to play the role of a rape victim to give a boost to her career, she had to audition twice for the role, as she was still remembered as the chubby teenager in the industry and was cast only after several more established actors had turned it down. Due to its sensitive subject matter, the filming also proved to be a tough task for the cast and the crew alike, especially the shooting of the rape scene, which took five days to complete. Although Foster was completely distraught about her performance in the film and feared that it would end her career, it earned her the much coveted Academy, Golden Globe, along with a nomination for a BAFTA Award.
Jodie Foster continued her winning spree, when she won all the Academy, Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for her portrayal of FBI trainee Clarice Starling in the psychological horror film The Silence of the Lamb (1991), her first film release after the success of The Accused. She later named the role one of her favourites, but despite her enthusiasm, the director was initially reluctant to cast her in the role, although finally, he was overruled by the producers. The film considered a modern classic, became one of the biggest hits of the year with a positive critical reception and won five Academy Awards overall. Foster next starred in the more conventionally feminine role in the period film Summersby (1993), portraying Laurel, a woman who begins to suspect that her husband, played by Richard Gere, who returns home from the Civil War and then replaced Meg Ryan to play the role of Annabelle in the Western-Comedy, Maverick (1994), opposite Mel Gibson. Jodie Foster also served as a producer for several of her films, including Nell (1994), in which she played the title role and received her fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Her other important films in the 1990s were the science fiction Contact (1997), in which she starred as a scientist searching for extraterrestrial life and the period drama Anna and the King (1999).
Jodie Foster replaced Nicole Kidman as she had to drop out due to an injury on the set of Panic Room (2002) and appeared as Meg Altman, who trying to escape from intruders hides in a safe room, along with her diabetic daughter, which almost turned into a death trap. After a minor appearance in the French period drama A Very Long Engagement (2004), Foster starred in Flightplan (2005), an absorbing thriller, in which she played a woman whose daughter vanishes during an overnight flight. The thriller became a global box office success and was followed by two more thrillers, Inside Man (2006) and The Brave One (2007), which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Her later films include the satirical comedy Carnage (2011), the dystopian drama Elysium (2013) and Hotel Artemis (2018), in which Jodie played the role of a nurse, who runs a secret emergency room for criminals.
Foster had founded her own production company, Egg Pictures in 1992 and directed several films that started with Home for the Holidays in 1995. However, she shut down Egg Pictures in 2001, as she felt that producing is a thankless and bad job. In 1996, Jodie Foster received two honorary awards, the Crystal Award, awarded every year to women in the entertainment industry and the Berlinale Camera at the 46th Berlin Film Festival. She received the honorary Cecil B Demille Award at the 70th Golden Globe Awards on 13 January 2013 and the honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021. In 2016, she was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a motion picture star, located at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard. Apart from that, an asteroid called ‘17744 Jodiefoster’ that orbits the Sun mainly between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, was named after her in 1998.
Many famous men and women have dated Jodie Foster, which includes Russell Crowe, Julian Sands, Cydney Bernard, Rob Lowe, Gillian Anderson and others. Her sexual orientation became the subject of public discussion in 1991 when some publications protesting against the alleged homophobia and transphobia in The Silence of the Lambs, claimed that she was a lesbian. In 1993, she met Cydney Bernard, the production coordinator of Sommersby and since then, they were in a relationship until 2008 and had two sons during that period. However, the identity of the biological father of her children still remains a mystery. It is rumoured that Jodie reverted to artificial insemination and that she selected the donors according to their IQ. Nevertheless, finally in April 2014, Jodie Foster married actress and photographer Alexandra Hedison, after a year of dating.