I found this exploration of her life, her career and her identity as an actress/star really interesting. Much to chew on there.
I’ve always liked Jodie Foster – while, at the same time, I’ve never warmed to her. I warm to Drew Barrymore. I warm to Susan Sarandon. But Jodie Foster doesn’t have that kind of relationship with her audience – (she never has – and THAT is an odd thing, because most little kid actors engender that sort of protective feeling in an audience, naturally – she never did, even as a small child – very odd) it’s a different thing she has – it sets her apart. Also it’s not the kind of thing that seems to interest her. She is pretty much one of a kind, in terms of the career she has, and the trajectory it has taken. I’ve enjoyed watching her over the years.
There’s an odd relationship that happens when you feel you have “known’ a certain actress your entire life. Like: she’s been there as long as I can remember. She was in those movies I saw when I was first becoming a movie fan. I wouldn’t call her my favorite actress or anything like that, but there’s something about her that I have always liked. I can see her flaws as an actress (or, what I consider to be flaws) and yet I admire her work ethic, her willingness to ‘go there’ (some of those close-ups in Contact are among the best work she has ever done – naked.) – and also her staying power. I like her no-nonsense attitude, and I also like that you never hear anything bad about her. That is quite a feat. I liked her as a kid, too – she’s one of the few actresses I latched onto as a young one – mainly because she was starring in movies geared towards me – and so I saw them all.
One cool thing: the first movie that I remember seeing in the movie theatre as a kid was Candleshoe. I seriously need to see that movie again – I remember all of them sliding across the floor in that house – and i also remember Jodie Foster’s cat-eyed sharp-mouthed face … the mousy hair … the expression, the mature expression on the little girl’s face – and there it was, as big as a house up on the movie screen – and I was just blown away by the whole experience.
I was afraid of her as a kid, too. We aren’t the same age – she’s older than I am – but we’re close enough, dammit – and when I was a kid, I would see her in movies and she seemed KIND of like a peer – and I would think: That girl is from another planet. I am jumping rope in the dust, eating popsicles and wearing Keds. She is smoking cigarettes, wearing spit-curls and singing jazz-baby songs in that movie I adored and WANTED TO BE IN SO BAD that it nearly ruined my summer. I just thought it was UNFAIR that I wasn’t in that movie! Who WAS that girl who was so like me in her tomboyish nonchalance, her intellectual clarity … and yet so UNLIKE me in that she seemed like she was 45 years old, world-weary, been around the block, baby, tell me about it.
I liked this paragraph in the article:
At its most generic, the word auteur has come to mean any filmmaker (almost always male) whose vision triumphs or at least survives the insults and script notes of the industrial moviemaking process. Actors arenât auteurs; certainly not in the original French. But certain stars have always been auteurs of a kind, who with luck, talent, looks, timing, hard work, representation and any number of other factors, tangible and otherwise, manage to become more than just another pretty face, another desirable and disposable body. They are auteurs of self-representation â not, you know, whatâs-her-name, you know, her, the girl.
Jodie Foster was never that girl …
A quick word on this:
If you think about the ‘personality’ actors – like John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo, etc etc … that is a great way to describe them: “auteurs of self-representation…” Way harder to do than it looks. And it is why folks who say stuff like, “He was just playing himself” (and that always seems to be an insult to such folks – it seems that they think “playing himself” is EASY) – are wrong.
Cary Grant said it best (and I actually don’t consider him to be a “personality” actor – he eludes classification, as far as I’m concerned) – but anyway, here’s what Grant had to say about “playing yourself”:
To play yourself — your true self — is the hardest thing in the world. Watch people at a party. They’re playing themselves … but nine out of ten times the image they adopt for themselves is the wrong one.
… nine out of ten times the image they adopt for themselves is the wrong one.
How true is that, huh? Someone like John Wayne was unselfconscious in presenting his personality to the world. He was unselfconscious in using those parts of himself (not just the good parts – but ALL the parts) … in role after role after role, finding the subtleties, the nuance – but always knowing: that John Wayne (TM) was the product.
MOST actors cannot survive such a thing.
They begin to repeat themselves, or they begin to hate themselves. Or they begin to hate their career because it feels so “same ol’ same ol’”. They begin to hate the fact that they are selling parts of themselves. These are all normal reactions.
But the stars who manage it … who are “auteurs of self-representation” … fascinating. I could watch Bogart be Bogart all day long. It is NEVER monotonous to me.
Anyway, I really liked that piece about Jodie Foster – it’s how I enjoy contemplating actors and careers as well.
This combination of emotional connectivity and composure, a sense of ease and well-being with her own body, is an important part of her on-screen presence. Like any number of SoCal kids, she played tennis, rode a skateboard and studied martial arts. Then as now, she was slender, compact and athletic-looking without being overly muscled or sinewy. She rarely appeared out of place or sorts; even as a child, she projected a sense of calm and absolute control. She looked as if she could take care of herself.
And check out this psychedelic drug-trip of a clip. Jodie Foster, on a swing, wearing a white tuxedo, singing in French. I just … you have to experience it to believe it. Is everyone on drugs??
She is all child there – undeniably a young girl … and yet … also NOT. Hard to describe. She’s not precocious – at least not in an obnoxious way … she’s not a “mini-adult” like lots of little kid actors (actually, my main man Mr. Stockwell talks a lot about that – and how he had his adolescence in his 20s and 30s because he was never allowed to be a little kid WHEN he was kid) … but with Jodie Foster, especially there, it’s like she’s BOTH: little girl and world-weary woman. Sophisticated, yet giggly.
Fascinating to watch.
Another excerpt from the Times article:
Whatever the case, like Warhol, she has become a genius escape artist, capable of being at once visible and somehow apart. Her entire life has been shaped by such dualisms: she is simultaneously brainy and beautiful, Disney and edgy, child and woman, girl and boy, the meticulous technician who cried on command but was bored by Mr. De Niroâs Method rehearsals.
And I freakin’ LOVE the poster for her latest movie. I don’t know why – it’s pretty cliche, I think … but I’m not against cliche if it works. And this works. To me, it REALLY works.