Here’s another fine actress, that transitioned well from child star to great adult actress. A Disney player of the 70’s who managed to make intriguing and emotional role choices over the years and won an Academy award for her efforts. I loved her early Disney movies and respected her choices later on; easily as comfortable in a drama as a thriller or a comedy. Like all of my favorites, she’s versatile and adept at all genres. Here’s a list of my top 15 favorite Jodie Foster films:
Jodie Foster has chosen some gritty roles over the years, not one to shy away from an uncomfortable role by any means. She seemed to do this early on in her career, trying as hard as possible to stretch herself as an actress, beyond her comfort zone. This is one of those roles. It’s interesting to me that she chose to do this role of a teenage prostitute in the midst of her popularity as a Disney star. Dangerous move, but one that ultimately proved to the Industry, at least, that she was an Academy Award caliber actress. I personally drift to her more funny or light-hearted movies, but there certainly is no denying her talent and ability to master any role and genre. This was her first nomination for an Oscar. Tough subject matter.
Now this Disney film was pretty neat because it’s the first time that James Garner and Jodie Foster would work together and when they worked together again it was over 20 years later, for Maverick (1994). Pretty typical fare overall, and similar to her other Disney work at this time, she was gearing up to be the star, even then you can see she was something more than a supporting actress.
I put this film on the list because I think it’s pretty scary, although I haven’t seen it in 20 years, it spooked me pretty bad. To be fair, in interviews, Jodie Foster usually refrains from saying which of her films are her least favorites, but she has let it slip that this movie isn’t one she is fond of, explaining, “When people are there to simply do a job they don’t have any passion for, those are nearly always bad films.” It was first top-billed lead role in a major motion picture for Jodie. 1976 was definitely her breakout year, although from the 5 movies she did that year I prefer the Disney film, Freaky Friday, the most.
Jodie, being fluent in French, dubbed herself in the French version. Jodie filmed her part in three weeks, and it’s a very different part for her, but as always she’s very good. It’s a pretty fun heist movie and my favorite Spike Lee film. Denzel Washington and the cast was allowed to ad-lib at times, he just seemed especially adept at it. The scene in the coffee shop was improvised. On the DVD commentary, Spike states that when Denzel ad-libbed the line, “I’ll bet you can get a cab though,” he nearly ruined the take by laughing really loud.
11 – The Brave One (2007)
Interesting to note, Nicole Kidman was originally cast as Erica. Jodie would be cast when Nicole dropped the project. Jodie also took over Kidman’s role in Panic Room (2002). It was Jodie’s idea for Erica to record sounds of the city for her radio show. Foster walked for miles all around Manhattan with headphones on to prepare for the role. The movie is like the female version of Death Wish, with Jodie playing the Charles Bronson role.
Jodie Foster’s role was originally written for Sean Penn. The original character’s name of “Kyle” was even kept. Coincidentally, Penn’s role in The Game (1997) was originally intended for Jodie Foster. A bereaved woman and her daughter are flying home from Berlin to America. At 30,000 feet, the child vanishes, and nobody will admit she was ever on the plane. It’s Lady Vanishes, on a plane!
Probably the most brutal role for any actress ever. What she has to go through to even film this is unfathomable. The movie is based on a real-life gang rape that occurred on 6 March 1983 at Big Dan’s Bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The bar lost its liquor license the very next day. Upon seeing a pre-screening of the film, Jodie Foster thought her performance as Sarah Tobias was so awful that she immediately began preparing for and taking the GRE’s for graduate school. She was prepared to leave her film career behind and focus on academia…until she won the Academy Award for her performance.
This is one of those rare movies that no one seems to know about, but that I love. I tell people about it all the time and convince them to watch it and they usually thank me for it later. Mark Harmon plays a washed-up baseball player who is called back home to handle the ashes of his childhood sweetheart/ first love (Jodie) who had committed suicide. As he searches for what to do with them, he remembers the past and the relationship they had. In doing so he finds himself again. This movie was reportedly based on the real-life experiences of its writers, former Second City troupe members and WKRP in Cincinnati writers Steven Kampmann and William Porter. The two lead actors (Jodie and Mark) never even have a scene together.
7 – Panic Room (2002)
Another one of her great thrillers. This one is top notch, great cast, great crew all around. A divorced woman and her diabetic daughter take refuge in their newly-purchased house’s safe room, when three men break-in, searching for a missing fortune. As I stated earlier, Nicole Kidman was originally cast in the role of Meg Altman. Then, only eighteen days into filming, Kidman had to leave the film as well, due to a recurring knee injury, suffered during the filming of Moulin Rouge! (2001). David Fincher suggested that the studio close the production and collect the insurance, but the studio decided to go on. Jodie Foster was offered the role. She was due to be the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury but withdrew to work with Fincher, with whom she was originally supposed to work on The Game (1997) in the role now played by Sean Penn. Foster had only nine days to prepare for the role. Kidman left a small mark in the film nevertheless, however, as the voice of the girlfriend of Foster’s husband in the movie, heard answering the phone when Foster’s character calls him in a desperate attempt for help.
An example that she can do it all, this is a great romantic film. A farmer’s wife begins to suspect that the man in her bed is an impostor after he returns home from the Civil War, based on the French film, The Return of Martin Guerre. Steven Reuther, one of the producers behind the project commented about the casting of Gere and Foster: “A lot of people questioned us about this coupling. And it was a gamble, because there are the obvious romantic leading females, and Jodie really is not one of them. Also, I don’t think anyone had ever seen Jodie in a period costume. But once we got her in the period clothes and the hair, it was like, ‘How could there have been a question?’ I think that part of why she was attracted to the character was because it was something she had never done before.”
I love this movie, which is kind of an alternate telling of the story of Anastasia but with a treasure hunt mixed in. Helen Hayes and David Niven are just fantastic in it as well as Foster. It’s the last of three theatrical movies that actress Helen Hayes made for the Walt Disney Pictures studios during the 1970s. The earlier films were Herbie Rides Again (1974) and One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975). Screenwriter David Swift, who in the early 1960s directed Pollyanna (1960) and The Parent Trap (1961) for Walt Disney, developed this project for the company and was set to direct it. However, he felt Jodie Foster (then one of the most popular teenage actresses in the country) was all wrong for the part of Casey and stepped down. Boy, was he wrong, she is really great in this.
The most popular of Jodie’s Walt Disney films, it’s a really fun movie and still holds up today, even with all the period clothes. The only time I can remember Jodie singing for a film, the title song “I’d Like to be You for a Day” is sung by Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. Both Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris were nominated for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy at the 1977 Golden Globes for this film. Technically, as they also played each other’s characters, they were both nominated for playing the same characters. Jodie Foster said of the film whilst doing press publicity for the picture around the time the movie first launched: “I think it’s important for my career that I make all different kinds of films. I’m proud that I made Freaky Friday. And I thought the idea was terrific. A lot of my friends think it’s my best picture. I really like working for Disney”. The date of the “Freaky Friday” in the movie’s story-line was a Friday the 13th.
This is the movie that comes up generally as the best of Jodie’s films, and I do love it, but it’s not my favorite. It is Jodie’s 2nd Academy Award win after The Accused. Anthony Hopkins won as well for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Jodie Foster claims that during the first meeting between Lecter and Starling, Anthony Hopkins’s mocking of her southern accent was improvised on the spot. Foster’s horrified reaction was genuine; she felt personally attacked. She later thanked Hopkins for generating such an honest reaction. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster only share four scenes throughout the course of the film. With 24 minutes and 52 seconds of screen time, Anthony Hopkins’s performance in this movie is the 2nd shortest to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, with David Niven in ‘Separate Tables‘ beating him at 23 minutes and 39 seconds. Clarice Starling was chosen by the American Film Institution as the sixth greatest film hero (out of fifty), the highest ranked female on the list; Hannibal Lecter was chosen as the #1 greatest film villain (also out of fifty).
This film is just really great fun. Not only does Jodie get to work with one of her favorite actors, Mel Gibson, but she was reunited with James Garner again after 20 years when working with him when she was a child. They all have some funny stuff in this. Jodie Foster’s character’s gracelessness in the film stems from the first scene she shot, when she waited for Mel Gibson to help her down from the stagecoach. Instead, he took her parasol and walked away. She tried to get down alone and flopped to the ground. Director Richard Donner liked it so much he kept the shot in the film, and staged more scenes of Foster stumbling, being dumped through windows, etc. In the stagecoach chase sequence, stuntman Mic Rodgers (doubling for Mel Gibson) had to go under the coach and get up at the back. This is a direct nod to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt’s similar stunt in Stagecoach (1939). By coincidence, second-unit director Terry Leonard, a former stuntman himself, performed this same stunt in the truck chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I specifically talk about the stunt in the blog post, https://brothers-ink.com/2015/09/stagecoach-and-zorros-fighting-legion/ and again for the Indiana Jones stunt in the blog post https://brothers-ink.com/2015/12/stunt-team-for-raiders-of-the-lost-ark/
This is one of the finest films, in what is a library of marvelous films by director Robert Zemeckis. It’s got one of the most remarkable tracking shots I’ve ever seen for any film. Ask my wife, I have literally watched and rewound this shot a hundred times trying to figure it out. Apparently, I learned later, this impossible shot, the long shot of Ellie as a child running up the stairs to get medicine, was actually filmed as a normal shot would have been and then flipped and placed in the mirror which, at the time of shooting was a blue screen placement in the cabinet. Any way you look at it, it’s a thing of beauty. Sorry, back to Jodie…Jodie Foster was interested in this movie as early as 1995. After initially deciding to drop out, her interest was resparked by a new revision of the script. Her character, Ellie is based partly on real radio astronomy pioneers and extra-terrestrial intelligence researchers. There’s also some Carl Sagan in her. He wanted a female hero to inspire girls to pursue science. Jodie really connected with that, being an academic herself. So much so that in 2011, Jodie was part of a group of private donors that saved SETI’s telescope array in California.