Jodie Foster: A Screen Gem Turns Director

A movie moppet at nine, Jodie Foster went on to become one of Hollywood's most talented actresses. Now, at 28, she has taken a bold directorial leap with Little Man Tate, and it's an audacious winner.

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The rest of us have family albums to remind us of what we looked like in youth. Jodie Foster could have a movie library and a stack of press clippings. Because she has been an actress for 25 of her 28 years, she can screen the public record of her childhood. Anyone can. You can re-view her evolution from tadpole to tomboy and beyond: in the Coppertone commercial, the Disney pictures, the sitcoms, Taxi Driver, Bugsy Malone. And you can scan the interviews she gave to magazines from age 11 onward. Dear reader, we have in our possession a tape of a lunchroom chat you had in seventh grade. Care to hear what you said? Care to be held to it?

Foster could pass this test because she was always a bright young woman as well as a symbol of precocious girlhood. At seven, she had entered Los Angeles' Lycee Francais, where she would perfect her French and emerge as valedictorian before heading off to Yale. So the child star could be expected to have thoughts, and to turn thoughts into sentences. Even today her teen talk is worth attending to, as another kind of Jodie Foster retrospective.

On acting: "People assume I've been robbed of my childhood. I don't think that's true. I've gotten something extra. Most kids, all they have is school. That's why they get so mad when it's boring and feel so bad if they fail. I have my work; I know how to talk to adults and how to make a decision. Acting has spared me from being a regular everyday kid slob. I used to think of it as just a job, but now it's my whole life, it's all I want to do."

On sisterhood: "My friendships with girls usually don't last too long. I'm not interested in a lot of the things they are, I guess." On femininity: "I never had the gift of looking cute. I hate dresses and jewelry, and the only doll I played with was a G.I. Joe. And I've got this deep voice. That's why they call me Froggy at school."

On her mother Brandy, a single parent: "She always listened to me. She thought of me as her best friend. If it weren't for me, she wouldn't have anything, and if it weren't for her, I would be nothing." Being raised without a father was "the best thing that ever happened to me. I never realized there was any difference between men and women. It never occurred to me I would have to be a nurse and not a doctor."

On directing: "It would be great to be a director. They get to do anything! They have people killed, blow things up, make people cry and laugh. Directing ^ is just like creating life." "It is a very masculine thing to do; they all end up in the hospital after a picture. It's a hard job." She said she hoped to start with a small-budget film. "Something sensitive with two people." She was determined, though, not to appear in a film she also directed. "That is the biggest mistake, unless you're Woody Allen."

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