By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Foster offers this story, embarrassing only in its superficial details — the actor peed on herself, her dog hated other dogs, her kids weren’t even aware she’d left — unbidden. I’d only asked if her children, 9-year-old Charlie and 6-year-old Kit, had ever bitten anybody, because Foster had said earlier how awful it is when you raise your kids right and they still bite somebody. (For the record, neither Charlie nor Kit has ever bitten anyone, and Foster is by all accounts an exemplary parent, deeply involved in her children’s lives.) There’s something distorted and self-conscious about that story, and besides, it doesn’t add up. How did she get the dog in the house after she’d locked herself out? Why did she keep talking if she’d peed her pants? And if she had just given birth, then who are the “kids” playing Monopoly?
It doesn’t add up because it’s not a real story. It’s a nugget of candor served up in the same way that a squirrel mother kills one of her babies and places it outside her den to placate the approaching rattlesnake. If I give you this, Foster seems to be saying, if I tell you what motherhood is like, and how I cried on the airplane reading Jonathan Franzen’sThe Corrections, maybe you won’t feel compelled to ask me for more.
“Don’t talk to her about John Hinckley,” someone warns me on my way to interview Foster. “Is she really a lesbian?” someone else — everyone else, really, like a good three-quarters of my own supposedly enlightened friends — asks afterward, as if “Are you really a lesbian?” is a reasonable question to ask someone you’re meeting for the first time in a conversation you’re recording.
I didn’t ask Jodie Foster whether she was a lesbian, sorry, and not just because she was generous enough to tell me that she once peed on herself and locked herself out of her house. I know it rankles the activist gay community that if Foster really is a lesbian, she won’t say so, and that if she really has been involved for the last 13 years with producer Cydney Bernard, whom she met on the set of Sommersby, she won’t talk about it on CNN, as good lesbians do. I know that lesbians need role models with better politics than Mary Cheney’s and cuter figures than k.d. lang’s. But it seems to me that if Foster wants to keep the dogs who feed on celebrity suffering at bay, she has every right to do so.
In fact, her unwillingness to talk about her private life has less to do with confining herself to a closet than with having lived a life in the public eye long enough to know there are few rewards for giving it up to the press.
She’s “wincing,” she says, at the images of Lindsay Lohan with digital superpowered telephoto lenses trained on her sometimes-comatose face; she’s grateful that there was no Access Hollywood back in 1980 to track her own teenage hijinks. “I was 18,” she says. “I think everybody in those years has to come to understand boundaries by testing them. But at the time, there was no such thing as an 18-year-old who was making $15 million a picture, or a major star who was 18. At that time, we were relegated to kids’ movies. We really weren’t a valued commodity. And that was a good thing for me, because it allowed me to develop as an artist and do different things and different movies and show different sides of myself. By the time I hit 26 or 27, I had a body of work behind me; I didn’t just do a few films and go away.
“Now, even with male stars, they’re looking for that guy who’s got the abs and that beautiful profile, so they can get a Johnny Depp that’s cheap. After one movie, they’ll pay him $10 million — which is cheaper than Johnny Depp — and squeeze four big fat horrible career choices out of him, and then he’ll be done. Then they’ll go look for some other pretty guy. It’s just a different time.”
Foster was lucky, she says, to have a mom who was concerned about her psychological well-being. Her father, Lucius, left the family while Foster was still in the womb; her mother raised her and her two siblings alone. “But I didn’t want to be an actor. I happened to fall into it, but I didn’t want it. I never wanted people paying attention to me. I’m not interested in that life and I never was. And I don’t think I ever would have been.
“But I also remember being very young,” she says, “and going, ‘Oh, wow! This business could eat me up, and I’m not going to let that happen. Once there was a documentary crew that came in to make a film about me — a BBC documentary crew, very good, very reputable, very nice by the way. They came into my school. They came into my classroom. I was 13 years old. It was the most horrible, embarrassing thing I’ve ever been through in my life. And I remember going, ‘This is the most horrible thing. Whatever I have to do to avoid this in my life, I’m going to avoid this.’
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