“It’s all over now—Jodie Foster is married,” my wife taunted me last night after learning that the 51-year-old Oscar winner had wed girlfriend Alexandra Hedison over the weekend.
My wife was making fun of the fact that I’ve had a long-time crush on Jodie Foster—ever since I can remember, actually. (I most likely first saw her on an episode of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.) But my feelings for Foster were never really about sexual attraction or objectification the way most celebrity crushes seem to be. As a child actor in the 1970s, Foster was just a few years older than me, so I connected with her. She seemed like the wise and cool older sister an only child like myself would’ve loved to have.
I recall it was somewhat scandalous when she played a child prostitute in Taxi Driver, but I didn’t see that film until I was an adult. The movie that really registered to me at the time was her starring role in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. I saw that film when it came out in 1976, and Foster’s assured acting made an impression that haunts me to this day.
The plot of Little Girl involves a fiercely independent and intelligent 13-year-old girl who lives in a small town all by herself where she is constantly harassed by adults (including a pedophile played by Martin Sheen) who wonder where her parents are. It turns out her abusive mother and terminally ill father divorced years before, and her father set her up with enough money to support herself after he died. As the story unfolds we learn that the young lady later murdered her mother with poison provided by her father and that the corpse is in the cellar. All of the child’s resourcefulness is called for, though, when the bodies start to pile up.
As a seven-year-old I was enthralled with Jodie Foster’s character in this story, and it fueled my own childhood fantasies of independence. The film also scared the shit out of me. It was the first time I saw a dead body on screen. The movie’s sense of dread was unshakable for a long time afterward.
But it’s not just her acting that has gained my admiration over the years. A true Renaissance woman and overachiever who can act, direct, produce, and sing(!), Ms. Foster graduated from Yale magna cum laude and has two children. In a sleazy industry of extroverts, Jodie Foster has remained an intensely private person—and who can blame her after the whole attempted assassination of President Reagan fiasco? Her comportment impresses with quiet class. I once saw footage of her in a crowd and when some jerk handed her a photo of Travis Bickle, she calmly and quickly passed it to her bodyguard and kept going, unfazed.
In an era where every actor that comes out is heralded as a hero, Foster has let her fans speculate about her sexuality for decades. She lived a quiet life with her children and partner before finally—and sheepishly—coming out last year. Even then she noted that celebrities are now expected to reveal they’re gay “with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show.”
And finally there is her character. Whether giving sage advice to a drug-addled Robert Downey, Jr. or being called “cowardly” in the press for waiting so long to come out, Jodie Foster has always done things her way. As far as I can tell she is the only member of the film industry that has defended Mel Gibson. She refused to throw her friend under a media-driven bus. And she was criticized for it. That shows integrity.
Yep, that Alexandra Hedison is one lucky lady.