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      Facts

      Initially managed by her divorced mother Brandy, the young Foster was the family's principal breadwinner. She gradually took control of her own career, meticulously shaping her development through a careful selection of projects and expert tailoring of her public image. Her rise from child star to Oscar-winning actor to feature film director appears unprecedented and her added status as a producer has made her one of Hollywood's exceedingly few female talents to achieve on such a high level in so many areas.

      Foster began in commercials, most notably baring her buns at age three in a classic ad for Coppertone suntanning products. She appeared as a regular and in guest shots in series TV and made several features for Disney before leaving an indelible impression with her controversial performance in Taxi Driver (1976), as the teenage prostitute who inspires Robert De Niro's deranged personal crusade. Foster followed that Oscar-nominated performance with appearances in several features including the uneven gangster musical spoof Bugsy Malone (1976) playing Miss Tallulah, a bawdy speakeasy queen; The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane (1977) in the title role of a young murderer; and Carny (1980) as a teen runaway who joins up with a couple of carnival hustlers.

      Even with her burgeoning career, Foster remained an excellent student, graduating from the Los Angeles Lycee Francais in 1980 as class valedictorian and going on to study literature at Yale. She survived a spate of unwanted publicity surrounding John Hinckley, Jr.'s assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981, which he claimed was done to impress Foster. While studying at Yale, she squeezed in appearances in films and TV, most notably as a member of an unconventional family in the film The Hotel New Hampshire (1984), that provided a bridge to impressive adult acting in films like the moody and potent Five Corners (1987).

      Foster finally consolidated her reputation with Oscar-winning portrayals of a rape victim in The Accused (1988) and a rookie FBI agent in Jonathan Demme's psychological thriller, The Silence of the Lambs (1991). For her directorial debut Little Man Tate (1991), Foster chose a subject close to home--a child prodigy who is caught in a tug-of-war between his working-class mother (played by Foster) and his teacher (Dianne Wiest).

      In 1992, Foster formed a three-year production deal with Polygram Filmed Entertainment, in which they were committed to financing three films (under her Egg Pictures banner) in the $25 million range and three in the $10 to $15 million, plus an extra $10 million in print and promotion. One proviso was that Foster could choose whether to act in, direct or simply produce these films, gaining rare control and flexibility for an actor and a woman in Hollywood.

      Foster's acting work during this time was generally in lighter fare--a turn as a prostitute in Woody Allen's Shadows and Fog (1992), starring roles in the costume drama Sommersby (1992) opposite Richard Gere and opposite Mel Gibson in the Western spoof Maverick (1994), her first comedy in over a decade.

      In her first Egg Pictures effort, Foster turned in a luminous performance in Nell (1994) as a backwoods hermit who speaks in an invented tongue. Once again Foster walked away with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Foster's second directorial effort (in which she did not appear) was the ensemble comedy Home for the Holidays (1995) about a recently fired woman who returns to her childhood home to celebrate Thanksgiving with her eccentric family. The film received mixed critical reviews, but Foster's sure handling of the actors (including Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft and Robert Downey Jr) was cited.

      She returned to acting to tackle the role of a scientist who receives signals that may be from space aliens in Contact (1997), a high-minded, reality-rooted sci-fi tale conceived by Carl Sagan and directed by Robert Zemeckis, and one which benefitted greatly from Foster's ability to project intelligence on the big screen.

      Next was an unconventional choice: Anna and the King (1999), a non-musical version of the same true life story that inspired the fabled stage and film production The King and I. The film cast Foster as widowed British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, who engages in a romance with the King of Siam (Chow Yun-Fat) in the 1860s. Well-acted and lavishly produced, the film nevertheless did not prove to be a particular triumph for Foster.

      She next appeared in a supporting role as the univerally despised Catholic school instructor Sister Assumpta in the clever indie The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002).

      Foster continued to pick her projects judiciously, turning out only a small number of films in the early 2000s (in between, the actress labored to launch her third directorial project, Flora Plum, but the film was derailed by various factors, including an arm injury to actor Russell Crowe, who was to play a circus aerialist). In Panic Room (2002) she teamed with stylish director David Fincher for a taught, claustrophic tale of a woman and her young daughter who hole up in their home's high tech panic room during an apparent home invansion. Fincher's cinematic razzle-dazzle and Foster's always believeable version of an "action heroine" combined to make for a well-crafted, entertaining thriller.

      Interestingly, her next project had similar thematic tones and an equally contained environment: Flightplan (2005) again cast Foster as an aeronautics engineer and a fiercely protective mother, this time of a six-year-old daughter who vanishes during an airplane flight. When Foster desperately tries to find her child, the airline crew insists the girl was apparently never one of the passengers. The film flies intensely over-the-top, and though Foster's performance had all her usual earnest sincerity and intensity, this film is a candidate for the worst film ever. Yes, it may have done well at the US box office and Foster may have earned $13 million dollars, but it is total crap and not worth the price of a cinema ticket. It's the kind of movie you watch and after feel cheated of nearly 2 hours of your life.

      In the long run it remains to be seen whether such a Hollywood made by numbers flick sold on Foster's name alone will have an adverse impact on her career.





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