Sunday, January 13, 2013

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if I were a young actor today I would quit before I started. If I had to grow up in this media culture, I don’t think I could survive it emotionally. I would only hope that someone who loved me, really loved me, would put their arm around me and lead me away to safety. Sarah Tobias would never have danced before her rapists in The Accused. Clarice would never have shared the awful screaming of the lambs to Dr. Lecter. Another actress might surely have taken my place, opened her soul to create those characters, surrendered her vulnerabilities. But would she have survived the paparazzi peering into her windows, the online harassment, the public humiliations, without overdosing in a hotel room or sticking her face with needles until she became unrecognizable even to herself?
There's many places we could start our discussion of Foster's remarks tonight; the ending is one:
I'm I may never going to be up on this stage again. On any stage, for that matter. Change, you've gotta love it. I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved: the greatest job in the world. It's just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick. And maybe it won't be as sparkly. Maybe it won't open on three thousand screens. Maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle. But it will be my writing on the wall: Jodie Foster was here, I still am, and I want to be seen, to be understood, deeply, and to be not so very lonely.
added, AM:  This should go without saying, but I worry we forget these things: thirty-two years ago, a man tried to kill the President of the United States because he was obsessed with Jodie Foster. I imagine that deeply shapes the way one feels about one's fame.

added, PM: At the suggestion of Sam Adams, I replayed the tape and have corrected the transcript above. It wasn't quite announcing her retirement from acting.


  1. I'll leave it to others to parse the words, but that speech took some courage to deliver. She sounds a lot like a woman who believes, "I don't have anyone to answer to anymore." And that's powerful.

  2. As I noted last night on twitter there's some irony about a person voluntarily stepping up in front of an international television audience in order to ask for privacy. "Look at me, so I can tell you not to look at me."

    I'm not saying the woman has to make her private life available for the world. Hell, I'm not famous and I don't. But why not just continue to live her private life the way she has for so long? She's hardly been tabloid fodder, not in the way of a Lindsay Lohan, or even an Angelina Jolie. I swear, when the camera showed her kids, I had no idea they were redheads until just then, that's how few pictures I've seen of them growing up.

    She was receiving a lifetime achievement award. She could easily have declined to accept it or to not accept it in person. Her acceptance, and acceptance speech, was entirely voluntary. I felt a bit like I was getting yelled at for wanting an answer to a question I hadn't personally asked. And that, frankly, most people stopped asking a while back.

    Also, I'm confused - she said she's "single" and yet she mentions her longtime partner Sidney at the end. Either she and Sid have a more complicated relationship than I assumed or that was the worst/most public way to break up with someone ever. [joke]

    AND, this explains her friendship with Mel Gibson. Rightly or wrongly, they both obviously feel very persecuted.

  3. Adam B.10:05 AM

    She and Cydney Bernard broke up around 2008, from what I can tell. I don't have the same problem you had with the speech; this was a defiant way to use her fame and platform to try to explain herself, directly.

  4. Randolph Clever10:22 AM

    Weird delivery of said speech...really underwhelming impact due to that weirdness.

  5. I don't mind that she tried to explain herself. I just think it might've been better suited to another time/place. She's not a great speechwriter nor speechmaker, based on last night. I've seen lots of people comment that they only understand what she was saying now that they've read the transcript. Perhaps she would've been better served picking a print platform? Or even a sit-down interview that could be reshot and edited. The only reason I can think of for choosing a live televised event is maximum drama. And I figure that's because - ACTOR.

    There's this thing Craig Ferguson likes to repeat: Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said by me? Does this need to be said by me now? I'd give the first two to Jodie, but disagree with the third, in the very precise since of "Now, during an awards ceremony at which I am not the only recipient, and as it's being telecast live."

  6. I also agree with something The Fug Girls tweeted, "I feel like Jodie Foster is slapping my wrist for something I didn't even do."

    It just felt like a mighty high horse Jodie rode in on.

  7. The speech really bothered me. She's a really smart person; she could do anything she wants. At least since she was a teenager, what she has actively chosen to do is be involved in many aspects of show-business, a profession that gets lots of attention, attention which many involved in it (although not all) seek out. She could have been an accountant or a dentist, and she would have gotten almost no attention. She could even have continued acting on stage in Dallas or Minneapolis if she wanted to keep acting, and gotten almost no attention. If there's anyone in the world who knew exactly what she was getting into every step of the way in her career it's Jodie Foster, so for her to tell us how persecuted she feels is ridiculous.

  8. Adam B.12:40 PM

    I think that once Hinckley shot Reagan, she lost the ability to choose to not-be-famous. Yes, she could have backed away from the entertainment world, but she was never going to be obscure.

  9. Shonda1:29 PM

    She DID back away from the entertainment world. She went to college. And while she was there, the assassination attempt on Reagan effectively ended her attempt at a normal life. She was never going to be a private citizen ever again after that. I don't know if you remember how big that was.

  10. Marsha1:35 PM

    I wasn't bothered by it at all - I quite liked it, actually. I just watched it (missed it last night) and I thought she came across as someone very grateful for all that the industry has given her - monetarily, artistically, and in the freedom she has to do pretty much whatever she wants - but still very aware that all of that has a cost. She's done a better job than most in keeping her private life private, and I took away from this that it's been very, very hard to do that and it has taken a great deal of conscious effort to do so. I also heard this as a cautionary message to the younger starlets in the audience (she seemed to be speaking directly to Jennifer Lawrence, I thought) that it is possible to be sane and be in Hollywood, but you have to work at it and you have to find people to trust and who have your back no matter what. That's a good message, and an important one, and I'm glad she took the opportunity to deliver it.

    I'm sure it also meant a lot to her (since it seems she doesn't plan on winning any more awards) to be able to thank some people publicly, so good on her for doing so. I've long been a Jodie Foster fan, and I, for one, thought this was a pretty great speech.

  11. Shonda and Adam, are you saying that the Reagan shooting puts her in a different category from other actors/actresses today, 30+ years later? I think I agree that for some time she probably was different, but I think that period ended long ago. Now, she's subject to the same rules that apply to other celebrities. The result for me, as for you I guess, is that she doesn't really have much privacy at all. But for me, she's not different in 2012 because a man with mental health problems cited her as a basis for a misguided act of violence in 1981. It's because people who make millions by starring in films can't be indignant about the fact that they have little personal privacy.

  12. Jenn.1:49 PM

    I did not watch the speech. (Basically, we watched the monologue, watched for a while longer, figured out that we'd gotten the bulk of the awesomeness of Tina Fey & Amy Poehler that the Golden Globes was going to provide to us, and turned to the Good Wife and Downton Abbey.)

    Ultimately, I don't tend to agree that this sort of thing is an inappropriate place for an actor or actress to talk about the desire for privacy. During such lifetime achievement award speeches, people often talk about what motivated them, led them to make certain choices, etc. My guess is that Jodie Foster could have done a lot more films, but her desire to be more private and less in the public eye probably explains the fact that we haven't seen her in a film in a long time.

  13. Adam B.1:58 PM

    As I said at the top, I think it puts her in a different category in terms of how being famous has affected her life. Yes, the press treats her the same as other celebs now, but the Hinckley experience affected her desire for privacy in a way that others didn't suffer.

  14. Ok. So when you said "she lost the ability to choose to not-be-famous," I took you to mean something like "tough luck, Jodie, you're now irretrievably in the public eye because of Hinckley." But you are saying that you actually meant something more like "I understand why she's sensitive to this issue, given the ways in which her fame has affected her life and the lives of others (see, e.g., Brady)"? If that's what you mean, I agree entirely.

  15. Adam B.2:08 PM

    Well, both. She both was stuck in the limelight regardless, *and* she has tougher issues with privacy as a result of Hinckley. That's why I reject the "why didn't you come out sooner?" complaints I've seen from some in the LGBT community -- maintaining privacy mattered more to her than it might to other celebs.

  16. Watts2:23 PM

    I agree that the Hinckley thing allows Foster to want and need a stricter level of privacy than just about any other movie star. (I'd put her in the same category as celebrities that have or have had really obsessive stalkers, like David Letterman and Jennifer Garner.)

    But the incoherency of the speech's organization and vagueness of her actual words, combined with the rather manic delivery, made me feel more like I was watching something akin to a breakdown than a stirring and inspiring speech.

    If SHE feels better this morning for having said what she said, then good on her.

  17. But I took you at first to be saying she's entitled to LESS privacy because of the shooting. I gather you are in fact saying she may be entitled to MORE privacy as a result.

  18. Adam B.2:30 PM

    I actually haven't said anything about the level of privacy to which she's entitled, but rather to the importance of privacy to her compared to others.

  19. Fred App2:55 PM

    I think the part that bothers me about the reaction to her speech is this idea that being a "celebrity" is the same thing as being an actor. I don't think you give up a right to privacy just because you appear in a movie, or on TV show. You're not asking people to care about you or have a relationship with you; you're asking them just to watch you perform.

    Now, if you decide you want to be a celebrity, then you're giving up your right to privacy, because you're being a celebrity is all about having a relationship with the public. You can't go halfway on that.

    If I choose a doctor or a lawyer or an auto mechanic, I don't care whether he's married or gay or has kids or is dating a Kardashian. (Well, maybe I'd like to know if he's dating a Kardashian, because it would certainly make me question his judgment). If I buy a house, I don't care about my Realtor's private life. If I buy a car, I don't car about the dealer's private life. So if I'm watching a movie, why should I care about the actors beyond what they're showing me on the screen?

  20. Adam B.3:18 PM

    Can you be a leading actor without being a celebrity, even a little bit? Can you say to the studio, "I'll act in your film, but I'm not appearing on Leno, and won't talk to People"? That's part of the problem.

  21. The closest you can come to that in recent years? Arguably Harrison Ford, who clearly hates doing publicity, but still gets sought after.

    And credit to folks who are both good at the acting stuff and at the "being famous" stuff--Clooney, Hanks, and Nathan Fillion lead that list.

  22. Fred App3:47 PM

    I think De Niro is another good example. I'd like to believe that there's a difference between doing a talk show to promote your movie, and doing a talk show to promote yourself -- and I'd also like to believe that it's easy for people to recognize that difference. But I think that latter belief is probably wrong, and that former belief may be a bit too idealistic.

  23. Adam B.4:03 PM

    Even if they don't enjoy doing the publicity circuit, they still do it. I don't think Fred's distinction is tenable.

  24. Marsha5:15 PM

    And even if you can blow off the publicity machine later in your career when you're totally famous, you absolutely cannot early on. If Jennifer Lawrence refused to do publicity for The Hunger Games, she would not have been cast in The Hunger Games.

  25. Agreed. She's been in the business for 47 of her 50 years, and it's easy to see how it might at times be all she thinks she knows. That desire for privacy, that active turning away from the idea of celebrity (separate from acting), was so important that she sacrificed quite a bit for it along the way. And making her point was so important that it may have led to a clunky delivery of a pretty great piece of writing.

  26. I remember it at the time and it was big. It seemed ironic and a little cruel that this was how she might be remembered, as a detail in presidential history. I don't know what that does to you at age 19(?). I admired her all the more for coming back to acting later in such spectacular fashion, on her own terms, with privacy and relative normalcy.

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