Liz Smith: Jodie Foster at Fifty

“IF YOU had been a public figure since you were a toddler, maybe you’d value privacy above all else, too.”

That was Jodie Foster, speaking her instantly famous acceptance speech at Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony. More than anything else, Miss Foster said, this remark was a reminder that the actress has been working and famous since a very young age. (Her first screen role of significance was as the 13-year-old prostitute of “Taxi Driver” but she’d been acting in TV and commercials for a number of years before that.)

And it should have reminded everybody in the Globes room, and the millions watching on TV, that Jodie Foster is hands down the most successful child-to-adult star ever bred in the cruel swamplands of show biz.

No breakdowns, no scandals of her own making. She was not responsible for the mad act of a crazed fan who tried to kill President Ronald Reagan to get her attention.

She put herself through Yale and kept her head down. And her sexuality had been an open secret for decades.

It never seemed to reflect on her successes or her less acclaimed efforts. (Except from a few gay activists who felt she “owed” them her private life.) She didn’t lose her appeal as an adult. Her good looks were not an issue to be slavishly critiqued. She did not dissipate.

She is intelligent, like a normal person is intelligent. She became a daring and reflective movie maker. She has never been one to try to impress us that she’s “more than a movie star.” She knows herself.

And she is a devoted friend. There beside her at the Golden Globes sat Hollywood pariah, Mel Gibson. (Mel looked good. And happy. Hollywood, and the public need to get over his past inebriated excesses because he seems redeemed by Jodie. He is a great and tremendously committed actor and filmmaker.)

I’ve read in some places that Jodie’s speech was “rambling.” It was a human, from the heart — open but still determined to retain some aspects of privacy. I remember meeting Jodie and her mother at the celebrated old Chinese restaurant Pearl’s, at the time she was making “Bugsy Malone.”

She was adorable then and her mother an exemplary caretaker. So I’ve been a fan of Jodie’s since her teenage and it’s great that she looks and acts even better than ever.

Her tribute at the Globes to her mother, who suffers from Alzheimers, was exceptional. (Foster didn’t say it, didn’t say the word. But did she have to? No. That’s genuine communication. The entire GG audience was in tears.)

Backstage, Foster had to emphasize that she was not retiring, because that’s what some gleaned from her speech. I didn’t. What I got was a woman who realizes that professionally she has achieved it all. There are no more mountains to climb unless she really, really wants to scale another show biz Everest. And she might. Or not. And if not, Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes was the picture of the superficial success we all think is so important, and a continuing search for the inner life we so often ignore.

P.S. Oh, and speaking of superficiality, Jodie looked glorious in her trademarked Armani simplicity. At the half-century mark, she is in her prime.

OTHER GG thoughts: I could not be more pleased at the wins for “Argo.” (Ben Affleck gave an almost frenzied speech of stunned appreciation. Even he seems gob smacked by his redemption of the past few years.) “Argo” is a great film. If I had my way, it would win the Oscar. But I have a feeling Oscar is saving itself for “Lincoln” and Mr. Spielberg.

Cheered immensely by Julianne Moore’s Globe for her remarkable performance as Sarah Palin in “Game Change.” This is not an “impersonation.” Moore captured many facets of Palin. It was not a hatchet job, no matter what Mrs. Palin and her supporters think. In fact I approved of every “Game Change” win.

I love Quentin Tarantino. I think he is a great “actor.”

As much as I don’t appreciate “Les Miserables” I can’t deny all the hard work and passion that went into it, so I won’t begrudge the hardworking and passionate “Les Miz” winners Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. (Jackman gave his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, the onstage tribute of the ages.)

I’m a little over Claire Danes’ histrionics in “Homeland” and would have preferred “Downton Abbey’s” brilliant Michelle Dockery in that TV category. But again, it is one hell of a workout Miss Danes puts herself through as the bi-polar CIA agent — a lazy uncommitted actress she is not.

OH, in an unrelated awards note. I just filled out my ballot for the Screen Actors Guild nominees. (The ceremony will be telecast on January 27th.) Did anybody but me notice that Nicole Kidman is the only actor nominated twice for a SAG statuette? One nod as Best Supporting actress for “The Paperboy.” And a leading actress nomination for the HBO movie “Hemingway and Gellhorn.” (HBO has become the MGM of television movies! And judging by the compliments lavished on the network by actors and directors, it is an extremely congenial atmosphere in which artists are allowed to truly create.)

AH, YES, GG hosts Tina Fey and Amy Pohler. They had their definitely amusing moments. But aside from the novelty of two great comic women hosting, no new ground was broken, either in matters of sizzling bad taste or scintillating wit. Let’s face it, these hosting chores are lose-lose situations most of the time. The ladies survived with no open wounds.

However I most certainly did not miss Ricky Gervais.

ENDQUOTE: “And thank you Harvey Weinstein, for whoever you had to kill to get me up here” said Jennifer Lawrence accepting her Globe for “Silver Linings Playbook.” That remark received one of the biggest and most knowing laughs of the night.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 1/15/13

4 comments so far.

  1. avatar JERILYN says:

    Once again Brava Liz Smith for an exceptional article on the Golden Globes. To me Jodi Foster’s tribute to her mom was the most touching tribute of the night. We all must salute our Mothers when we can and on the big stage Ms. foster made us all proud.

  2. avatar carol grzonka says:

    in reference to mel gibson as a ‘pariah’.  i am wondering why gibson has become the epitome of drunken excess? i remember an awards show of some years ago when roman polanski got a standing ovation in absentia, in spite of the fact that he became a expatriate while evading charges of raping a 13 yo child.  i remember the outpouring of excuses and support for polanski because of his ‘contributions’.  why are gibson’s, admittedly, questionable verbiage against adults treated as a worse transgression than child rape. i think that it’s wonderful that jodie foster displays loyalty toward her friend.  this type of behavior needs to be more prevalent.

  3. avatar Dorothyt says:

    Jodi Foster is absolutely the best.  She looked amazing.  Wonderful column, Liz.  I do hope Mel Gibson makes a huge comback.

  4. avatar Renees Readers says:

    I’ve always been a big fan of Jodie Foster. I admire intellect. simple yet elegant sense of style and her low key celebrity. Having experienced the heart wrenching effects of Alzheimer’s herself, may be she will help us climb the mountain as we search for a cure.