From Silence Of The Lambs To Nyad: Why Jodie Foster And Her Decades-Long Career Are So Empowering

Jodie Foster began acting when she was 3 years old, and she’s been consistently working basically ever since. With two Oscras, many nominations and a stack of acting and directing credits under her belt, she has proven over and over again that she’s not only here for the long haul, but that she’s a shining example of what a long, successful, and balanced career looks like. 

From The Silence of the Lambs to Nyad and so much more, this woman has made it clear that she is not only a master, but one who has been able to sustain her excellence across her decades-long career. And that, my friends, is why Jodie Foster is such an empowering role model. 

Jodie Foster laughs while talking at the table in Taxi Driver.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Jodie Foster Got Her First Oscar Nomination In 1977 For Taxi Driver At The Age Of 14 

When Jodie Foster was hired to work on Taxi Driver she was only 12 years old, however, she already had over 30 credits to her name. This made Martin Scorsese’s team feel intimidated, however, casting her proved to be a masterful decision as the actress went on to get an Oscar nomination for playing the child sex worker Iris Steensma opposite Robert DeNiro.

At only 14 years old, Foster attended the Oscars, and while she didn’t win, this film marked a shift in the tide and the beginning of the actress’s dominant career as a powerful performer. 

Not long after Taxi Driver, Foster was even offered the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars, but she had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts. This film from Scorsese made the actress a household name, and a critical darling. From there her career flourished, and to this day, the drama is considered one of her best films.

Jodie Foster in The Accused.

(Image credit: Paramount)

In 1989 Jodie Foster Won Her First Oscar For The Accused

In her late 20s, Jodie Foster returned to the Academy Awards. In 1989, she was nominated for her role in The Accused. In the legal drama, she starred as Sarah Tobias, a woman who was gang-raped and the subject of the case that followed. Ultimately, this performance won the actress her first Oscar, and you can see her acceptance speech here:

The Accused, which came out in 1988, is a vital movie that tells the story of how the legal system helps and harms victims of rape, an issue that is still incredibly relevant today. Foster’s brave performance was moving, and rightfully award-worthy. It also marked the end of her second decade working as an actor, and at the time she wasn’t even 30 years old yet. 

Jodie Foster in Little Man Tate.

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

Little Man Tate Served As Jodie Foster’s Directorial Debut In 1991

Now, Foster’s career as a young actress is empowering as is. Her choice of projects is powerful, and her fearlessness on screen is admirable. However, in 1991 she became even more of a role model when she directed and starred in the film Little Man Tate.

The actress’s ability to take on new roles is commendable, and her successful feature directorial debut is even more reason to look up to her. It’s also well known that the child prodigy at the center of this film shares a lot in common with Foster herself. In Roger Ebert’s review of the film he complimented the actress and her work, writing:

I sensed a quality in Jodie Foster than I also sense in Fred Tate: a certain balance, a certain perspective on the strangeness of life. Despite spending 25 of her 28 years in show business, Foster is sane, focused and not much impressed by showbiz glitter. Fred Tate is the same way; he looks at things with a level eye, he is not neurotic, he handles a roller-coaster childhood without going nuts.

This move into directing shows Foster’s skill, and it helped illuminate how well she had transitioned from being a child star into a grown-up one. 

Jodie Foster as Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

Jodie Foster Earned Her Second Oscar In 1992 For Silence Of The Lambs 

To this day, The Silence of the Lambs is probably the film Foster is best known for, and rightfully so. While Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Laura Dern were all considered for Clarice, ultimately, Foster won the part. The story goes that she passionately campaigned for it, and her persistence, determination and passion are what got it for her. In the end, she proved to be perfect for the character of the equally determined FBI agent in training, because on the film’s dominant night at the Oscars, she took home one of them:

With this win, Jodie Foster became one of only a few folks under the age of 30 who had won two Oscars. 

What I’ve learned from all this is just how passionate and committed Foster is. It’s admirable to pursue a project like she did, and the film’s critical and commercial success goes to show just how much hard work pays off. 

Danielle Brooks on Orange is the New Black

(Image credit: Netflix)

She’s Also Directed Two Other Features And Episodes Of Iconic Television Shows

While I’m only mentioning a few of her acting gigs, it’s vital to note that Foster has been acting consistently for decades. This is important, because along with performing, she also took up directing again.

Following Little Man Tate, she led the feature film Home for the Holidays in 1995 and The Beaver in 2011. Then in the 2010s, she helmed episodes of some of the earliest Netflix hits, like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Black Mirror. While her career began in television, she didn’t really come back to it until she started directing these shows. Her versatility as an actress and a director, along with her desire to take on a myriad of projects is really on full display here, and it’s incredibly empowering. 

NYAD. Jodie Foster as Bonnie Stoll in NYAD. Cr.

(Image credit: Kimberley French/Netflix ©2023)

Almost 30 Years After Her Nell Nomination, Jodie Foster Got A Nod For Nyad

When I look at Foster’s career, a movie like Nyad isn’t necessarily something I’d expect her to do. However, as she’s proven over and over again, she can do anything – as her first Oscar nomination in over two decades proved. 

In 1995 Foster received her fourth Oscar nomination for Nell. Then 24 years went by before she received her next one at the age of 61 for Nyad. That’s how she found herself on the list of 2024 Oscar nominees for her role as Bonnie Stoll, Diana Nyad’s best friend and swim coach, in the sports biopic (which you can stream with a Netflix subscription). Along with Foster’s performance in this uplifting film being incredible, it’s also a film about queer friendship, and it’s a lovely representation of the LGBTQ+ community. Showing, once again, the importance of her work.

Danvers standing in Mining Company office in True Detective: Night Country

(Image credit: HBO)

True Detective: Night Country Was Jodie Foster’s First TV Role Since The 1970s

If you tuned in to True Detective: Night Country when it aired on the 2024 TV schedule (you can still stream it with a Max subscription) then you witnessed Foster’s fantastic performance, proving that her work continues to be just as meaningful and prolific as it always has been.

Both Nyad and True Detective marked a turn in Foster’s career, as she hadn’t consistently worked in TV since the ‘70s, and her role in Nyad was unlike anything she’d taken on. In an interview with Interview Magazine, the actress explained how her work now is different from her work when she was younger, saying:

Then something happened when I turned 60. I was like, ‘I figured it out. This is good.’ There was something about going back to the work with a different attitude, I think. About really enjoying supporting other people and saying to myself, ‘This is not my time. I had my time. This is their time, and I get to participate in it by giving them whatever wisdom I have.’

Whether you are looking at the work Jodie Foster did as a kid, in her 20s or the projects she’s releasing today, there’s no denying that she’s an absolute powerhouse. She’s maintained an admirable work ethic and a magnificent reputation for her entire life. As she continues to work on more projects, and as her older movies and shows’ legacies live on, there’s no question that she is a role model to many women all over, myself included, and it’s for good reason, too. 

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