Also Credited As:Alicia Christian Foster
|Actor, Director, Producer|
|Alicia Christian Foster on November 19, 1962 in Los Angeles, California, USA|
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Born on Nov. 19, 1962 in Los Angeles, Foster began life in a broken household. Her father, Lucius, left the family when her mother, Evelyn (a.k.a. Brandy), was roughly three months pregnant. With the fervent support of her mother, Foster began her acting career at three years old with commercials; most notably baring her buns in a classic ad for Coppertone. In 1969, she made her television debut on an episode of "Mayberry R.F.D." (CBS, 1968-1971), then had her first feature-length role in the made-for-TV movie "Menace on the Mountain" (1970). Several inauspicious, though regular appearances in guest spots on series TV and in several features for Disney, including "One Little Indian" (1973), were followed by a small role in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974), her first and lesser-known collaboration with director Martin Scorsese. Two years later, she left an indelible impression with her controversial performance in "Taxi Driver" as the teenage prostitute who inspires Robert De Niro's deranged personal crusade. She was nominated for her first Academy Award at age 14.
Foster followed "Taxi Driver" 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. All throughout her still-ripe career, however, Foster remained an excellent student, graduating as class valedictorian from Los Angeles' lofty Lycée Français in 1980 and going on to study literature at Yale University. She managed to survive unwanted publicity when the mentally ill John Hinckley, Jr. failed in his attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, something he did to somehow impress the young actress. Hinckley was obsessed with Foster after repeated viewings of "Taxi Driver" and moved to New Haven, CT in order to be closer to her while she attended Yale. After slipping notes and poems under her door and harassing her with phone calls, Hinckley searched for more dramatic ways to attract Foster's attention - including committing suicide in front of her - before finally settling on shooting the president. Despite the unwanted media attention, Foster remained typically private about the incident, even decades later.
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), a role she fought hard to get after botching her initial audition. She followed up with another sterling performance in "The Silence of the Lambs," playing a rookie FBI agent trying to track down a serial killer (Ted Levine) by forging an uncomfortably close bond with the famed Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lector (Anthony Hopkins). Also that year, she made her directorial debut with "Little Man Tate" (1991), an endearing drama about a child prodigy (Adam Hann-Byrd) who is caught in a tug-of-war between his working-class mother (Foster) and his teacher (Dianne Wiest). Based on her proven drawing power the previous year with "Lambs," in 1992, Foster forged a three-year deal with Polygram Filmed Entertainment, which committed to financing three films under her Egg Pictures banner in the $25 million range and three in the $10-$15 million range. Foster was now able to choose whether or not to act, direct or simply produce the films, gaining rare control and flexibility for a Hollywood actress.
Foster's acting work during this time was generally 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 in the Western spoof "Maverick" (1994), opposite Mel Gibson - her first comedy in over a decade. In her first Egg Pictures effort, Foster turned in a luminous performance in "Nell" (1994) by playing a backwoods hermit who speaks in an invented tongue. Once again, Foster earned her fourth Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Foster's second directorial effort - and her first where she stayed behind the cameras - was "Home for the Holidays" (1995), an ensemble comedy about a recently fired woman (Holly Hunter) 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 Anne Bancroft and Robert Downey, Jr. - was praised.
She returned to acting with 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; a film that greatly benefited 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 failed to be a triumph for Foster. She next appeared in a supporting role as the universally 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 director David Fincher's taut and stylish "Panic Room" (2002), she played a single mom woman opposite her young daughter (Kristen Stewart) holed up in their home's high tech panic room during a home invasion by three would-be thieves (Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto). Foster landed the role after Nicole Kidman bowed out two weeks before shooting due to a knee injury. Adding to onset worries, Foster began the shoot five months pregnant with her second son, Kit. Nonetheless, Foster managed to pull off the demanding action role with her usual steady assurance. Interestingly, her next project had similar thematic tones and an equally contained environment. "Flightplan" (2005) saw Foster as an aeronautics engineer and 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. Although the film sometimes flew intensely over-the-top, Foster's compelling performance grounded it in enough reality to make it a satisfying film.
Foster next starred in Spike Lee's impressive genre piece, "Inside Man" (2006), playing a well-connected fixer for the rich and powerful who is called in to keep quiet the secrets of a bank founder (Christopher Plummer), while his employees are held hostage by a master thief (Clive Owen). Foster continued her new millennium rebirth with "The Brave One" (2007), a revenge thriller about a New York City radio host who struggles to recover from a brutal attack by setting out on a dark journey to seek justice. The role earned Foster her best acclaim in years, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. After playing a reclusive writer opposite child star Abigail Breslin in "Nim's Island" (2008), Foster directed friend Mel Gibson - who at the time was in the midst of public condemnation over his scandalous, racist tirades against an ex-girlfriend - in the offbeat drama "The Beaver" (2011), in which Gibson played a depressed CEO of a toy company who loses everything and finds unusual comfort through a beaver puppet he finds in the trash. The film received mixed reviews from critics and did poorly at the box office in a limited art house run, marking it the worst financial performance of any Foster-directed film to date. Meanwhile, she starred opposite John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz in "Carnage" (2011), a film adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway play, "God of Carnage." In 2013, while receiving the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award for a lifetime of achievement, Foster acknowledged in her acceptance speech that she was, in fact, gay and offered a passionate defense of privacy for celebrities. Some viewers thought Foster had used to speech to announce her retirement, but she denied this once in the press room.