Jodie Foster: The Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood - Philippa Kennedy

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Jodie Foster: The Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood - Philippa Kennedy

Jodie Foster is admired as an actress and a director. This biography builds a picture of her, through friends, family and the people who have influenc...

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Review of "Jodie Foster: The Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood - Philippa Kennedy"

published 11/11/2004 | badgirl99
Member since : 15/09/2004
Reviews : 18
Members who trust : 13
About me :
Pro Find out more about Hollywood's most private star
Cons It's not written by Jodie herself
very helpful

"Tough kid Jodie"

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver

Some of you may be aware of my "slight" adoration of Jodie Foster. Only recently did I get round to reading one of the many biographies written about her. The simple reason I chose this one over the others is because I got it from the library and it was the only one they have. However, having read this one, it’s started me off so I do now intend to read the others bit by bit. But for now, it’s all about Philippa Kennedy’s version of Jodie’s life and I thought the best way to tackle it was to take it a chapter at a time so here goes:


This chapter gives us a brief but thorough insight into Brandy's life from before Jodie to after. She married Lucius Foster in 1953 and Jodie was their fourth and final child together born as Alicia Christian on 19th November 1962. Lucius and Brandy split up before Jodie was born so her brother Buddy saw himself as the man of the house. At the time, he was the one earning all the money by making commercials and TV series. He was a budding star but the changeover took place when Jodie went with him to an interview and ended up getting the part instead of him when she wasn't even auditioning! She was 3 years old and Buddy was 8.
Brandy and Jodie had an excellent relationship and her mother did everything she could to get the best for Jodie. So much so that (unintentionally) Buddy ended up feeling left out and bitter for most of his life - even up until today.


Here Kennedy tells us about Jodie's relationship with her father - or rather, lack of it. Whilst Buddy always maintained a relationship with his father, Jodie never had any inclination to. He left before she was born and never kept in touch so that was all Jodie needed to know about the matter. They had met just 4 times when Jodie had reached her teens and it never seemed to make any difference to Jodie:
"No I don't miss him. Why should I? It's cruddy having a man around the house." Kennedy gives a balanced view of a man who many consider to be a waste of space. She is accurate with all her information and portrays the true story for what it is:
"It seemed a little sad."


The story continues... Buddy married a Mexican girl when he was 19 and the family wasn't too pleased about it. He was working as a car-park attendant and had a new baby to look after. He wasn't too happy with his situation, and his lack of acting work left him stuck in a rut. Meanwhile Jodie was attending the exquisite Lycée Français where all the lessons are taught in French. She managed to be top of her class and still find time in-between to shoot commercials and a couple of films. She was beginning
to receive fan mail, which never fazed her and she remained as down to earth as ever. She made her first full-length feature film when she was eight - Napoleon and Samantha. Her first big break came in the form of The Taxi Driver starring Robert DeNiro where she plays a thirteen-year-old prostitute. Kennedy provides us with all the information on the uproar that went with her acceptance of the part and there's a lot written about what Jodie thought of the role along with what everybody else’s opinions. Kennedy describes Jodie’s coming of age wonderfully; giving us complete information of every single film and TV series she did from an 8 year old up until she graduated from high school with honours and a complete fluency in French.


In this chapter Kennedy tells us about Buddy's disappearance into the background and the hurt and devastation he felt as it happened. She provides us with quotes from everyone involved - from Buddy himself to Jodie and Lucius. Buddy had been the wage earner throughout his childhood and when he came to collect his fortune at 16, he found that it had all been spent on keeping the family. He was bitter, angry and extremely resentful at his sister's success and his failure. He became addicted to painkillers and even thought of suing Jodie for loss of earnings. His Mexican wife was pregnant with their second son when they split up. He still desperately wanted to be an actor and got a smaller part alongside Jodie in Foxes when he was 24. His second wife left him after they had a daughter together and Buddy tried to end his own life. He was determined never to marry again but did and it seems to have been third time lucky as he feels Stacey helped get his life back on track. Buddy got a licence as a real estate broker and builder and has his own business. He had counselling and still has demons to exorcise - some of those being the need to try acting again:
"Going back to acting has nothing to do with being famous or doing anything great. It's because there were so many resentments when I stopped. I want to pursue it as a
growth for me."


A part of me is really annoyed that this man gets a whole chapter in this book devoted to him because to see his name up there next to Jodie’s probably gives him some sick pleasure. However, it is definitely a necessary chapter as the story is so intriguing and such an important part of showing Jodie’s strength of character and the obstacles she’s had to overcome. If you didn't already know what happened, this book will give you as much detail as possible – right down to the deranged letters he sent her:
“Jody, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you…I love you forever.”
He attempted to assassinate the president of the USA in order to impress Jodie. The way in which Jodie handled herself after this is absolutely admirable. She was only young herself, in the middle of studying for her degree and although she must have been deeply affected, she refused to let him ruin her. This is just further proof as to the strength of Jodie's character.


After the whole fiasco of Hinckley, Jodie just wanted to be treated normally and get on with things but it was easier said than done. Her friends didn't really know what to say to her and she was hurting. She always put on a brave face but couldn't hide her feelings completely. 20 months later she couldn’t hold back anymore and wrote:
"That kind of pain doesn't go away. It's something you never understand, forgive or forget. It is a pain that can never be healed with a kiss from a mother's lips or a "ssh, everything's OK". Everything's not OK! It's not,"
However, her tough act was working very well until Edward Richardson was caught with a gun and confessed to intending to kill her. After all these devastating events it's not hard to see why she is almost obsessive about her keeping her private life just that.


It's interesting to read how Jodie was so confident about herself and her career that she decided to put acting on hold whilst she went to university. She decided to take part in the university play and was shook to the core when Reagan was shot halfway through its run. She didn't know whether to quit or carry on but of course, she resented letting the lunatics win and so she carried on. She received death threats and letters from besotted men and all the time she kept her cool and her feet firmly on the ground. She stuck to her small circle of friends especially Marco Pasenella with whom she had a close relationship, albeit platonic. She continued to shoot films in-between terms at university and considered a career in writing (thank goodness she changed her mind!). Despite her hectic schedule, she graduated with honours in 1985.


And rightly so. Jodie plays a fantastic part in this horrifying film based on a true story. It was something she really believed in and fought to get the part. There were rumours about her relationship with Kelly McGillis which we will never know the basis of. However, Kelly's now married so it would seem unlikely. Again, Kennedy has really done her research into what went on whilst filming the accused and how Jodie felt about it.


Michelle Pfeiffer was the director's choice for the role of Clarice Starling but Jodie fought to prove that she was meant for the part. Luckily for her, (and us!) Michelle thought it was too dark and passed on it. I can't see anyone else as Clarice Starling and believe it's the best role Jodie has ever played. She went to real FBI camps to learn about it and really put her heart and soul into it. Nobody could argue that she was thoroughly deserving of her Oscar for the role she played. Kennedy gives us all the info on the making of the movie and Jodie’s feelings about it that we could possibly want.


It's one thing to be a director, but to play a main part in that movie at the same time is something else. Jodie did just this in her directorial debut, Little Man Tate. The majority of this chapter is in Jodie's own words, which is good because you know you can believe it. Many compared her to the child prodigy in this film but Jodie insists that although she was more intelligent than most of the kids at school, she wasn't a child prodigy. She loved working with Adam (the actor who played Fred Tate), as she was able to direct him how she felt she should have been directed at a young age. Jodie's a natural leader and had no problem expressing what she wanted out of this film and she's the first to admit her faults:
"To start with I was much too dictatorial"
In my opinion, to admit one's mistakes is the most admirable thing a person can do and to be honest, I'm so biased where she’s concerned that no mistake she's ever made would change my opinion of her!


Oh yes, the question everybody would love to know the answer to but even our writer, Philippa Kennedy doesn't know. She presents all the things in Jodie's life that would hint at her sexuality and as you might expect, the evidence strongly suggests that she is gay. To be honest, I believe she is but I think it's brilliant that she's managed to keep it to herself because at the end of the day, her sexuality is nothing to do with anybody else.
In 1991 she became one of many famous victims of a militant gay organization determined to "out" stars who they believed to be gay. Personally, I find it disgusting that they would do this and a disgrace to the gay community. We've all had our own experiences of coming out and nobody is in a better position to know how hard it can be than gay people themselves, so I can't believe they wouldn't have more respect for the celebrities' privacy. However, whilst the tons of other celebrities they targeted publicly announced they were heterosexual, Jodie preferred the "No comment" line. A dignified silence that I respect her greatly for.


In this chapter, Kennedy demonstrates Jodie's growth as an actress, describing all her films from Sommersby to Maverick. Which brings up the interesting question of: would people have believed in either of these roles if they had known for sure she was a lesbian? When has Rupert Everett ever played anything other than a gay man? I have a feeling Jodie didn't want to be restricted like this but... that's just my opinion. Whereas all her roles tended to be victims, when she reached her thirties, she tried different things like comedy with Mel in Maverick and in Nell where she played a woman who was brought up in the backwoods with no sense of society. I feel it's one of her best roles and definitely most challenging. It's clear how much Jodie has grown as an actress and how much she has learnt:
"There are two things you can eventually learn as an actor. The first is to feel you can do anything. The second is to know that you can't"


This is Jodie's own film company. It's something she admits to being very proud of but yet, she's never felt so nervous about anything because the responsibility for the success of a film all comes down to her, "I'm really scared of this one. I think it's the hardest thing I'll ever do." They had done nothing after two full years of existence but the choice of film was crucial. They chose Nell and the negative point about this book is that it was released before the movie was finished and so there's nothing further on it. However, although Nell wasn’t the blockbuster it deserved to be, it certainly wasn’t a flop and it’s a movie to be proud of.


This is a brilliant book that has been very well researched indeed. It has quotes from tons of different sources about Jodie and her many films. Kennedy refrains from giving too much opinion, which is excellent because at the end of the day, we can read the newspapers every day and see thousands of different stories and opinions about Jodie but it doesn't mean any of them are true. So it's very refreshing to read a book that has so many of her own words in there.

Whilst I can find nothing about Jodie's opinion on this book, her disapproval of the book her brother wrote about her life speaks volumes. She clearly stated she wasn't happy with what he'd written and considering he left home when he was 16 and Jodie was 11 and hasn't seen her much since, I'd be inclined to not believe much of what he has to say. I will however read his book just out of interest and maybe I'll review it too!

The only thing wrong with this book is that it's outdated as it was published in 1995.
It has a full listing of Jodie's filmography at the back - from everything she has directed, produced or acted in (including TV shows).

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who's interested in Jodie. You might also want to check out the following although I can't comment on how good they are as I haven't read them myself yet:

* Foster Child: An Intimate Biography of Jodie Foster by Her Brother ~Buddy Foster, Leon Wagener

* Jodie Foster (Blue Banner Biography) - John Bankston

* Jodie Foster (Women of Achievement- Therese De Angelis

* Jodie Foster: A Biography - Louis Chunovic

As you can see, many people have written books about her, I only wish she'd write one herself and set the record straight!!

Thanks for reading, sorry about the length! Amy T

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Comments on this review

  • salem_witch published 22/01/2005
    Maybe one day she will write one herself!
  • Cerulean published 15/12/2004
    Fansinating read. Thanks. Excellent detail. Jodie Foster is my fav, infact during my school days shes was the name written all over my school books and pencil case! Perfect review.
  • s_jones_2003 published 15/12/2004
    I've given you an E as really not sure what else you could have added, always find it hard to write book reviews but think you've done it perfectly! Sarah x
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Product Information : Jodie Foster: The Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood - Philippa Kennedy

Manufacturer's product description

Jodie Foster is admired as an actress and a director. This biography builds a picture of her, through friends, family and the people who have influenced her from an early age. Foster has said that she never thought of herself as an actress until she made "The Accused" - for which she won her first Oscar - but she had already developed a respected reputation before. Foster is known to be likeable and well-balanced - at the same time she wields huge power in Hollywood. How has she attained this state, and how has she managed to maintain her privacy? This book also covers her much-discussed sexuality and her relationships with her family - particularly her mother, and her brother who sued her for "loss of earnings". It discusses the obsessive behaviour she incited in John Hinckley and its affect on her life, and also what her hopes and ambitions for the future are.

Product Details

Type: Non-Fiction

Genre: Biography

Title: Jodie Foster: The Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood

Author: Philippa Kennedy

ISBN: 0330335162; 0333615190


Listed on Ciao since: 11/11/2004