• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2021: Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian”

Alicia Christian Foster has had a blessed career. The LA born actress, better known as Jodie Foster, began working at the age of three, modeling for Coppertone and now, 55 years later, she has just secured her eleventh Golden Globe nomination for her part in the film The Mauritanian.
Adapted from a memoir by Mohamedou Ould Salahi, the story follows the German-educated electrical engineer from Mauritania (Tahar Rahim) who is accused of being a recruiter for al-Qaeda. He is ultimately forced to spend 14 years in detention at Guantanamo Bay by the United States government without ever being charged. When his case is brought to the attention of attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster), she becomes alarmed when informed that more than 700 prisoners are being held without trial. Along with her junior associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), they travel to Guantanamo, interview Salahi and take the case that places them squarely up against the power of the United States legal system.
For two-time Best Actress winner Foster, who has limited her acting assignments the past few years, the choice to be part of the project was plain and clear.
“This was a story that had to be told,” she said in a recent interview with the HFPA. “Mohamedou had this extraordinary journey; somebody that lived through fear and torture only to emerge as this incredibly humanistic, loving, affectionate, joyful, faithful person. You know that story had to be told. And, I got to play Nancy Hollander, so that sounded good to me.”
Hollander, based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is an internationally recognized criminal defense attorney whose practice is largely devoted to representing individuals and organizations accused of crimes, including those involving national security issues. Savvy as she might be in the courtroom, Foster was enamored by Hollander’s contradictions, which essentially gave her inroads in how to approach the character.
As an actor, Foster has tackled many social and political topics in such films as Taxi Driver, The Accused, Nell, and Little Man Tate, and readily admits that her goal as a filmmaker has always been to do meaningful work and to encourage people to do better. For The Mauritanian, the opportunity to look back at history and examine the dark places was too irresistible for her not to be a part of.
“There are harsh, dark stories that America needs to revisit and understand how we could possibly have done such wrong by people and that’s really the only way and unfortunately, you know, that hasn’t been done. It doesn’t get done on its own but films have that opportunity so I feel like this film can help us do that.”
While her contemporaries were in school, Foster was making her professional debut at age 6 in the hit TV series Mayberry R.F.D., subsequently appearing in more than 50 shows. She eventually transitioned to film, securing her first starring role at age 10 in the 1972 Disney film Napoleon and Samantha. While some might claim she lost out on important aspects of her childhood, Foster has a distinctive perspective. Yes, she had a different childhood, but there are no regrets of having missed out on things.
“It definitely wasn’t your sort of normal childhood but it was very healthy and productive in a lot of ways. It forced me to realize the consequence of things and that is very important. I also got to travel all around the world and talk to grown-ups and explore different parts of my personality at a very young age. I don’t think many kids get that chance.”
Foster continued her cinematic life with appearances in the Tom Sawyer and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, under the direction of Martin Scorsese. That relationship led to her breakout role in the psychological thriller Taxi Driver, which garnered Foster her first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress in the controversial role of a child prostitute. An eclectic array of roles followed, both domestic and international in scope, but the role that would elevate her prominence was in The Accused, playing a rape survivor who faces the criminal justice system battling victim blaming. The role would earn Foster her first Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Actress. She repeated that a few years later with The Silence of the Lambs. That same year, Foster also mase her directorial debut with the film Little Man Tate.
In a career that has now spanned almost 45 films, this Cecil B. deMille recipient has continued to be an artistic force both in front and behind the camera.