Life as a producer had given Foster almost unheard-of creative control over her own projects, which included such family dramas as Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays, as well as Nell and a controversial and still-unrealized treatment of the life of Nazi-era filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Though she had misses as well as hits — Sommersby, a Civil War-era love story with Richard Gere in which Foster starred but did not produce, was panned by some critics — she was routinely touted as one of most powerful women in Hollywood.
A New Focus
Internally, though, she had already moved on. "Jodie was wanting her center of gravity to be shifted," says Jon Hutman, Foster’s best friend from Yale, who works as a production designer on some of her films. "The celebrity identity was always a suit of clothes, a fancy ball gown she put on because it was part of the job, but it was never meaningful to her."
When her son Charlie was barely a week old, Foster attended the premiere of a television movie produced by Egg. "She walked the red carpet, did the interviews, walked right out the back door and went home to her baby," says Meg LeFauve, her former partner at Egg. "When she’s in the room with you, she’s fully present. And then she’ll say, ’2:30, got to go get the kids. Bye.’"
In September 2001, Foster’s second son, Kit, was born. By then, she had realized parenthood was not the fraught juggling exercise she had feared. "I used to think, ‘What if there’s an interesting movie and it conflicts with going to a new school for the first time?’" she says in a self-mocking whisper. "Well, I didn’t anticipate that that was going to be about a two-second dilemma. I didn’t know the choices would be so easy to make."
In early 2002, Foster closed her company for good, and now limits herself to one project about every two or three years. Last year, she signed on to direct and potentially star in Sugar Kings, about an avenging young lawyer, and just starred with Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s hit hostage drama Inside Man next year. Foster knows that to do three pictures a year, as is required to climb today’s A-list, would mean having to "delegate away" the raising of her sons Charlie and Kit. "It means you have no idea what their reading skills are, or whether they stuck their finger in that other kid’s eye," says Foster. "There is all this daily, mundane stuff you are missing, and there is just no way in hell I was going to make that sacrifice."
Explorations of motherhood are a recurring theme in some of Foster’s best work in recent years, and the parallels to her own life are impossible to ignore. Her mother figures — tough yet vulnerable, often overbearing, yet determined to defy the odds — are much like her own mother, Brandy, with whom Foster has had a close but tempestuous relationship. It was Brandy who drove Foster’s childhood career, while raising Jodie and three older siblings after being abandoned by her husband. It was an upbringing that left Foster "neurotic as hell" in some ways, supremely confident in others, and ultimately, she says, grateful for the opportunities her mother created. Once Jodie began bringing in serious money, Brandy saw to it that her youngest daughter attended L.A.‘s prestigious Lycee Francais, traveled often to Europe, where she was exposed to the works of her idol, Louis Malle, and was mentored in Hollywood by such greats as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.