The Most Tragic Details That Have Come Out About Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster's Coppertone commercial at the tender age of 3 marked the beginning of a life in the spotlight. Before she turned 30, Foster already had two Oscar wins under her belt. But in her eyes, there's nothing extraordinary about her life. "This is such a big deal and my life is so simple," she said when she won best actress for "The Accused" in 1989. Foster's definition of a simple life may differ from the regular definition because hers has been anything but.

From a young age, Foster has experienced hardships and been at the center of tragedies. Maybe Foster was just manifesting what she wished her life had been. The "Silence of the Lambs" winner never sought attention. She never wanted to be a movie star. As a child actor, Foster never had much of a say in the matter. But she's great at it and loves the artistry. It's what comes with it that she has no interest in. "I've never been OK with being a public figure," she said on "CBS Sunday Morning" in January.

In her attempt to reconcile acting and her need for privacy, Foster has tried hard to separate the two. "If you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler ... then maybe then you, too, might value privacy above all else," she said in her 2022 Golden Globe speech. As much as she tried, it was inevitable that the difficult situations she had faced came to light.

Jodie Foster's estranged father went to jail

Jodie Foster never had a relationship with her father. Lucius Foster walked out on Evelyn "Brandy" Foster when she was pregnant with Jodie and never to return. Jodie knew of him but never developed any kind of relationship. "He lives somewhere in L.A.," she told The Washington Post in 1993. "I've met him about three times." That reality remained unchanged. Lucius went on to live a life so completely different from his daughter's that it's hard to associate the two. 

In 2011, Lucius was sentenced to five years in jail for scamming elderly and low-income residents of more than $100,000, CBS News reported. Lucius was found guilty of pocketing $5,000 from his supposed clients as a retainer for low-cost container homes that he never intended to build. He only served seven months of his sentence. Lucius was accused of invoking his famous daughter's name to get his victims to trust him, but he denied it. "I wouldn't dream of using her name and I haven't," he told Inside Edition in 2013.

Lucius still tried to keep up with Jodie's work, though he didn't try to reconcile. "It's been a long time. My family are very divided right now," he said. At the time, he was struggling financially, making ends meet on $166 a week. But he didn't expect his daughter to help him in any way. "I don't want any help from anybody," he said. Lucius died in 2016 while suffering from Alzheimer's. 

Jodie Foster supported her family as a child

Because she was raised by a single mother who struggled to put food on the table for her four children, a 3-year-old Jodie Foster and her 9-year-old brother, Buddy Foster, started starring in commercials as children to help provide for the family. Jodie's career continued to grow while Buddy's waned, putting a lot of pressure on the youngest Foster. By the time she was in the first grade, Jodie was supporting her whole family. "I was it. There was no other income besides me," she told The Atlantic in February 2024.

Jodie's reality reversed the relationship she was supposed to have with Brandy Foster, who died from dementia-related complications in 2019. "I had to take care of her, and that pretty much meant I had to wake up and go to work," she told Parade in 2008 (via CBS news). Jodie understands they were the product of their circumstances. "She didn't have my opportunities," she said. Still, their reality wasn't simple. "It was an interesting relationship that was fraught — wonderful but painful, too," she told Net-A-Porter in 2018.

When Jodie won the 1992 Oscar for "Silence of the Lambs," she acknowledged the role Brandy, who was her manager for many years, played in her success. "Most of all I'd like to thank my mother Brandy, my friend, the person who has loved me so much and so well that she taught me in inimitable 'Little Man Tate' fashion to fly away," she said in her acceptance speech.

Jodie Foster was attacked by a lion

Being the provider for her family as a young child was not just a lot for Jodie Foster to take on — it could also be dangerous. When Foster was filming her very first feature film, the 1972 Disney adventure "Napoleon and Samantha," the then-8-year-old suffered a full-blown attack by a lion — which is her pet in the movie, by the way. "He came around me and he picked me up by the hip, turned me around, and shook me around. I was sideways, and I remember thinking, 'Oh, this is an earthquake," she said on "The Jonathan Ross Show" in 2017.

Not only was Foster in the lion's mouth but she was also deserted by the adults in the room. "I just kept seeing people fleeing. They were running away from me ... and they were taking their equipment with them," she laughed. Eventually, the lion's trainer ordered him to drop Foster and he did, though he decided he still had time to knock her down and pin her with his paw. "Kind of like, 'I got this bird," she said. Foster was taken to the hospital but returned to continue shooting next to her aggressor. 

While Foster can laugh about it now, she didn't walk away as unscathed as she sounds. The incident left Foster with a lifelong fear of cats, or ailurophobia. "Now cats freak me out a little bit," she said on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in 2008 (via Digital Spy)

Jodie Foster was outed by her own brother

Jodie Foster is fiercely protective of her private life. Despite being in the spotlight for decades, Foster didn't publicly come out until the 2013 Golden Globes,  years after she had split from Cydney Bernard, her longtime partner and mother of her two children. But Jodie's love life and sexuality had been the subject of relentless speculation from early on. And one of those who fueled rumors the most was none other than her brother, Buddy Foster (pictured above). 

In 1997, Buddy released "Foster Child: A Biography of Jodie Foster" in which he suggested Jodie had been involved with a designer a decade her senior — though he didn't use any labels to refer to her sexuality. "They clearly had a serious relationship," he wrote, adding they lived together in a one-bedroom apartment (via Entertainment Weekly). Buddy additionally contended their mother, Brandy Foster, was also gay. Jodie, who never addresses rumors about her personal life, was furious.

In a surprising statement to the press, Jodie argued Buddy had no authority to make claims about her. "I and my family consider him a distant acquaintance motivated solely by greed and sour grapes," she said. While Buddy's invasion of her privacy was an issue, Jodie seemed more bothered by his portrayal of Brandy, whom he described as aggressive and dysfunctional. "Mostly I feel sad for my 69-year-old mother, who has spent her life struggling to raise four children on her own with dignity and strength of character," Jodie wrote.

Jodie Foster's career was shaped by the Hinckley incident

John Hinckley Jr. could have dramatically changed American history had he succeeded in his attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981, just two months into his presidency. And he put Jodie Foster in the middle of it. The would-be assassin claimed he wanted to kill the president to impress a then-18-year-old Foster, for whom he had developed an obsession after seeing her in "Taxi Driver." By the time he shot at Reagan, Hinckley had been stalking Foster at Yale for months.

Because of her unwitting involvement in the assassination attempt, Foster was called to testify at his trial, where she had to face Hinckley's threats face-to-face this time. "I'll get you, Foster!" he yelled after throwing a pen at her during her testimony. While she rarely talks about the Hinckley incident, Foster shared how it changed her career. "It definitely influenced my future, and how I thought about my work; why I do what I do and how I wanted to shape my career," she said on "60 Minutes" in 2000, explaining she wanted to be an actor, not a celebrity.

The attention also made Foster a target. Shortly after, a man named Edward Richardson began stalking her on campus and sending her death threats. "I was too pretty to kill, he had said," Foster detailed in a 1982 Esquire essay. Richardson was later arrested.