CHILD PRODIGY, ADULT STAR

They sit there in growing awe. The silence of the darkened theatre is broken frequently by applause. It is billed simply as "A Tribute to Jodie Foster." They do this for one film legend every year here at the Telluride Film Festival. Often it is for some dead actor from the past, like Charles Laughton or Laurence Olivier.

These hundreds of film buffs, who have already paid $250 for a festival pass, wait in line more than an hour to get a seat.

Now they are squeezed together in the dark. There is not a single vacant seat.

The highlights begin with 8-year-old Foster portraying Becky Thatcher in Tom Sawyer.

That film serves to reinforce something the audience already knows about Jodie Foster. She was a natural from the very beginning.

At 28, she has already made 30 movies. That is more than Debra Winger, Meryl Streep, Kathleen Turner or even Arnold Schwarzenegger.

There has always been a certain MD120 Col 1, Depth P54.10 I9.14 magic about her. You can see it clearly in her performance as a Tucson teenager in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. In that film, Foster's character is asked to explain her unruly attitude toward school and says simply, "Mom turns tricks from 3 on at the Ramada Inn."

There is the great scene with Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, when De Niro offers to take Foster's 12-year-old Iris away from the whorehouse where she works. The role won Foster an Academy Award nomination.

Then there are the harrowing scenes from The Accused, the 1988 film for which she won a Best Actress Oscar. She plays a rape victim who has difficulty convincing people that her attackers should be punished. The rape scenes took five days to shoot and she cried so much making them that she broke blood vessels above both eyes.

An expectant hush falls over the theatre as a clip from The Silence of the Lambs flashes on the screen.

It is the unforgettable meeting between Foster's Clarice Starling, the FBI agent-in-training, and master criminal Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins.

Hopkins is in a cage, but his powers are so awesome that Foster is both fascinated and repelled by him.

You can almost hear people all around suck in their collective breath as Hopkins tells her, "You look like a well-scrubbed, hustling little rube . . . one generation removed from poor white trash." The theatre lights go on. The crowd spots the tiny Foster walking swiftly up a side aisle to get to the microphone in front of the screen.

Without being prompted, the members of the audience stand and begin applauding vigorously. Some have tears in their eyes.

Foster learned to read at age 3. During her formative years she and her mother Brandy vigorously pursued the films of Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut and Federico Fellini.

It was not your typical childhood.
When she graduated from high school, she gave the commencement address in French. Since that time she has earned--with honors--a degree in literature from Yale University.

She not only won an Oscar, but John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Reagan just to impress her.

Foster speaks softly and all too briefly. She is at the festival to present

 
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