Off" the set, that Cinemascope confidence is tempered by gratitude. "This year has been the culmination of everything I've worked for," says Foster, 29. A former child star who dodged the odds by staying in—and succeeding in—the business, she retains her filmmaking passion. "As a director, you have to understand, with every pore, every element of your movie," says Foster. "It's harder physically than acting but healthier emotionally because you're in control."
Control seems vital to this daughter of Hollywood. For one, she has learned to control interviews with a gracious yet firm detachment, refusing to talk about her personal life at all. For another, she has taken a vow of silence regarding John Hinckley, the distraught drifter who in 1981 turned a gun on then President Reagan in a psychotic gambit to impress her. In fact, last October this woman of her word walked out right before a Today show taping because the producers were preparing to run footage on Hinckley.
She controls her work life with similar conviction. "I go after any role I like," she says. "I wouldn't feel good about myself if I didn't." Foster nabbed the plum part of Clarice Starling in Silence, for which the New York Film Critics Circle has named her best actress, by doing just that. While director Jonathan Demme was wooing Michelle Pfeiffer, she actively campaigned to be his second choice.
Tate, the offbeat tale of a kid prodigy, seems to many to mirror Foster's own precocious youth. That's a theory Jodie won't buy. "I was never gifted," protests the 1984 Yale graduate. Directing Adam Hann-Byrd, 9, she recalled her own childhood experiences in front of the camera and says, "I wanted him to feel it was serious, but I also wanted him to go home and say, 'God, I can't wait to do this again.' "
Still, for all her Tate triumphs, in 1992 she vows to "get back to acting." Having already completed Woody Allen's Shadows and Fog for February release, Foster insists, "I was happy just having somebody tell me what to do." Sure, sure. But Miss Authoritiva would hardly want to make that a habit.