But accepting her Cecil B. DeMille Award at Sunday’s ceremony for her “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment,” the actress and director delivered a deeply personal speech — which brought much of the A-list crowd to tears — in which she spoke out about her sexuality in a way she never has.
After a quippy introduction from friend and collaborator Robert Downey Jr., Foster, now 50, marveled at a montage of her cinematic résumé, which included clips from films like Taxi Driver, The Silence of the Lambs, Contact and Nell.
She then grew introspective as she assessed where she was, both in her life and in her formidable career.
“I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never been able to air in public that I’m a little nervous about — but maybe not as nervous as my publicist,” Foster nervously began. “So I’m just going to put it out there, loud and proud, right? I’m going to need your support on this. I am, uh — “
The room held its breath.
“I’m single,” Foster revealed, to laughter.
But without actually saying the words “I’m gay,” Foster acknowledged that she’s never lived her life any way other than as a gay woman.
“I already did my coming out a thousand years ago, in the Stone Age,” she said. “Those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to friends and family and co-workers then gradually to everyone that knew her, everyone she actually met. But now apparently I’m told that every celebrity is to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a primetime reality show.”
“In the future people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was,” Foster added.
She later directly thanked Cydney Bernard, her former longtime partner, with whom she raises sons Charles and Christopher Foster, both of whom were in attendance and beaming with pride as they watched their mother deliver her remarks.
“There’s no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life: my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life, my confessor, ski buddy, consigliere, most beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard,” Foster said.
The actress/director then fought back tears paying tribute to her 84-year-old mother, Evelyn Almond, who suffers from dementia.
“Mom, I know you are inside those blue eyes somewhere,” Foster said. “I love you, I love you, I love you, and I hope that if I say this three times, you will magically and perfectly enter into your soul, fill you with grace and the joy of knowing that you did good in this life, you’re a great mom, please take that with you when you’re finally okay to go.”
Foster closed with an oblique reference to a shift in priorities, career-wise. There were no retirement announcements; rather, she’d only say that she “may be holding a different talking stick.”
“Maybe it won’t be as sparkly, maybe it won’t open up 3,000 screens, and maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle,” Foster hinted, leaving the world to wonder what comes next for one of Hollywood’s most prolific and praised voices.