A look back at this day in film history
November 19
Jodie Foster November 19, 1962
Jodie Foster born

Born November 19, 1962, Jodie Foster is no stranger to controversy. She began acting when was only six years old, appearing in TV shows ranging from Mayberry R.F.D. to The Partridge Family before making a name for herself in co-starring roles in movies like Paper Moon, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Freaky Friday and Bugsy Malone. But her most indelible early role was playing the child prostitute, Iris, in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The obsession of Robert DeNiro’s mohawked vigilante, Foster became the true-life fixation of a real would-be killer, John Hinckley, Jr., who stalked Foster for years before turning his attention to President Gerarld Ford in a failed assassination attempt. Foster rose above the emotional drama of the event, continuing to act in great movies. She won an Academy Award for another gutsy portrayal, as a gang-rape victim in Jonathan Kaplan’s 1988 film The Accused. Foster then made her directorial debut in 1991’s Little Man Tate, about the challenges facing a seven-year-old gifted child. She returned to the director’s chair in 1995 with the comedy Home for the Holidays, and once more with a film that has again drawn unexpected attention. The not-yet-released The Beaver stars Mel Gibson, the once-great movie star now typecast by his outrageous and well-documented displays of serial anger, racism and sexism. The film tells the story of a depressed toy manufacturer who uses a beaver hand puppet to interact with his loved ones. It’s a crazy concept, the script got raves in industry circles, and its release poses yet another challenge for Foster, whose career is already one of the most fascinating in contemporary Hollywood.

More Flashbacks
November 19, 1998
Alan J. Pakula dies

One of the quiet men of Hollywood, Alan J. Pakula, tragically died in a road accident on this day in 1998.

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November 19, 1995
Toy R Us

Every year or two, audiences can count on a well-crafted, richly imaginative family entertainment from Pixar Studios, but on November 19, 1995, betting on the company’s computer-animated films wasn’t such a sure thing. On that day, the company’s first feature, Toy Story, the debut movie from writer-director John Lasseter, premiered in Hollywood, and it was the end of a strange and sometimes bumpy road. Pixar had its origins in 1979 as a division of George Lucas’s Lucasfilm devoted to the development of new software that would enable traditional animators to transition to 3D computer animation. Lucas sold the division for $5 million in 1986 to Steve Jobs, who had recently left Apple Computer, the company he founded (and would later return to). Under Jobs, Pixar shifted its focus towards building and selling a computer, the $135,000 Pixar Image Computer, mostly to non-film industry buyers like the U.S. government and medical research companies. But with sales slow, employee John Lasseter began to use the company’s technology to create TV commercials as well as a short film, Luxo Jr. The short, about father and son desk lamps, won an Academy Award in 1986 and lead to a three-picture deal with Walt Disney Studios. With that deal, Pixar firmly shifted its focus to moviemaking, and Lasseter began the screenplay that would become Toy Story. But soon, obstacles arose. Disney execs halted production on the film after 10 months, arguing that one of its characters, a toy cowboy named Woody, was too abrasive. Lassetter enrolled in a screenwriting course and, six months later, had retooled the script to Disney’s approval. All of the company’s work paid off on opening weekend when Toy Story opened to rapturous reviews and a box-office gross of $39.1 million, instantly recouping its $15 million production budget. And, ten years later, the company, that had created the best recognized animation brand since Disney, was bought by the Walt Disney Company itself for $7.4 billion in Disney stock.

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