Why Jodie Foster Didn’t Know She Was Nominated for a SAG Award for “Nell” Until After She Won

Looking back on the Screen Actors Guild Awards’ 30-year history, Foster says she had “never heard of the nomination”

<p>SGranitz/WireImage</p> Jodie Foster in 1996


Jodie Foster in 1996

Jodie Foster was surprised to realize she had won a Screen Actors Guild Award in 1995 — because she didn’t know the awards existed.

“I first heard about my win the next morning,” she told Netflix’s Tudum in an interview published Wednesday about the SAG Awards’ 30-year history.

“I’d never heard of the nomination,” recalled the actress, 61, who earned a SAG statuette for her leading performance in the movie Nell. Learning about her nomination and win, she added, “was kind of a shock, as if someone had made a mistake.”

Related: Anthony Hopkins on What He Loves About ‘Very Cool’ Silence of the Lambs Costar Jodie Foster (Exclusive)

As Kathy Connell, a SAG Awards Committee founding member and former executive producer, told Tudum, the starry show wasn’t an awards season staple right out of the gate.

“People would say, 'SAG awards, what SAG awards?' It was so nerve-racking because we were throwing one of the biggest parties in Hollywood and we didn't know if anybody would come," Connell said.

In addition to Foster, the inaugural SAG Award winners were Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump, Dianne Wiest for Bullets over Broadway and Martin Landau for Ed Wood. The ceremony was held at Stage 12 at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Members of SAG-AFTRA voted upon the winners, as they still do today.

NYPD Blue star Dennis Franz, who won SAG's first Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series prize, recalled fitting the ceremony in between appearances at Frank Sinatra’s golf tournament alongside Frasier nominee Kelsey Grammer.

"Honestly, when I first heard about the SAG Awards, my knee-jerk reaction was, 'Oh, great. Just what we needed, another award show,’” Franz, 79, said. “But as I thought more about it, I thought, ‘This is really actors acknowledging other actors,’ and it seemed like a unique, good idea to me.”

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<p>Kevork Djansezian/Getty</p> Jodie Foster in 2019

Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Jodie Foster in 2019

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Nell, directed by Michael Apted and costarring Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson and Richard Libertini, also earned Foster her third of five Academy Award nominations. She has Oscar wins for 1988’s The Accused and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs (both predating the SAG Awards). 

Nell was a performance that was life-changing for me personally but wasn’t necessarily a critics’ favorite,” said Foster. “It meant a lot that fellow actors from my very own guild felt moved enough to honor me at [the] first ever event.”

That’s why, she added, she made a point of attending the second annual ceremony in 1996, presenting the best movie actor prize (to Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas). “I wanted to present ASAP to acknowledge how touched I was by the previous year’s honor and to be a part of a new tradition," Foster told Tudum.

<p>SGranitz/WireImage</p> Jodie Foster and Nicolas Cage in 1996 at the 2nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards


Jodie Foster and Nicolas Cage in 1996 at the 2nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards

Foster also appeared at the 2019 SAG Awards to present Black Panther’s cast the best ensemble prize — which she told Tudum is her “favorite category.”

Related: Chadwick Boseman Makes SAG Awards History with Four Nominations in a Single Year

“Yes, actors work in ensembles, and rarely is that aspect acknowledged,” she said of the award. 

Foster is in contention once again for a SAG Award this year. At the upcoming ceremony, she is nominated a second time, in the supporting movie actress category for her work playing Bonnie Stoll in Nyad.

The 30th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will stream live on Netflix on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. ET, from the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. SAG-AFTRA announced a list of ceremony presenters that includes Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain, Erika Alexander, Emily Blunt, Fran Drescher and Jennifer Aniston. The latter will present Barbra Streisand with this year’s SAG Life Achievement Award.

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