For years, Jodie Foster’s two sons had no idea what their mom did for a living. “I didn’t show them my movies when they were younger,” says the two-time Academy Award winner, who shares Charles, 25, and Kit, 22, with ex Cydney Bernard. “I think they thought I was in construction because occasionally they would come to set and see guys with hammers and tool belts. I didn’t want them to know me that way,” she told The New York Times. “I wanted them to know me as their mom.”

Motherhood was just one of the factors that motivated the Panic Room star to retreat from Hollywood for more than a decade. “Celebrity culture was a big culprit,” she revealed in 2021. “I couldn’t stand what that was.” Now she’s back on the scene with two big projects — the Netflix movie Nyad alongside Annette Bening and the upcoming fourth season of the Max series True Detective: Night Country, which premieres January 14. “Jodie was very unhappy when she was in the thick of Hollywood and working a lot,” a source exclusively tells Closer of the actress, 61, wed to photographer Alexandra Hedison since 2014. “She’s now in a position to work as much or as little as she chooses. Her family and marriage are what mean the most to her.”

Child Star

Her relationship with the industry was always fraught. “I didn’t choose it,” she’s said of acting. When she was still a toddler, her mom, Evelyn, secured her first gig, an ad for Copperstone. “I was three years old. I got picked because I was willing,” Jodie told The Times. Soon she was the breadwinner of her family, including her three older siblings. “[I was] the child of a single parent, who supported the entire family, who couldn’t make any mistakes,” she’s said of the pressure. She grew up fast: At 13, she was nominated for her first Academy Award for her controversial portrayal of a teen prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. “Jodie felt used by her mother, who projected her own shortcoming onto her daughter,” says a source. “It made Jodie a very serious person.”

Jodie Foster Was ‘Unhappy’ in Hollywood Before Leaving to Raise Her Sons

She vowed to be a very different kind of parent to her sons. “She wants them to have a joyful life and not feel like they have to take care of her, or that they have to be in the public eye,” says the source. She let them be kids and make their own choices — something she never had. While Kit is studying chemistry at college, Charles has decided to follow his mom into acting. “Jodie totally supports it,” says a second source. “More than anything,” adds the source, “Jodie didn’t want to raise her sons to be spoiled Hollywood brats. And she’s pulled it off. They are unaffected by her fame.”

Happy Medium

She’s trying to find the delicate balance between doing work she loves and maintaining her privacy. “Jodie has no problem making the talk-show rounds when she’s promoting a project, and you see her being who she is — sweet and very intelligent with a great sense of humor,” says the first source. “But at the same time, she just wants to be able to live her life.”