Foster took the stage as this year's winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, which had been announced previously. But her acceptance speech was anything but predictable as the veteran actress seized control of what is every year a noisy, boozy ballroom; the crowd of A-listers quickly quieted down as it became apparent that she had something serious and important to say.
The 50-year-old Oscar-winner, who's been protective of her private life and reluctant to discuss her sexual orientation, was coy at first, suggesting she had a big announcement that would make her publicist nervous. Then she stated: "I'm just going to put it out there, loud and proud ... I am, uh, single," pausing for dramatic effect before that last word. "I hope you're not disappointed that there won't be a big coming-out speech tonight. I already did my coming-out about a thousand years ago."
Foster joked that celebrities are now expected to reveal they're gay "with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show. ... You just might be surprised but I am not Honey Boo Boo Child. Please don't cry, because my reality show is so boring."
She added defiantly: "If you had been a public figure since you were a toddler, maybe you'd value privacy above all else, too."
Foster thanked Cydney Bernard, a production manager whom she identified as her former partner of 20 years and with whom she has two sons.
She also made it sound as if she planned to retire from acting once and for all, something she'd toyed with previously. But backstage afterward, she clarified for reporters: "I could never stop acting. You'd have to drag me behind a team of horses. I'd like to be directing tomorrow. I'm more into it than I have ever been."
As for why she chose this place and time to discuss her private life, Foster explained backstage: "The speech kind of speaks for itself. ... It's a big moment. I wanted to say what's most in my heart."
Her revelation, vague as it was, nonetheless set Twitter on fire with reactions. Some called her words moving and brave while others suggested that she should have done more to be a role model for lesbians.
Ricky Martin, who came out himself in 2010, tweeted: "Jody Foster On your terms. Its your time! Not before nor after. Its when it feels right."
And Amy Poehler, who co-hosted the Golden Globes with longtime friend and fellow comedian Tina Fey, cracked as she was signing off for the night: "We're going home with Jodie Foster!"