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Little Man Tate is a 1991 drama film directed by and starring Jodie Foster. The film marked her directorial debut.

Little Man Tate
Little man tate ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jodie Foster
Produced by Peggy Rajski
Scott Rudin
Written by Scott Frank
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Mike Southon
Edited by Lynzee Klingman
Distributed by Orion Pictures Corporation
Release date
October 18, 1991
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million
Box office $25,010,896 (USA)

It tells the story of a seven-year-old child prodigy, Fred Tate (Adam Hann-Byrd), who struggles to self-actualize in social and psychological settings that largely fails to accommodate his intelligence. Foster plays Fred's mother Dede Tate, who wishes to give her son a "normal" childhood, while feeding his intellectual curiosity.



Dede Tate (Jodie Foster) is a single mother, a working-class woman of average intelligence raising her seven-year-old son, Fred (Adam Hann-Byrd). Fred shows every indication of being a genius. Fred's reading and mathematics abilities are remarkable, and he plays the piano "at competition level," but his intellect has isolated him from his public school classmates.

Fred's abilities come to the attention of Jane Grierson (Dianne Wiest), a former music prodigy and now a psychologist running a school for gifted children. She asks permission from Dede to admit Fred to the school, in order to develop his intellectual gifts in ways that a public school cannot. Dede is reluctant, preferring that Fred have a more normal upbringing, but when no friends comes to Fred's seventh birthday party, Dede consents.

Fred joins other brilliant young people, and participates in Jane’s Odyssey of the Mind event for part of the spring. There he meets one of his heroes, who is one of Jane's prized pupils, the brilliant but slightly bizarre "Mathemagician" Damon Wells (P.J. Ochlan), a whiz at math who wears a black cape wherever he goes. After Fred unintentionally upstages Damon at one of the competitions at Odyssey of the Mind, Damon is upset with Fred. Damon however warms up to Fred when out horseback riding on Jane’s ranch, and is Fred's first insight to a world outside academia. Damon tells him, "it is not how much IQ a man has; it is how he uses it". Jane attempts to become more nurturing, but is unable to relate to Fred as anything other than a case study.

Fred is later enrolled at a university, where he studies quantum physics while his mother, aunt and cousins travel to Florida for the summer. An adult student named Eddie (Harry Connick Jr.) accidentally hits Fred with a globe when goofing around. To make it up to Fred, Eddie takes him out for a ride on his moped and shows him things such as how to shoot pool; it is good for Fred to spend time with someone who is not a genius. However, when Fred walks into Eddie's room while Eddie in bed with a coed, Fred runs out and Eddie chases after him. Eddie explains that he cannot be a babysitter for Fred; although he enjoys Fred's company, Fred needs to find friends closer to his age. The return to isolation takes its toll on Fred, as he suffers from nightmares in which he is treated as a freak and an outsider.

Jane is asked to bring Fred onto a TV panel discussion show on the topic of gifted children. Fred attends but breaks down. He claims his mother is dead, and recites a childish poem (a word for word repetition of a poem by one of his former grade school classmates) before taking off his microphone and walking out of the studio. Dede witnesses some of this as it is being broadcast, and flies back to New York. Jane is unable to find Fred, but Dede discovers him back at their apartment, and embraces him.

One year later, Fred has adjusted to the pressures of being a child genius, particularly after an even younger student is admitted to Jane's school. Dede hosts a well-attended birthday party for Fred, reconciling Fred's emotional development with his intellect.



Most of the film was shot in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati. Other locations include the Cincinnati suburb of Clifton; the Village of Indian Hill; the University of Cincinnati's McMicken Hall; Miami University's Upham Hall and the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity House, in Oxford, Ohio; and the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio.


Little Man Tate received positive reviews from critics, as it holds a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 reviews.

The film grossed about $25 million.[1]


  1. ^ Little Man Tate. Box Office Mojo.

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