Is Nell Based On A True Story

Nell is a 1994 movie, based on a true story starring Jodie Foster as a wild child running amuck in the North Carolina woods. The movie co-stars Liam Neeson as the good doctor and Allison Angram as the bad doctor (spank her she’s been really, really bad) who fight for control of her immortal soul.

The movie was to have been directed by its star Jodie Foster, however once in character, none of the cast or crew could understand a word she had to say.

Based on Mark Handley’s play Idioglossia, the script for Nell was developed by co-producer Renée Missel and was inspired by Handley’s time living in the Cascade Mountains in the 1970s, and the story of Poto and Cabengo, twins who created their own language.

Nell (film)
Box office $106.7 million


Christopher Walkin (uncredited as the Pizza shop owner): Mama Leoni’s Pizza, what will it be? Nell: Chick-o-pea, chick-o-pea; tata’s. Walkin: One medium pizza with a double helping of garbanzo beans and Tattor Tots – you want a side order of wings with ‘dat? ~o~

Lecter: Nell, how can I get you to understand that Dr. Olson wants to turn you into an even bigger freak that you already are and I just want to eat you alive? Nell: Bien sûr je sais, obtient votre tête de votre derrière! Kel vos! Kel stupid! ~o~

Olsen: Nell, what would you do for a Klondike bar? Nell: Fra De? Snørt med Arsenic jeg tror! Olsen: I’d like to see that, wouldn’t you?

The issue of written language figures in Alice Hoffman’s bestseller “Second Nature,” a novel that has been described as part “Pygmalion” story, part wild child comes to Long Island.

The appearance of a “wild child,” then, offers unique opportunities for study–but not necessarily for change. (In fact, modern research suggests that such children often have permanent learning and language problems.)

As one character in “Nell”–part of the battalion of psychologists eager to study her–puts it: “How is the personality formed? We don’t know. What is innate? We don’t know.”

But if Nell–the title role played by Jodie Foster in the film that opened last week–is an admittedly offbeat character, she’s hardly unique.

Think, for openers, of Kipling’s “Mowgli,” raised as a wolf (also resurfacing this season in Disney’s new live-action “Jungle Book”). Or of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan of the Apes”: A British nobleman by birth, he becomes a son of the jungle after his true parents die.

Of course Nell is a fully grown, attractive woman; bathing naked in the mist of a woodland river, she looks uncannily like a model for a Maxfield Parrish print. Neeson, as the doctor, is not blind to her charms. But somehow her innocence and his ethics (and Richardsons presence) defuse the situation, and even in a skinny-dipping episode (necessary to deal with Nells “fear of men”) there is a kind of chastity to the situation.

The movie takes place in a wilderness where Nell was living with her mother. Its a little unclear how they survived; a motorcycle delivery boy drops off provisions, but, still, the movie glosses over a lot of details. No matter; whats important is that Nell lives alone and, once her existence is discovered, she is a potential victim as news helicopters swarm overhead and the curious come calling.

She is perfectly able to take care of herself in isolation, but unfamiliar with civilization. Of course civilization insists on finding her deprived. Neeson and Richardson, taken to the site by the local sheriff, establish their headquarters on a houseboat anchored near Nells cabin, and begin to observe her and try talking with her.

The villain is a psychologist played by Richard Libertini, who, like all such movie shrinks, knows nothing of human nature and would solve all problems by institutionalizing the subject. But to be locked in an asylum would destroy Nell, and besides, shes not mentally ill, she simply marches to a different drummer. Neeson tries gingerly to introduce her to towns, but visits to a supermarket and a pool hall go badly, and he realizes she must develop on her own terms.

Despite its predictable philosophy, however, “Nell” is an effective film, and a moving one. That is largely because of the strange beauty of Jodie Fosters performance as Nell, and the warmth of the performance by Liam Neeson, as a doctor who finds himself somehow responsible for her. Along with Natasha Richardson, who has a somewhat thankless role as Neesons partner in the case, they inhabit the characters so fully that its only later, after withdrawing from the emotional experience, that we recognize the movies fairly shaky premises.


What does Chickabee mean in the movie Nell?

In the American South among southern-born folks, chickabee was a common expression for decades, similar to calling someone a “little nut”. Nell uses it when referring to her twin sister or to other people that she cares about.

Was Nell based on a book?

A novel based on the 20th Century Fox motion picture starring Jodie Foster, Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson.

Where is Nell filmed?

Fontana Lake and its surrounding unspoiled land were the perfect locations to tell the story of Nell (Jodie Foster), a feral child discovered to be living in the North Carolina mountains.

Did Jodie Foster win an award for Nell?

Fontana Lake and its surrounding unspoiled land were the perfect locations to tell the story of Nell (Jodie Foster), a feral child discovered to be living in the North Carolina mountains.

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