Mel Gibson returns to the big screen in Jodie Foster's The Beaver — his first
starring role since 2002.
Now, in one of her most candid interviews ever,
Foster -- who debuts her dramedy Wednesday at the SXSW Film Festival -- opens up
to The Hollywood Reporter about the movie, the troubled actor and what she knew
know him in a very complex way," Foster says of Gibson, who on March 11 pleaded
no contest to one misdemeanor count of domestic violence allegedly committed
against ex Oksana Grigorieva last year. "He's a real person; he's not a
cardboard cutout. I know that he has troubles, and when you love somebody you
don't just walk away from them when they are struggling."
Gibson wasn't originally in the running for The Beaver - due out May 6, with a
wider release on May 20 — about a troubled man who tries to get his life back on
track with the help of a beaver puppet.
Steve Carell was first attached,
but he allowed her to take the project to other actors, knowing his schedule
would cause long delays.
That's when Foster called Gibson, whom she
first met on 1994's Maverick.
"I'd never done that before," she tells
THR. "I don't have many friends who are actors. I said, 'Look, I'm going to send
you something, and the bad news is you have to tell us in 24 hours,' because
there was another actor interested."
The next day, Gibson called and said
he needed just 10 hours more to discuss it with his agent, then gave her a yes.
"I said, 'Really, really, really?' He said, 'Really!'" Foster
who had already inflamed passions after a 2006 drunken meltdown during which he
hurled abuse at a female police officer, "wasn't a hard sell, but it was a
challenge for distribution," Foster acknowledges. "They wanted an anchor as
well" — a key reason she cast herself in the co-starring role.
Entertainment was one of the few companies enthusiastic enough to commit,
co-financing with Participant Media. They had doubts about how to sell the
project, Foster says, but that did not impact production, which commenced in
summer 2009 in Westchester
County, N.Y., benefiting
from the state's generous subsidies.
The only mishap occurred on the very
last day of principal photography, when Gibson had to hit himself with a prop
lamp. "It was a very big, emotional scene, the last thing we shoot in the entire
movie, and his plane is waiting for him to leave," Foster notes. "Our prop
department messed up and didn't score the fake lamp properly; half of it was
real, and when he smacked his head, it just — whoosh! — blood was gushing
everywhere." Foster raced into action. "We didn't have a medic," she says. "It
was just me and the producer running around with a first-aid kit trying to
stanch the blood, and Mel's like, 'Come on, it hurts!' Your head, it really
bleeds. I can't tell you how many 'I'm so sorry' notes I sent."
was already well under way when the disturbing audiotapes of Gibson threatening
Grigorieva hit the web.
Before Gibson's relationship with Grigorieva
exploded in the public eye, he confided in Foster. "We talked about it all the
way through, about what was going on in his life," she tells THR. "I don't think
he told me until it was something he couldn't handle by himself."
9, the day the first tapes came out, months after principal photography had
wrapped, Foster was with Gibson again for the last day of additional shoots. The
drama of that event, and its inevitable impact on the film, is vivid in her
"He had a lot of work to do," she says. "It was a bad situation.
His assistant called me: 'Come to the trailer!' And I went to his trailer, and
he was a mess. Then he came on set, and he didn't have any makeup on, anything.
He came in and sat down on the chair and said, 'OK, roll it,' and did two takes
that were just beautiful. Then he got on the plane and left."
the question remains, will Mel risk exposing himself to the media to do press
for the film?
On March 13 via e-mail, asked if he had specific plans to
help with the publicity campaign, he replied, "Yes."
"He was like, 'I'll
be chained to a car and dragged through gravel for you!'" Foster laughs. "And
I'm like, 'That's OK!' "
Foster's hope: Theatergoers will separate
themselves from the man and view his performance as one of his
"He's so incredibly loving and sensitive, he really is," she
says. "He is the most loved actor I have ever worked with on a movie. And he's
not saintly, and he's got a big mouth, and he'll do gross things your nephew
would do. But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my
She pauses, and this exceptionally intelligent, highly controlled
woman has tears in her eyes.
"God, I love that man," Foster says. "The
performance he gave in this movie, I will always be grateful for. He brought a
lifetime of pain to the character that we've been talking about for years, that
I knew was part of his psyche and who he is. It's part of him that is beautiful
and that I want people to know, too. I can't ever regret that."
See the trailer for "The Beaver":
- Mel Gibson
- Oksana Grigorieva