'The Beaver' director Jodie Foster admits she doesn't know if audiences are ready to accept Mel Gibson on-screen again.
Jodie Foster’s been outspoken in her support of her longtime friend Mel Gibson after his very public meltdowns, but now she considers the lingering question: will audiences still show up to watch him act?
“I don't know,” Foster, who co-starred and directed Gibson in the new film “The Beaver,” tells PopcornBiz. “I really don't know what to say to people. It's a question. Can you put aside the private things that you know about him because they've been exploited on the Internet? Can you put that aside when you're watching an artist? I don't know. That's a good question. It's celebrity and all this is different now than it used to be. It wasn't always like this, and it's a very odd and unnatural phenomenon. It's not something that Mel's comfortable with. I'm not comfortable with it either. Some people are, apparently.”
Gibson does deliver a very engaging performance as an extremely depressed toy company executive who, in a desperate bid to rebuild his life, begins communicating with his alienated family and employees through a charming but tough-talking beaver puppet.
The film was made after the actor’s 2006 DUI arrest and reported tirade of misogynist and anti-Semitic remarks, and completed just as his alleged domestic violence incident with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva led to the public release of audio recordings filled with a searing, obscenity- and racial and sexist epithet-laced rants.
Despite the shift in the public perception of her friend, Foster says while they worked together she found him unchanged from the colleague she first worked with on 1994’s “Maverick.”
“He's exactly what I remembered about him,” she says. “He's incredibly easy. He's totally not neurotic. He'll say to you 'Where do you want me to stand?' I'll say, 'I'll look you to go from here to there to there,' and he's like, 'Okay.' He doesn't say, 'My character this and I was feeling…' Sometimes he does, if he has a strong opinion, but he's really just focused on the things that are important and isn't focused on the things that aren't important. He's great with the other actors. They loved him. He has great ideas, and it's great to have a partner like that: someone who's not only made some films before, but has made extremely good movies before as a writer/director, to be able to ask him questions and have him be a real partner.
He has, she admits, scaled back on the notorious on-set practical jokes he was known for. He pulled pranks “a little bit, but not in a crazy way,” says Foster. “Sometimes I think his practical jokes are because he's so bored, and those movies take so long that you just have to do something to occupy yourself. I know that feeling. He's antsy. He's an antsy guy and 'Maverick' was a 110-day shoot. That's six months of your life, and so you have to do something to entertain yourself for long period of times.”
She also reigned in some of Gibson’s comedic instincts in his performance, to keep the humor pitch black. “I pulled him back, but you know what: his original instinct for the character was always a little bit darker than other people had anticipated,” she says, “so I wasn't worried that he was going to go off in some incredibly broad way. But there were definitely moments where he didn't want to have to resist the temptation to go to the comedy because there were amazingly funny situations. I mean, him having a fight with himself and punching himself? It's hard not to go to comedy there. I was absolutely adamant. In fact, in the screenplay there's the only note, a note on the side: 'This scene must be played as seriously as a heart attack. There's nothing funny about this.'”
But sometimes Gibson couldn’t hold back, particularly in scenes when his character becomes a media curiosity. Which begs the question: is there a “Beaver” outtake reel? “Yes, because there were a lot of those little scenes that had no sound to them, like him talking to Terry Gross, him talking to Jon Stewart. All that Jon Stewart stuff was ad-libbed.”
So is there a Gibson gag reel on the way? According to Foster, that's something she's not about to share with the public.
“It will never see the light of day!” laughs Foster. “It will not be on the DVD."
"The Beaver" opens in limited release May 6th, opening broader on May 20th