SXSW: Jodie Foster defends Mel Gibson at the world premiere of 'The Beaver'


Image Credit: Ken Regan

Before tonight’s packed SXSW world premiere of The Beaver, the new Jodie Foster movie starring Mel Gibson, there was an interestingly anxious energy in the air. What would it be like to see Gibson on screen again? Could an audience give themselves over to his portrait of a severely depressed man who copes by communicating with the world with a beaver hand puppet? Or would his ugly tape-recorded voice, which too many indulged in listening to when his rageful phone conversations with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva went public last year, play as background noise?

Here’s the thing: In the film, Gibson plays a man who hates himself, a flattened, desperate father who has made a wreck of his family (Foster plays his wife; the deeply interesting young actor Anton Yelchin his teenage son). His demons are dark and powerful, and yet the performance is quiet and dear. In some ways, it’s the only role I can imagine inspiring any compassion in audiences for Mel Gibson.

There was a telling little moment  in the Q&A that followed the screening. A gentleman asked Jodie Foster to elaborate on her earlier declaration when she introduced the movie that The Beaver was “the biggest struggle of my professional career.” She paused, and then spoke about the tricky job of getting the tone of the film right. Come now, the enormous elephant in the room needs addressing. Finally the gentleman dared wonder if the source of her agita was in fact her star, and asked if she did have any regrets casting him. “I feel incredibly grateful to have Mel’s performance in this movie,” she said firmly. And suddenly a little wave of applause seemed to spread around the room. Whether folks were cheering for Mel Gibson’s performance or for Mel Gibson the human being or simply for Mel Gibson’s loyal friend and director who has always enjoyed enormous audience good will was unclear. “Anyone who’s ever worked with Mel,” Foster continued, “knows he’s the most beloved actor in the film business.” And then, in an unforeseen shout-out, she gave props to her Anna and the King co-star. “The second most beloved is Chow Yun-Fat.”

Towards the end of the Q&A, before she was asked if she was planning to star in a musical like Bugsy Malone again (no), Foster described her intimate connection with the film’s portrait of depression. The story “has to deal with all my struggles and all the things I think about obsessively,” she said. “Life is full of this half comedy, half tragedy. And the only way to get through it is to know you’re not alone.” One has to think that whatever a mess Gibson has made of his life, he must find some genuine comfort in stalwart friends like Foster.

The movie is good, or at least fine, people seemed to agree as they made their way up the crowded aisle. Mel Gibson is good. Sad and moving and good. Whether audiences will have a stomach for him, let alone a film about the drowning ache of depression, let alone a film that involves you explaining to your date that The Beaver refers to a beaver hand puppet, remains to be seen. It’s a hard sell every way around. The movie opens in select cities on May 6, followed by wide release on May 20.

Comments (160 total) Add your comment
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  • Marten

    I can’t wait. I’ve been dying to see this movie for years.

    • LOL

      Mel is thankful that Charlie Sheen took the spotlight off him.

      • BigBOO

        Screw Mel Gibson. And screw Foster for standing up for him. I no longer have ANY respect for her.

    • Loyalty

      Boycott Mel

      • John

        Mel is fine.

      • romeodiscos

        BOYCOTT Loyalty, hes made worse mistakes than Mel LOL

    • Michael

      Me neither. This movie looks really good!

      • student

        We love you Mel!!! The critics on this board love you too but are too afraid to admit it!

  • jom

    can t wait for it, welcome back mel!!!!

  • jk

    Hopefully Mel can get his house in order and repair his public image.

  • mike

    Mel gibson isn’t a very good actor, just look at his eyes

    • Brandtley McDonald

      You are an idiot.

  • Dan

    Why did they have to hold the movie back for so long. What Mel’s going through reminds me of what football players go through. Money women, children, drugs, arrests, violence, allegations and the players still play and the games still go on. What makes a movie about a beaver so different from a football game?

    • Kate

      Good point Dan. I hope Foster feels comfortable calling a spousal abuser (he was convicted, so we can say it with certainty) the most beloved actor in Hollywood. I detest when athletic organizations “overlook” those rape charges/drug charges/violence charges because an individual is talented. How is this any different?

    • Jay

      You’re right! They’re both terribly boring.

  • Barrry Hill


  • Landrew

    Did anyone see the size of the mansion that Mel’s depressed character lives in? Money doesn’t buy happiness, true. Yet Hollywood still believes the only good story to tell is about the “problems” of the elite. This tripe makes me yearn for the remake of “Cannonball Run”. Long live Robert Altman.

    • Cristina

      Good point!

    • Milk

      As a review about a different film recently put it “yet another movie about the ridiculously privileged being mildly inconvenienced”. And THAT is how i felt for years about the majority of hollywood dramas(nevermind romantic comedies). You want to see a poignant story about the struggle of flawed and wounded people trying to pull through, look at the life of the common people. Pick any one of them on any given day. I CANNOT relate to depressed upper/upper-middle class people as doesn’t about 95% of your audience, meaning the part that isn’t in this tax bracket.

  • Ann

    I have found the media to be shallow and cruel in their coverage of Mel’s private difficulties. I am wishing him well with this new movie and will definitely go to see it when it arrives in my town.

    • Um…………

      “You’re an embarrassment to me, you look like a f—ing pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n—ers, it will be your fault.”

      Mel Gibson actually said that to another human being – the mother of his child. And you think the MEDIA is “cruel”? Just……. WOW.

      • John

        I’ve heard worse. Let someone put a spotlight on your personal life and see if it doesn’t raise a few eyebrows from time to time.

      • Josh

        Nobody should of heard the phone conversation. People say things like that all the time. If your fat, your fat, glasses your foureyes, black ni***r, white hu*ky… so on and so forth. Danny Glover, Whoopy Goldberg have defended him. People act like they have never said these words. And it was a PRIVATE converation. Damn

      • Jake T.

        I’m gonna jump in here and point out that, however you feel about the recordings of Mel losin’ his sh*t, he’s been saying this stuff for years in interviews and at industry events. He didn’t just wake up one morning and go all crazy-pants; it’s a pattern of behavior. Dude’s been having a very bad day for about 20 years.

      • anne

        And I’m sure you are without sin/faults.

      • Portland

        Jesus tapdancin’ christ, you people act like he left toast crumbs in the butter dish. This guy is an unapologetic holocaust-denying, women-hating, racist, pus-filled thug.

      • Jackson

        To those few saying you’ve heard or said worse… that’s not actually a good thing. The idea, see, is NOT to abuse each other. Mel’s done, he should retire from public and try and live the rest of his life with a little dignity.

      • Kate

        WOW. Just… wow. Actually, if someone recorded every word I say, they still would not find that kind of hate. I don’t use those words, and I don’t talk to people like that. I am far from without sin, but spewing hate and violence on someone I’m supposed to care for… not so much. They’d find that I smoke a lot of weed, and watch a lot of bad movies. I waste too much time on the internet. I’m always late. They’d find that sometimes I yell at my boyfriend for forgetting to take down the garbage. Somehow I manage to refrain from calling him derogatory names when we fight – I can’t for the life of me imagine how I do it, if it’s apparently so hard. So yes, while I have my sins/faults, none of them involve actively and willfully hurting others (emotionally and physically – you all like to just ignore the spousal abuse conviction, don’t you?). I can’t believe you apologists. You should seriously be ashamed.

      • Um…………

        VERY well said, Kate. How disturbing is it to ponder the two Anne’s, Josh and John possibly sitting on a jury out there somewhere? It’s one thing for men to post ignorant support for their neanderthal comrades, but the female apologists really make me sick (I’m looking at you, Jodie Foster). Like you said, the vile things Gibson has spewed over the years have no place in any civilized conversation – ever. Even after he pled guilty to spousal abuse (as well as, incidentally, after Grigorieva was cleared in the “blame the victim” – er, extortion investigation), the fact that people will so readily make excuses for his behavior is scary. Anyone who would listen to (or read) his rants over the years, and then turn around and blame the “cruel” media is missing some fundamental human part.

      • Krista

        So, I take it you will be the one to throw the first stone…? Jesus was perfect and they crucified him…I am not surprised you are shoving to the front of the pack to discard a broken man like Mel as worthless garbage…rich or poor all humans are alike, money has nothing to do with it…frustration and confusion are the enemies of us all, and sometimes like Mel we lose the battle…I have never walked in his boots and if you haven’t, I would take care not to judge him…let he who is without sin cast the first stone…? Then, unless you are Jesus I suggest you drop the stones and slink on home…

    • Winston Smith

      I have to agree, people are so “obsessed” with the problems of the elite. Who f—ing cares? And to the people who say… “let’s see what you would be like if you were watched blah blah blah.” Everyone has flaws, but not all sins are equal. I know many genuinely good people who simply aren’t hurtful like that, especially at the age of Mel now, maybe in their 20s. People grow up, but in Hollywood, the man children live free! It just amazes me how people get so passionate about defending people who have had it so easy. Why don’t you go to the Sudan and defend those people? Or how about the homeless right here on our streets (well, not the former news men who got drug addictions and then became internet sensations). Yeah, I can see why it can be annoying when Internet armchair critics criticize someone like, “Mel Gibson is such a loser” blah blah blah, but he also was uber “everyone else is going to Hell” religious, so I can see why people are especially annoyed. And in the end – I’ve heard way worse about Barack Obama. But since Barack Obama wasn’t in The Road Warrior, f— him, say whatever you want, just don’t touch Mel!

      • Winston Smith

        Also, f— people who drink and drive. So many people die every year from that. A cousin’s entire family of mine was wiped out by a drunk driver. Anyone who drinks and drives should lose their license for life, no questions asked. Overly strict? Yes… but it would save lives. Look at some European countries that have really strict rules, there’s a lot less fatalities.

      • Chenholio

        Um…so much for the “presumption of innocence” as a rudimentary legal doctrine in today’s media environment. I’m amazed at the self-righteous certainty of many correspondents who knowingly talk of “Mel’s” (they’re on a first name basis!) private life, then proffer their considered opinion – as if they would actually know. A regular diet of tabloid television and dodgy media beat ups does not negate the realities of which we remain unaware, which are doubtlessly plentiful.

  • christopher maland

    I really believe in Mel as a person and as an actor. Good on you mate. People don’t lose it without some form of catalyst. Life isn’t always pretty.

  • Jem

    I hope this movie is good. But not for Mel for Jodie Foster who is a class act and exceptional hollywood figure who has been trying to get the directing side of her career off the ground forever but has had bad luck every step of the way. After you win two acting oscars and have been acting your entire life, you have ambitions to get behind the camera.

    • Angelo Barovier

      Jodie Foster is just a big ball of “hug you” and (based on what I see from afar) a tremendously genuine person. Mel Gibson? Well, he has some … issues.

  • alan of montreal

    I don’t like Mel Gibson (as a person or an actor), but I do like Jodie Foster, and I like the concept of the film, so I’m a little torn over whether or not to see it.

    • Jens

      Of course You should !

  • Nan

    I like Mel. And Jodie gets bonus points for standing up for her friend. I’ll probably wait to see this when it’s on Netflix, but mostly because I’m cheap.

    • Kate

      Ah yes, standing up for her wife-beating, racist spewing, holocaust denying friend. What a gem of a lady. I actually lost a ton of respect for her with that statement. I don’t think she had to rag on him, but that gentle pass on all his appalling behaviour? She should be ashamed, especially as someone who claims to be a feminist. Gibson needs help and he’s not going to get it while the world continues to kiss his ass.

  • Matt

    ” Come now, the enormous Australian elephant in the room needs addressing”

    Excuse me, but this man was born in the USA. Don’t give him to us when he does something wrong.

    • David

      Wait a minute….Mel Gibson has always been an “Aussie actor”. The way you’ve put it sounds like you only want him addressed as an “Australian” when he hasn’t made headlines for the wrong reasons. You can’t have it both ways. And if you’re gonna be that pedantic you shouldn’t count Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, The Bee Gee’s, AC/DC, Hugo Weaving…etc, as Australian.

      • dee123

        Disagree. I’m pretty sure he was “embraced” as American during the good years: Braveheart, Ransom, The Patriot, We Were Soldiers, besides UNLIKE Kidman , Urban who still have homes in Australia, he moved to Sydney we he was 12 and left in his early 20’s.

      • cgirl

        dee123, don’t all Australian entertainers come to America looking for the pot of gold? Sure Mel was born here in the U.S., buthis mother was from Australia, and he grew up there. Hence the Australian accent he had until he was probably encouraged to lose it in his early years here. Most of his children was born there, so if he is American what does that make them? Elizabeth Taylor was born in london, her parents lived there for a while, then moved back to the U.S. where they were from, does that make her British? Gillian Anderson was born in England wehre her parents were from, and moved to the U.S. when she was a child, is she American or British?

  • Ryan

    I’ll always respect Mel regardless of what happens in his personal life.

    • Kate

      That doesn’t make any sense. So if he were to go on a baby-killing spree, you’d still respect him? You people are crazy. I’m sorry Ryan – that’s not directed at you. But hearing all these apologists standing up for this man is sickening. I work in corrections, and deal with this type of person everyday. No, Gibson is no different than any other spousal abuser – I’ve ran classes with them, and he spouts all the same rhetoric. I don’t see any of you extending much sympathy their way, and they’ve actually had hard lives, instead of insane wealth and privilege. But I guess money makes Gibson better, so he’s deserving of our sympathy rather than our disgust (that we hold for all those *poor* criminals).

      • Susan

        I agree whole-heartedly with everything you’ve said, Kate. It’s shocking that people think that sort of hate is acceptable. I don’t know anyone who speaks like that, and if I did – I would cut them out of my life.

      • beth

        Kate, I totally agree with everything you have had to say. If my neighbor/friend/relativie had done & said the things he said, I don’t think I’d overlook it. Yes, people make mistakes and we need to have compassion and a forgiving heart, but Mel has not shown any remorse or tried to change. I wouldn’t pay a wooden nickel to see a movie with him in it.

      • Sarah

        Kate, I agree with everything you’ve been saying. The fact that people think what he did is no big deal is ridiculous and horrifying.

      • frankopaddo

        Kate, did Mel go on a “baby killing spree”?

        Your rhetoric is loaded and infantile. I could reply with, suppose Grigorieva is part of the evil undead sent to earth by the forces of darkness to destroy the human race. Would then Mel not be justified in assaulting her and saving the planet?

        She isnt one of the undead and Mel isnt a baby killer so why ask a loaded question.

        Unlike you I have not worked in corrections but I am a lawyer who has worked for both prosecutions and the defence and I can say the world is rarely as B&W as you see it.

  • sid ceasar

    Hollywood accepts rapist Roman Polanski, racist Kramer from Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin calling his daughter a “rude, thoughtless little pig,” countless DUIs and domestic assaults, and so on. Mel should fit right in.

    • deedeedragons

      Calm down! Polanski & Baldwin are poles apart.

      • Rick Hunter

        Yeah. Baldwin rapes boys not girls. Worlds apart.

      • squishmar

        What are you talking about? You’re joking, right? About Baldwin? I don’t know what you’re referring to.

    • Kate

      It’s like he’s all of them, wrapped into one neat package!

    • Winston Smith

      Uh… people saying something “offensive” isn’t the same as drugging and raping a 13 year old girl. And Kramer probably isn’t racist… he has anger problems. He clearly was saying that JUST to be offensive… like, these guys are annoying customers, I’m old and bitter, so I’m gonna take the easy target.

      And Baldwin was tabloid fodder back in the day just like Gibson, no different.

      • Sarah

        I think Polanski is just as bad as Mel and I refuse to see his films as well. But I think there a big difference between Baldwin yelling at his daughter and Gibson hitting his wife. One is crappy parenting the other pleading no-contest to misdemeanor battery.

      • Brett

        @Sarah – I consider Polanski’s actions a lot more serious than Mel Gibson’s actions. Polanski drugged a raped a young girl. Bill Murray has been accused of beating his wife. Oliver Stone has made numerous anti-Semitic remarks. David Boreanaz cheated on his wife. I don’t see studios lining up to boycott these actors/directors. “No contest” isn’t the same as a “guilty plea.” From what I understand, Gibson pleaded “no contest” in order to expedite “extortion” charges against Oksana. Extortion is generally considered a felony.

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