In The Beaver, Mel Gibson portrays a man who is seriously depressed and uses a beaver puppet to do all his talking for him. It's a strong drama from Jodie Foster, whose storytelling strengths have been more than proved with her work on Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays.
Directing The Beaver proved to have its own challenges, not the least of which was Mel Gibson's off-screen troubles that have been played out in the public eye. Foster addresses those issues, but also why Gibson is such a perfect choice for the lead in The Beaver and how she wouldn't trade casting him in the movie for all the money in the world.
Jodie Foster: Well, I definitely would call it a drama but that being said it has a high concept that I think most people would assume is a comedy. There are a lot of light moments to it. It's a fable. It has a tone which has both lightness and darkness in it.
SheKnows: How would you describe the films you choose to direct?
Jodie Foster: I make personal films and the first audience member is myself. So, does it touch me or doesn't it touch me? Those are the first things that you ask. Very often the things that touch you, if you can find a way to communicate yourself, you're able to touch other people as well and give them somewhat of a universal experience.
Jodie Foster: He was my first choice for sure. I came onto the project after another team had been involved. It was Steve Carell and Jay Roach. I don't think they had done a lot of development. I think they really had just said, "Okay, we're going to reserve this window," and for whatever reason it didn't happen. They didn't work with the writer or anything.
SheKnows: Because he is such a good friend, was casting Mel difficult in any way?
Jodie Foster: I don't think so. No, I think if he was wrong for the part it wouldn't matter how much I loved him, there is no way I would hire him. I think he has exceptional qualities and that's very difficult to find in actors. He has a light, light touch. He can do things that require a lot of wit and he knew the charm of what The Beaver could be, but he also is somebody who really understands struggle. And that's the part of me that knows him personally, somebody who's really articulate about struggle and has his own demons and wants to change and the actor had to be able to embrace both things. I know the raw side of Mel and I feel like I know the sensitive side of Mel. I'm lucky because when you get to know somebody you know that part of them, so I never questioned that he would be able to find that on screen even though he hasn't done that a lot in films.
SheKnows: Did you worry at all that the casting of Mel would be dangerous?
Jodie Foster: Well, it's really not why I chose him and most of any kind of scandalous stuff happened after the film was over. Who could have predicted that? Yeah, I think that's what we bring to the table. We bring our guts and we bring our connection. That's what you bring to the table as an actor. As I said, he's somebody who really understands struggle.
SheKnows: Directing and starring in The Beaver is a difficult task. Did you and Mel share stories?
Jodie Foster: Yes, Mel and I have had many discussions about that [laughs], how we never want to act and direct in the same movie again. It's hard and it's tiring. You don't get a lot of the joys of acting or the joys of directing because you're too busy putting on other hats and you don't get a lot of surprises from your performance. You get what you anticipated and you don't get things that come out of nowhere so you do miss that. But in this case once I brought Mel aboard I started thinking who I would hire to play his wife, all of the qualifications that I needed to have met. I needed somebody who was really strong dramatically and to anchor the film dramatically so that any time he geared off into any comedy direction I could always bring him back to drama. I needed somebody who could be the eyes and ears of the audience because his character is unreliable, is unstable and he can't really be the eyes and ears of the audience. In some ways, Meredith's character is how the audience changes and perceives the beaver through her as time goes on. Who else was I going to get? Also somebody that you can believe that they've been together for 20 years.
SheKnows: I do love the scene with Mel on the rollercoaster!
Jodie Foster: That rollercoaster was pretty lame but he was scared to death. Could you tell he was scared to death?
SheKnows: Yeah, so that's not acting...
Jodie Foster: That was take one. We did take two and then he was fine after take two. But on take one if you're watching for a second he almost throws up.
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