Among the movies opening this weekend is The Beaver. The film might get attention for the fact that it's Jodie Foster's first directing job since 1995's Home For The Holidays. Or it might get attention because Mel Gibson spends most of it speaking in a Cockney accent through a beaver puppet.
But in the end, much of the attention The Beaver is attracting comes, perhaps inevitably, from the fact that Gibson has gotten a mountain of bad personal publicity between the time the bulk of the film was shot and its release this week.
On Saturday's All Things Considered, Foster talks to Guy Raz about how she made the decision to act in a film she was directing — something she'd sworn to never do again after Little Man Tate in 1991 — and how she feels about her relationship with Gibson.
Foster speaks of combining acting and directing as a series of trade-offs: she loses some of the "surprises" that can come from collaboration between an actor and a director, but she gains control over the performance when she's directing herself. In this particular film, she explains, she considered a variety of factors, including the need for a dramatic actor who could counter some of the "unreliable" figures in the film, including Gibson's character and his puppet, as well as someone who could believably play opposite Gibson. She concludes: "Then I thought, 'Why not? Why not me?'"
As for Gibson, he was her first choice for the role all along. "He, on the one hand, is an extraordinary comedic presence," she explains, noting that his humor is balanced by the fact that he "understands struggle from a very personal place and a very thoughtful place."
When Raz asks her about how Gibson's Hollywood standing has been affected by his recent troubles, including the famous tapes that emerged of ugly messages he left for his former girlfriend, Foster says, "He will live the consequences of his behavior, and I think he has bigger problems than whether somebody goes to see his film or not. He has much more pressing problems and much more pressing issues in his life."
In the end, Foster reflects on her decision to continue to support Gibson when many others have not: "As far as walking away from someone who's struggling, I mean, if you love somebody, and you know them, and they have proven themselves as a friend over and over again in your life, and they're somebody who's really a member of your family, when someone's struggling, you don't walk away from them. You stand by them. I'm not interested in running away from him. The Mel Gibson that I know, that I've experienced, and that I know intimately — and I think I can probably say you don't know — is an extraordinary man. And no one can take that away." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.