Rarely has the Cannes Film Festival been the scene of so daring a plan — the attempted resuscitation of Mel Gibson’s shattered career.
Even Jodie Foster’s defence of him that he was “probably the most-loved actor in Hollywood” and a “kind and loyal and thoughtful” friend is unlikely to help revive his ailing reputation.
Foster, his director and co-star in The Beaver, which received a special screening at Cannes, said: “I can’t excuse Mel’s behaviour. Only he can explain that. But I do know the man that I know, who is somebody who has been a friend for many years, who is probably the most-loved actor in Hollywood.”
She described a character far from the figure suggested by recent scandals, which have included his being put on probation for a spousal battery charge as well as claims of anti-Semitic remarks.
Foster said: “I can spend hours on the phone with him talking about life. He’s complex and I appreciate his complexity and what it brings to his work.”
The film’s material is arguably close to the bone, with the main character, Walter Black, going off the rails on national television.
Asked whether the movie could help Gibson’s damaged reputation, Foster said that making films “allows you to look deeper at yourself and the people around you and the effect of what you do — and has to have some therapeutic, cathartic end”.
Referring to Gibson’s intimate portrayal of a vulnerable man, she said: “I know he is proud of the movie and what he has shown and wants people to see that side of him.”
She also defended his performance in the film. “He was definitely the first person on my list — He was willing to go to such a deep place and expose himself and talk about something he knows a lot about — struggling, wanting to transform himself.”
Playing down a weak box-office performance in the United States, where The Beaver has already opened, Foster said: “I always assumed that, because it has a European style to it, it would do better in Europe.”
Gibson is not speaking publicly about his performance although he attended the film’s official red carpet premiere. —