Jodie Foster on Mel Gibson: 'I Knew the Minute I Met Him, I Would Love Him' Forever

 Guy Aroch Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The director, sometimes with tears in her eyes, speaks candidly in the new Hollywood Reporter magazine about the "lifetime of pain" he brought to "The Beaver," her loyalty, and what she knew as his personal drama unfolded on the set.

Foster came to The Beaver after others had bowed out. Starting as a spec script by Kyle Killen, the project settled into the hands of Steve Carell and director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents), where it remained, potentially as a broad comedy. When Foster’s agent, ICM’s Joe Funicello, heard about it, he showed her the script, and when Roach pulled out, Foster joined producer Steve Golin, who’d developed the material.

She had a very different take on it, however.

“I wouldn’t have been interested in doing the movie as a comedy in any way,” she says. “A man with a puppet? Who cares? The thing that makes it interesting to me was the psychological dimension of his trouble, the fable quality to that.”

Carell, who remained attached, allowed Foster to take the project to other actors, knowing his schedule would cause long delays. Which is when she called Gibson.

“I’d never done that before,” she says. “I don’t have many friends who are actors. I said, ‘Look, I’m going to send you something, and the bad news is you have to tell us in 24 hours,’ because there was another actor interested.”

The next day, Gibson called and said he needed just 10 hours more to discuss it with his agent, then gave her a yes. “I said, ‘Really, really, really?’ He said, ‘Really!’ ”

Even with the two superstars working for a fraction of their usual fee, the project wasn’t a slam-dunk. For one thing, there was an arm-cutting scene — present from the very first draft of the script — that many potential financiers resisted, not so much because of its gruesomeness but because it might have made Gibson’s character seem disturbed.

“A lot of places were categorical that, if his arm comes off, they don’t want to be involved in the movie,” Foster says. “Golin went so far as to create a script where the arm didn’t come off. And I was like, ‘Why would you even tell this story?’ ”

Then, of course, there was the issue of Gibson himself, who had already inflamed passions after a 2006 drunken meltdown during which he hurled abuse at a female police officer. “He wasn’t a hard sell, but it was a challenge for distribution,” Foster acknowledges. “They wanted an anchor as well” — a key reason she cast herself in the co-starring role.

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