Jodie Foster on Mel Gibson: 'I Knew the Minute I Met Him, I Would Love Him' Forever
This story appears in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, on sale in NYC and LA on Thursday.
Jodie Foster is sick, really sick. Sick of being away from home for the past two months; sick of the grueling schedule she’s maintained in Paris on Roman Polanski’s Carnage; and physically, painfully sick from what she thinks is strep throat, which she’s been battling for much of the week.
“I don’t know if it’s strep throat; I just have never experienced this before in my life,” she says, pallid. “I was up all last night — I went to sleep between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. When I swallow, it really hurts. But I’ve got to work Monday, and all my scenes are yelling.”
She’s unlikely to find any relief in the days ahead. With less than 72 hours before she flies to Austin’s South by Southwest festival March 16 to unveil her new movie, The Beaver — about a middle-aged executive who communicates through a glove puppet — she still has to pack her bags and complete two days of reshoots on the behind-schedule Carnage.
Then she’ll have to field a volley of questions about Mel Gibson, who stars opposite her in the $21 million Beaver, Foster’s third venture as helmer. At a point in her career when she might have hoped audiences would rediscover her as a filmmaker, she’s grappling instead with a media firestorm — “my second,” she notes wryly, following the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.
If this isn’t enough to make anyone feel sick, what is?
Yet Foster shrugs it off. She laughs about the current issue of France’s Premiere magazine, printing an on-set interview from fall 2009 where she said it was Gibson’s “dark” side that drew her to him and addresses her feelings for the troubled actor head-on.
“He’s so incredibly loving and sensitive, he really is,” she says. “He is the most loved actor I have ever worked with on a movie. And he’s not saintly, and he’s got a big mouth, and he’ll do gross things your nephew would do. But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my life.”
She adds: “I know him in a very complex way. He’s a real person; he’s not a cardboard cutout. I know that he has troubles, and when you love somebody you don’t just walk away from them when they are struggling.”
Foster and Gibson — the yin and yang of American pop culture, its moral avatar and current nemesis — have been close friends since they met on 1994’s Maverick.
Before Gibson’s relationship with Oksana Grigorieva exploded in the public eye, he confided in Foster. “We talked about it all the way through, about what was going on in his life,” she says. “I don’t think he told me until it was something he couldn’t handle by himself.”
Even while editing Beaver, Foster was aware that recordings of Gibson’s rants would be made public. “I knew about that,” she says. “He was upset. Then, on the last day of reshoots of Mel, it all came out.”
She pauses, and this exceptionally intelligent, highly controlled woman has tears in her eyes.
“God, I love that man,” Foster says. “The performance he gave in this movie, I will always be grateful for. He brought a lifetime of pain to the character that we’ve been talking about for years, that I knew was part of his psyche and who he is. It’s part of him that is beautiful and that I want people to know, too. I can’t ever regret that.”
Sitting in the modernist Georges restaurant atop Paris’ Pompidou Center — looking more like a young doctoral student than a movie star, with her dark brown glasses and casual scarf — Foster knows the Gibson affair means her film has a difficult journey ahead. But she never planned to make a huge audience-pleaser.
“This is not a mainstream movie,” she says. “It does have mainstream actors, but that’s not this film. I don’t need to make those kinds of movies because my career as a director is a personal spiritual path. I don’t need to succeed in that way in order to have an identity. I already have one.”