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CANNES — Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson walked the red carpet together at Cannes’ international premiere of The Beaver Tuesday night. They entered the Palais’ Lumiere Theatre walking hand-in-hand. During the screening they sat next to Summit’s Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman. And as the lights came up at the end of the film, they were rewarded with a ten-minute standing ovation.
A few people around Foster even had tears in their eyes at the movie’s rapturous reception here.
Earlier in the day, Gibson did not attend the official photo call and press conference for the movie, which Foster both directed and stars in. But she had promised that he would be on hand for the formal screening.
“He will be here. He won’t be talking, but he will be here,” Foster had promised after it was explained that Gibson had a commitment that kept him in Los Angeles on Monday, but that he would be jetting into Cannes in time for the formal festivities.
Still, the question of Gibson and his recent troubles hovered over the press conference, attended by Foster, screenwriter Kyle Killen and producer Keith Redmon.
The Beaver, in which Gibson plays a depressed man who tries to reclaim his life by speaking through a beaver hand puppet, may have received a mixed reception in the U.S., but it was greeted with enthusiastic applause at the press screening.
COVER STORY: Jodie Foster on Mel Gibson: ‘I Knew the Minute I Met Him, I Would Love Him’ Forever
And while a number of journalists keep returning to how Gibson’s problem might affect perceptions of the film, Foster, conversing easily in both English and French, gracefully deflected any controversy.
Saying that she cast Gibson simply because he was the right actor for the part because of his ability to handle the project’s comedic and dramatic elements, she said, “He really understood the character in a way that was extraordinary. He was willing to go to a very deep place and to expose himself.”
She also said, “I am grateful for what he gave to this movie, he just gave from the heart without asking anything in return.”
Asked whether the film could mark the beginning of Gibson’s rehabilitation in the public eye, Foster said frankly, “I don’t know, I have no idea.” But she explained that making a movie “allows you to look deeper at yourself, at the people around you,” and speculated that Gibson may have found the role to be “therapeutic, cathartic.”
When pressed why she has remained so loyal to Gibson, Foster responded, “I can’t excuse Mel’s behavior. Only he can explain that, but I do know the friend that I know, who’s been a friend for many, many years. As a friend, he is kind and loyal and thoughtful.”
Released by Summit in the U.S. on May 6 in limited release, The Beaver has grossed just $311,558 to date.
But Foster said she was giddy to have made a film, any film, and that “if you gauge your self-worth on your box office, you will be a very sorry person. I am not my box office.”
“The movie isn’t for everyone, and we went into it knowing that,” Redmon said. Predicting that over time, the film would find an audience, he said, “It’s not just about the box office. There are many ways to recoup the investment.”
Noting that the movie has “a kind of European formality to it and yet it’s a story about an American family,” Foster theorized that American audiences may not be comfortable with the fact that it doesn’t fit into an easily identifiable genre, but said she expected it would find a better reception in Europe, particularly France and Germany.
As for why Gibson’s character turns to a beaver puppet to express himself, screenwriter Killen said, “It sort of came to me fully formed. The minute it popped into my head, it was a man who has a relationship with a British beaver puppet.”
One questioner asked whether Killen was influenced the 1978 film Magic, in which Anthony Hopkins spoke through a ventriloquist’s dummy, but Killen said he wasn’t aware of that movie when he wrote The Beaver, though he was happy to join the tradition of puppet movies.
“Team America really inspired me,” Foster joked of Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s marionette movie, adding in all seriousness, “It is one of my favorite movies.”
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