Jodie Foster: Mel Gibson connected to depressed character in 'The Beaver'

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX – While “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” might be the biggest, most-anticipated movie opening this weekend, it’s certainly not the only one.

In what might be called a counter-programming, one company is releasing a serious movie starring two Academy Award winners, one of whom has become quite controversial.

The Beaver” is about overcoming depression, and those who have seen the trailer say it sticks in your head.

Mel Gibson, whose off-screen behavior has many determined not see anything he does ever again, plays Walter Black, a man so far down the depression spiral that after a failed suicide attempt he begins using a beaver hand puppet as his only means of communication -- with everyone. That includes his wife, played by Jodie Foster, who was also the director.

Foster said her agent told her he was going to send her an “extraordinary” script. When she found out it was about a man with a puppet on his hand, she was somewhat less than thrilled. And then she read it.

“At the time, it was a quirky script that was running around Los Angeles and there was another director attached,” Foster explained to "Good Morning! Arizona" producer Lisa Fuller-Magee. “As soon as I read it, I said, ‘Boy, if something happens to him, please call me.’”

For some, Gibson’s mere presence in the film is a turn-off. Many who have already seen “The Beaver,” though, say his performance is outstanding.

“I think he was drawn to it because he really connected to it personally,” Foster said. “I think he connected to Walter’s struggle, to his issues with his son, and to all of our issues with our children. Fathers and sons – it’s something that he thinks about a lot. I know because I’ve been discussing this with him for the last 15 years.

“I think he loved the idea that it had a witty, fable quality to the beginning, and yet it descended quickly into the drama,” Foster continued. “He embraced that, and that’s what I was looking for in an actor.”

Anton Yelchin plays the Blacks son. He was the only one Foster wanted for the role.

“I think he’s an extraordinary guy. All of his work is extraordinary,” Foster said. “He was really right for this part, and he kind of looks like a combination between me and Mel. It worked out perfectly.”

“In some ways, yeah. … Yeah, I can see that,” Yelchin laughed.

Some say Gibson is so good in “The Beaver” that at any other stage in his life, he could have been looking at another possible Oscar nod. His personal live, however, seems to have overshadowed everything recently, so whether his name comes up during awards season remains a big question mark.

“The Beaver” is rated PG-13.