Two-time Oscar-winner and iconic actress Jodie Foster insisted she'd never get behind the camera again. But after securing the screenplay and production rights to 'The Beaver,' a script that had been lying dormant in Hollywood for years, Foster changed her mind and moved in to direct. Not exactly your typical family movie, the film follows a depressed man, Walter Black (Mel Gibson), who uses a beaver puppet to come to grips with his crumbling life.
Foster also takes on a starring role in the movie, playing Walter's wife Meredith, who desperately clings to the couple's happier days. Moviefone caught up with the acting legend to find out the whole story behind 'The Beaver,' what it was like acting with and directing Mel Gibson, and where the charming-yet-scary beaver puppet is now.
[Sean Condon from MSN.ca and Devon Scoble from Sympatico.ca contributed to this interview.]
SC: Depression is a tough topic to tackle in any movie. It was interesting to see how people around Walter reacted to his depression.
Jodie Foster: People keep looking for a blood, or for a bruise on someone's arm. They're like: 'You're in pain? Really?' People around [the depressed person] just keep waiting for them to snap out of it. It felt right in the film, and it felt right in the script. There are a lot of reasons why films about depression don't work very well -- usually because they're very depressing. [Laughs] This film isn't just about a disease, though. It's about a real human condition. Sadness and grief are a part of human life, and we must learn to embrace them. But how to make sense out of the things that don't make any sense?
Moviefone: You've worked with Kristen Stewart before, and now Jennifer Lawrence in this film. What are your thoughts on young female actors today, and how does that compare to your earlier days in film?
These actresses are amazing. They're great, and their feet are firmly entrenched in drama, which is very nice to see. It is definitely an answer to all those people who say being a young actress in Hollywood will make you crazy. These are very well-adjusted people we're talking about. Their experiences will be very different from mine; it was a different world when I was growing up. News and entertainment were two different compartments, you didn't have the mad reality show mentality about celebrities then, and actresses that were 17 or 18 weren't really worth a lot, financially. It's only recently that young actresses have become a hot commodity in film.
SC: It seems that people don't know how to react unless it's in some media-accepted form – online, in a book, on TV, etc. In the Black family, only one member is reacting, and the other three seem paralyzed with fear or anger.
I think that's true. This is a modern family in modern society, in modern American culture. 'The Beaver' does examine the disintegration of a marriage. Meredith is saying, 'We can get back to who we used to be. We used to be in love. We had joy. We can find that again.' He keeps saying, 'That's the past. That's not who I am anymore.' This movie looks at the inability to accept change – and so many couples go through that. The beaver puppet helps him through, and is very successful – it allows him, in a way, to have the public accept his illness.
DS: This was a very emotional film, especially when watching Mel Gibson play such a tormented character. Sometimes I had trouble separating his role from what I know about him in his personal life. Did his personal life affect his performance?
Well, none of "that" happened while we were shooting. His relationship [with ex Oksana Grigorieva] was very happy at that point, and they had a baby during the shoot. I don't think any of this stuff informed his performance. This is a movie about a man struggling, who wants to change. That's a part of my life, and a part of Mel's life. That's why he can bring such a raw, honest performance to the screen.
I love that side of him – the complex side. He can also do the charming thing, too, like when he's doing the lighter bits at the start of the film. We needed both of those sides. I don't know if people can compartmentalize what they see on YouTube about someone's private life, but I guess that's up to the individual. Mel is witty, and he's a good-natured guy. That's not all he is – he's incredibly literate, very sensitive, and very feminine in a lot of ways. That's a side that people don't see.
The trailer for 'The Beaver' differed greatly from the tone of the movie. It made it seem like a dark comedy – which doesn't quite classify this film, and it's rated PG-13.
[Laughs] I know. It makes it seem like a heartwarming family film, doesn't it? I am not responsible for the trailer! [Laughs] My hat is off to Summit Entertainment, because this is the marketing challenge of the century. This is not a mainstream movie. What you don't want is people going to the theater expecting a comedy, and then realizing it's not. If people come with the wrong expectation, they'll say bad things about it when they leave. Ultimately we want people to see the movie they expect to see.
Were there any particular directorial influences for you on this film?
This is such a hard one, because this movie is nothing like anything I've done before. The technicians kept coming to me, asking what films they should watch. I kept saying, 'I don't know!' There are some similarities, I guess, to 'Ordinary People,' but not really. Maybe 'American Beauty,' but not really. Maybe 'Being There,' but that's a really slow movie.
That was another thing I loved about this film. It was quick-paced. There were no lags.
Yeah, it's witty and chatty. This movie has its own little organic voice.
SC: No one in this movie really anchors the film. It seems that everybody is involved with each other to some degree.
I do that in movies. I have this cross-connection or tapestry where people interconnect evenly. There's no bad guy because everyone has a point-of-view. As an actor, I'm the exact opposite – I kill everyone off. I'm always like, 'Does she really need to have a father? A husband?'
Where is the beaver at this very moment?
You know what, that's a great question! Summit owns the beavers, there are probably about five of them. I'm sure they've kept them away under lock and key somewhere.
It was amazing to watch the puppet transform – it was almost like it came to life!
That's a funny thing. We didn't shift and change the camera that much; we made some framing choices. But we didn't change its eyes or anything like that.
It did shower though!
[Laughs] Yes it did! We had one beaver that was just for getting wet. We called it the 'wet beaver.'
What's up next for you?
I'm doing a film called 'Elysium,' directed by Neill Blomkamp ['District 9'], co-starring Matt Damon.
'The Beaver' opens in select theaters on May 6.
Follow me on Twitter @ChrisJ_AOL.