Jodie Foster’s latest effort as director could help rehabilitate Mel Gibson’s flagging career.
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27 Sep 2010 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 10:30 AM

Ever since Mel Gibson's alcohol-fuelled rant against Jews when he was arrested in 2006, the actor has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons, most recently for his tirade against his ex-girlfriend.

Now the wheel may be turning as Gibson is winning plaudits for his latest role as a guy who rescues himself from catatonic depression by speaking in an Aussie/Cockney accent through the hand puppet of a beaver.

Directed by and co-starring his friend Jodie Foster, The Beaver, was produced by Summit Entertainment, the Twilight studio. Curiously, Summit hasn't set a US release date amid suggestions it's leery after all the negative publicity Mel has been attracting and his last flop Edge of Darkness. Icon will distribute the movie in Australia next year but hasn't announced a date.

Foster, who plays the wife of Gibson's character, the CEO of a toy company, has gone public in her support of the actor, telling MORE magazine, “When you love a friend, you don't abandon them when they are struggling. Of course, Mel is an undeniably gifted actor and director, and The Beaver is one of his most powerful and moving performances. But more importantly, he is and has been a true and loyal friend. I hope I can help him get through this dark moment.”

While most pundits haven't seen the film, some are urging Summit to launch it before the end of the year to capitalise on its Oscar prospects. “There's no sensible reason on earth to keep The Beaver out of theatres,” opined Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells in an open letter to Summit.

“Please – grow some cojones to match Ms. Foster's and release The Beaver already. A platform release in December, and then open it wide in early February. Or forget a 2010 release and debut it at Sundance 2011.”

To back up his case, Wells cites a CBS/Vanity Fair poll which found that 76 per cent of Americans said they were not less likely to see a Mel Gibson movie after the most recent scandal.

Deadline.com's Pete Hammond reported that three different sources who have seen the film and have a connection to it (none in a production capacity) told him Gibson is “extraordinary.”

According to Hammond, one of those individuals said “he gives an incredible performance. If you can forget what happened, and I didn't have tabloid images racing through my mind watching him, it's really something. I still don't want to be his friend but he's great in this.”

Although Gibson has won two Oscars for directing and producing 1995's Braveheart, he's never been nominated for his acting. But at least one Hollywood commentator, IndieWire's Anne Thompson, doubts he ever will.

'The idea of Oscar and Gibson inhabiting the same universe is absurd,” Thompson argues. “Come on. Gibson could get the best reviews on the planet and SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and the Academy would still give him the cold shoulder. Believe me, he really is persona non grata in Hollywood. Sexual infractions are often forgiven (Charlie Chaplin, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen). This is about racism and anti-semitism — two things that the liberal Academy cannot forgive. Gibson will likely get the opportunity to star and direct movies again — he's still popular. But an Oscar campaign or nomination? Never.”

(Photo sourced from Splash)