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GUY RAZ, host:

Speaking of reviewers, many have given mixed reviews or even worse to Jodie Foster's new film. It's called "The Beaver." And even she admits it's not an easy sell. For one thing, it stars her old friend, Mel Gibson.

He plays a depressed father named Walter Black. After he attempts suicide, Walter is saved by a hand puppet, a beaver puppet, who speaks in an English cockney accent.

And in this clip, Walter introduces the beaver to his wife Meredith played by Jodie Foster.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Beaver")

Ms. JODIE FOSTER (Actress): (As Meredith Black) Is this some kind of a joke?

Mr. MEL GIBSON (Actor): (As Walter Black) I hardly laugh. Nothing funny about it.

Ms. FOSTER: (As Meredith Black) Stop it with the puppet, all right? I'm confused, Walter. And I need some answers right now.

RAZ: Foster also directed the movie and financed a big part of it. It's the first time in 20 years she's put herself both behind and in front of the screen.

Ms. FOSTER: I had acted and directed before in my first film, "Little Man Tate," and I swore I would never do it again. It's actually not terribly difficult to act and direct at the same time. It's just exhausting. And it does take some of the joy out of it.

But this time around, I felt - especially when I brought Mel on, I felt that it was really important to ground a film with a dramatic presence and to have somebody who had been a protagonist in a film before. I mean, somebody who was appropriate age and who I know Mel would work well with and he would believe that they had been together forever. And so then I thought, why not? Why not me?

RAZ: I understand that Steve Carell, and even Jim Carey, were considered for the lead role for Walter, the role that Mel Gibson obviously plays in the film. These all seem like very different actors. First of all, why did you think that Mel Gibson was right for the part?

Ms. FOSTER: When I came on, Mel Gibson was my first choice. So Steve Carell and Jim Carey, those ideas preceded me. But, you know, I really felt that Mel was the right one for this film for a number of reasons. And the first is that he, on the one hand, has an extraordinary comedic presence, and he has a real light of touch. He is witty. And I knew he could handle that side of it. But the man that I know, that I've known for 15 years is extremely complex, and he really understands struggle.

I knew that he would be able to combine the two, the wittiness and the funniness with this dark drama in a way that felt really absolutely authentic.

RAZ: Obviously, a lot of attention to this film, a blessing and a curse, I suppose...

Ms. FOSTER: Mm-hmm.

RAZ: ...is because of Mel Gibson, as you know...

Ms. FOSTER: Right.

RAZ: ...and you've talked about this. During the filming, of course, those taped messages to his former girlfriend came. Many would call them racist, sexist, violent. They were released to the public - what - first of all, what kind of impact did that have on the morale of the crew, of the people and the actors working on the movie?

Ms. FOSTER: Well, those tapes were released after the film was finished. There was one moment of overlap when he was doing a reshoot on one day, the very first day that the tapes came out. And that was a sad day, a tough day. But he came in and sat down with no makeup on and did two of the most beautiful takes I've ever seen, which are both in the film. And, you know, I gave him a big kiss, and he got on a plane and left.

RAZ: I mean, clearly, he is troubled. He's a troubled person. I mean, there are things that he has said, and we all know what they are. Many folks in Hollywood, in your industry, have repudiated Mel Gibson, have sort of said: I'm not going to work with him. He has essentially become toxic in the eyes of many people that you know and also respect. I wonder how much, sort of, forgiveness you're willing to show him.

Ms. FOSTER: As far as, I don't know, walking away from someone who's struggling - I mean, if you love somebody and you know them and they have proven themselves as a friend over and over again in your life, and there's somebody who's really a member of your family, when someone's struggling, you don't walk away from them. You stand by them. The Mel Gibson that I know, that I've experienced is, and that I know intimately, and I think I can probably say you don't know is an extraordinary man. And no one can take that away.

RAZ: Knowing what we all know now about some of the things Mel Gibson has said in the past, would you still have cast him in the lead role?

Ms. FOSTER: Well, I'm so proud of his performance. And I could never look back and imagine anybody else. I'm grateful for the performance that he gave and for the partnership that I had on that set and for, you know, the character that he came up with. That's entirely him. I'd love to tell you that I invented his character or that I can take credit for his acting. I can't. I know how important a contribution an actor brings. So no, I would never regret that.

You know, it's an interesting question, you know? Can an audience - can you compartmentalize out what you may know about a star's private life through the airing of, you know, private moments? Can you separate that out from a performance? I don't know. Can you?

RAZ: That's the actor and director Jodie Foster. Her new film, "The Beaver," opened in select theaters this weekend.

Jodie Foster, thank you so much.

Ms. FOSTER: Thank you.

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