Two time Oscar® winner Jodie Foster’s latest film ‘The Beaver’ where she directs and also stars is set to open in wide release on May 6th. After screening ‘The Beaver’, and my custom which stems from my years of working in the film industry, I watch a film ‘from black to black’, from the opening titles to the last end credits as it fades to black…
As ‘The Beaver’ faded to black, I had the same instinctual reaction for it as I had for ‘The King’s Speech’ and director Tom Hooper’, thinking ‘What a powerful piece of filmmaking’, took a deep breath and thought, I have to have a conversation with Jodie Foster.
‘The Beaver’ is the story of Walter Black (Mel Gibson) a troubled husband and father, a successful toy executive, who now suffers from depression. No matter what he tries, Walter can’t seem to get himself back on track until he adopts a beaver hand puppet as his sole means of communicating.
The cast of ‘The Beaver’ includes Jennifer Lawrence who received a best actress nomination for last year’s ‘Winter’s Bone’, Mel Gibson with two Oscar® wins for 1995s ‘Braveheart’ as director & best picture, Jodie Foster with two Oscars® for best actress for ‘The Accused’ (1988) and ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991), Anton Yelchin, Michelle Ang, Zachary Booth, and Riley Thomas Stewart, with Jodie Foster as director.
Yes, there’s sure to be a ‘lot of buzz’ surrounding ‘The Beaver’ with Mel Gibson being prominently in the news. For the record, I learned quite some time ago while working on various film projects for over 30 years, to separate the professional expertise of cast and crew from the public reporting of personal issues. In fact, I had the experience of working on the shooting of the opening sequence to ‘Lethal Weapon 3’ (1992) in Orlando, FL and one couldn’t ask for a better commitment from Mel Gibson and Danny Glover than they have for the art form.
On a firm path of directing, her previous directorial projects include ‘Little Man Tate’ (1991) and ‘Home for the Holidays’ (1995), I asked Jodie did she find ‘The Beaver’ or did it find her…
Jodie: “Well, it was kind of a combination of them both, it had been around for a while, it was on the ‘black list’ which is the 100 best unproduced screenplays and I read that and said ‘wow’ this is amazing but an agent said yea but another director is involved. I said well; if anything ever happens to that involvement just call me up. It didn’t and it moved on to me!”
Stan: Now that the screenplay was yours, the next logical step would be to get actors attached to it, Jodie: “That’s pretty much it, and I brought Mel Gibson on, and based on that we went to look for a distributor. That was also challenging, it’s a difficult movie and we knew we wanted to make it independently. There were a lot of reasons why and the studios were certainly weary and also the other independents were weary, and Summit came forward and were so supportive, and I think they really ‘got’ what the film was about and really embraced the vision of the movie, and were able to ‘hop on’ right away!
Stan: Your actors are attached; you shoot your film, and now its set for release. I’m thinking in the back of my mind, with Mel being in the news, one can’t buy that kind of press to draw attention to such a wonderful emotionally stirring film!
Jodie: Well I don’t know (with a chuckle), if it’s a good thing, I’m sure its not but he’s an amazing actor and he’s extraordinary in the film and I’m forever grateful that he said yes, and that he ‘brought’ what he brought to the table. He’s able to be quite witty, and light, and also transitioning into something very, very dark and deep. He is complex, and brings all that complexity to his performance!
Stan: You mention a key element of the role where Walter, Mel Gibson’s character, are two distinct personalities, a real challenge for an actor to accomplish within the role to achieve your vision as the director!
Jodie: “That’s true, every decision that you make, the film becomes more and more shaped towards what it’s going to be. Every decision whether what kind of film you’re going to use, what lens one chooses, or framing, music, and it takes shape, almost like a person takes shape!”
Stan: Spoken like a true filmmaker! (Both chuckle) From my experience on sets, there’s always that challenging sequence to try to capture on film, what might that one be for ‘The Beaver’
Jodie: “Yea, good question! Probably the most challenging, and, the one we re-shot that really had gone though a lot of different incarnations was ‘What is the final reconciliation between the father and the son.’ There were a lot of ideas of what that needed to be, did they need to confess everything that they had felt in their lives, did they need to apologize, and by the time we got to the end of the process, what we realized was that it needed to be incredibly, incredibly small and simple. It took a long while to be able to figure that out.
Stan: And figured it out you did, the ending allows us to soak in the totality of their relationship! What’s the reaction to ‘The Beaver’ at screenings so far?
Jodie: “It’s been very positive so far! I know that the movie in some ways that the movie is not for everybody because it has an odd, quirky tone to it that I love, but interestingly I think people are really hungry for that, there isn’t another movie like it, and it ask a lot of them emotionally. People can relate to life as we get older, it gets heavy, and in Walter’s case its not just simple depression, it chemical depression and he really does need medication, it not just ‘talk therapy’ that’s going to cure him. You can see that he’s been carrying around this weight and these burdens from his life and in the midst of a spiritual crises, and the beaver tool is a survival tool for him, a way for him to survive in tact.”
Stan: Jodie, is directing where you want to settle into in the end, and I know it’s a loaded question, forgive me…
Jodie: ‘No its not Stan, it’s a good question (chuckle) and I’m definitely up for more directing and less acting but I can’t imagine quitting acting, its something I’ve done since I was three years old, its a long time!
Stan: Spoken like a true Scorpio, take it from someone who knows, I’ll always be involved in the industry in some form or fashion until the very end! I mentioned the instances where your work was a bridge for me to get through some very tough times… Jodie cuts in Jodie: “We have a lot of parellels, you and I”
Stan: That’s because you’re a Scorpio too! Jodie: “Really, that’s good! You should meet my two Scorpio sisters too, so much power there!”
Stan: We’re getting the signal our time is up, I really appreciate you sharing this time with me, much success with your latest ‘The Beaver’, and Jodie, I’ll be keeping an eye out for your work for years to come!
Jodie: “Thank you so very much, I’ve really enjoyed talking you!”