Jodie Foster: Mel Gibson Is "Incredibly Loving and Sensitive"

The actor has certainly earned his bad-boy reputation -- but his The Beaver director says she'll love him forever

Jodie Foster is out to prove to the world that Mel Gibson isn't bad -- just misunderstood.

Gibson stars in Foster's third movie as a director, The Beaver, which hits theaters this year. But the film almost didn't get released at all, thanks to Gibson's well-publicized fights with Oksana Grigorieva. Surprisingly, Foster seems to have no ill will towards Gibson, 55, for giving her film a bad rap. In fact, she can't say enough good things about him.

"He’s so incredibly loving and sensitive, he really is," Foster tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He is the most loved actor I have ever worked with on a movie. And he’s not saintly, and he’s got a big mouth, and he’ll do gross things your nephew would do. But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my life."

Foster says that Gibson confided in her about his relationship troubles with Grigorieva; she even knew about his disturbing tape-recorded rants before they were leaked to the press. But, she says, there's more to him the public understands.

"I know him in a very complex way," says Foster. "He’s a real person; he’s not a cardboard cutout. I know that he has troubles, and when you love somebody you don’t just walk away from them when they are struggling."

Okay, but given that the rest of us only know him from his performances and those highly upsetting audio recordings, how could Foster possibly convince us that Gibson is all sensitive and loving? She says that his true self comes through in The Beaver, in which he plays a down-and-out family man who uses a beaver puppet to work through his midlife crisis.

"God, I love that man. The performance he gave in this movie, I will always be grateful for," says Foster, as the interviewer notes tears in her eyes. "He brought a lifetime of pain to the character that we’ve been talking about for years, that I knew was part of his psyche and who he is. It’s part of him that is beautiful and that I want people to know, too. I can’t ever regret that."

This is the second time that Foster has defended the highly unpopular actor in the media. She's obviously a great friend, and we respect her loyalty. (Of course, she also has a movie to market.) Yet one thing that none of Mel Gibson's friends have offered the media is an explanation for his behavior. Sure, it's probably not their place to say whether Gibson has a drinking problem, or mental illness, or just major control issues -- but when we've heard a guy threaten his girlfriend with a bat to the head and tell her she deserves to be gang-raped, it's a little hard to be sympathetic. And the explanation that "he's got troubles"? Not really cutting it.

While Foster was heading to her film's screening at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Gibson has been spending time in the courthouse. Last week, he pleaded no contest to a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence against Grigorieva, and gave no accompanying statement or explanation. Gibson was sentenced to three years probation, sixteen hours of community service, a $570 fine, and one year each of domestic violence counseling and mental health counseling. His attorney maintains that Gibson is innocent, but struck a plea deal for "the best interest of his children."

And on Wednedsay night -- at the same time The Beaver was premiering at the SXSW Film Festival -- Gibson was turning himself in at the police station for booking on criminal battery charges.

It's definiteley been an eventful week for the troubled actor. On Monday, Gibson celebrated the birth of his third grandchild.

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