Jodie Foster on Movies & Mel

"When you love a friend," she says of Mel Gibson, "you don’t abandon them."

Interview by Sheila Weller
Photograph: Photo by: Peggy Sirota

In the October 2010 issue of MORE, Jodie Foster talks frankly about her childhood, her two sons, what she’s looking forward to in her career and the new movie she’s directed that stars Mel Gibson—who despite his recent troubles remains a good friend whom she staunchly supports.

Jodie Foster’s latest film, The Beaver, stars Mel Gibson as a suburban husband and toy-company CEO who rescues himself from catatonic depression by slapping a beaver puppet on his left hand and speaking (in an Aussie-Cockney accent) through that furry sidekick. His family (including Foster as his wife) finds themselves adapting to his bizarre but healing transformation—for a while, at least. It’s a brave and risky film that Foster says has been an "enormous, enormous, enormous emotional challenge for me."

She’s referring to finding the right tone for the story, which is about "how close we all are to mental illness and what you have to give up in order to save yourself." But after tapes surfaced of Gibson hurling obscenities, threats and racial slurs at Oksana Grigorieva, his ex-girlfriend and mother of his baby daughter, she faced challenges of a different sort. Industry pundits debated whether Foster’s movie could ever be released.

When writer Sheila Weller talked to Foster months before Gibson’s Tapegate, Foster extolled he actor’s professionalism and said he’s the "easiest, nicest person I’ve ever worked with. . . . The second I met him [working on 1994’s Maverick], I said, ‘I will love this man for the rest of my life.’ " Even after the tapes surfaced and the L.A. sheriff’s office opened an investigation into allegations against Gibson of domestic violence (as well as an investigation into allegations of extortion against Grigorieva), Foster told MORE exclusively: "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."

Foster also describes her close and complicated relationship with her mother, Brandy, who was her manager when she started acting as a child and whose dreams she lived out on screen. Brandy’s "vicarious thrill was, ‘You will be respected in ways that I wasn’t,’ " says Foster. Many of the struggling, hard-luck characters she played were "me telling her story." But with The Silence of the Lambs, "I started to tell my story. I was no longer the one obsessed with surviving as a victim. Now I was the one who saves the victims."

It was when Foster had her children, 12-year-old Charlie and nine-year-old Kit, that she rebelled against her mother after decades of symbiosis. "The hardest time we ever had was when the kids were young," she says. For Brandy, "I think it was about ‘You’re leaving me’ and ‘We’re not doing this together.’ I wasn’t gonna pick the [baby] name she wanted, I wasn’t gonna do it the way she wanted. And she saw it as a rejection of how she raised us." There was "a test of wills," from "breast-feeding to everything—everything."

For much more from Fosterincluding why she’s vowed never to show her kids another of her films after screening Little Man Tate for them, and why she’s looking forward to acting in her sixties and seventiespick up the October issue of MORE, on newsstands September 28.

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