Suddenly everyone loves Mel Gibson again
Boos drowned out by praise for new film while Jodie Foster says he’s a friend she’ll always love
Mel Gibson needed some good news after being sentenced on a battery charge last week over a fight with his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva – and now he has three reasons to be cheerful.
His new film Beaver, in which he acts alongside a hand puppet, has had a better-than-expected early response from critics and viewers. On top of that, Jodie Foster, who directed the film and co-stars with him, has been telling the world what a great guy he is. And, just for good measure, he's also become a grandfather for the third time.
Beaver, starring Gibson as a depressed businessman given a beaver puppet so he can express his feelings, was given a "strong ovation" at a screening at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, according to Deadline Hollywood.
The movie site reported that "when Mel came on screen for the first time, there were no boos". But among audience members prepared to overlook Gibson's controversial recent past, was one who said: "People were really moved by it. They were rapt. He's phenomenal. People were really surprised they could let go of all the other stuff with him. It went as good as it could have been."
A full review in the Hollywood Reporter says the film "survives its life/art parallels - thanks to its star, Mel Gibson - to deliver a hopeful portrait of mental illness that is quirky, serious and sensitive".
Any box-office success for Beaver would mark a major career resurrection for Gibson, who, even before being given 36 months' probation for the domestic assault charge, had become something of a Hollywood pariah following a string of anti-semitic comments that were attributed to him - including a rant at a police officer who arrested him for drink-driving.
If Beaver does prove popular it will repay the faith Jodie Foster has placed in Gibson, whom she has known for 17 years. "I know that he has troubles," said Foster, "[but] when you love somebody you don't just walk away from them when they are struggling."
Foster claims the public perception of the 55-year-old actor is inaccurate. "He's so incredibly loving and sensitive, he really is," she said. "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."
To complete the upturn in Gibson's fortunes, his daughter Hannah – one of the seven children he had with his ex-wife Robyn - gave birth to a baby boy on Saturday. The actor was said to be "overwhelmed with emotion" at the news.