It’s cursed with a slightly unfortunate title and may not be the typical subject for a comedy, but Jodie Foster’s new film The Beaver was one of the biggest hits at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Starring Mel Gibson as a man who talks to a beaver hand puppet in order to deal with depression, it’s a welcome return to the spotlight for Foster as both director and star (her last high-profile film role was 2006’s Inside Man). Stylist spoke to Foster about why she was attracted to such dark subject matter and what it was like working with the controversial Gibson.
It’s been 16 years since you directed your last film. Why the long wait?
I had two children, and I made a lot of movies as an actress. I think The Beaver is a much more mature movie than my other two films; I’m older and I’ve done stuff since. In some ways all the movies I direct have to be the story of my life: my first [Little Man Tate, 1991] is about a child prodigy and my second [Home For The Holidays, 1995] was about being in your 30s. This is about a middle-aged man. In a way it’s a trilogy.
In what way do the themes relate to your own life?
I think depression is fascinating; there was a lot of depression in my family. Making movies about people in spiritual crises helps me to come to terms with my own spiritual crisis. My way of organising my feelings is to make movies out of them and see problems from all points of view.
Why did you cast Mel Gibson, who’s had his own personal difficulties, as your star?
Mel has been a friend for many, many years – he is kind, loyal and thoughtful. I can spend hours talking to him about life. Only he can explain his behaviour, but I do know the man that I know. He’s so proud of this movie. What you see on-screen is incredibly deep and he really wants people to see that side of him.
Why do you think there are less female directors working than men?
There has always been female directors in the independent industry and Europe. The area that is slower is mainstream US movies. But I think it’s changing, with the likes of Kathryn Bigelow and her last film, The Hurt Locker. I adore that film but what’s interesting is the first female director to be acknowledged by the Oscars made a film in a male genre.
The Beaver is out on 17 June
Picture credits: Shuji Kobayashi/Celebrity Pictures and Rex Features