The sad tale of The Beaver ends with a letter from Jodie Foster

There was once a time when The Beaver was only a punch-line in the sense that its title was slang for certain genitalia.

The Jodie Foster directed flick was a box office disaster, grossing less than $1 million at the U.S. box office. Although it picked up more than $6 million worldwide, it didn’t even come close to making back its $21 million budget.

Much of this can be blamed on a half-hearted marketing push from Summit Entertainment, but it surely didn’t help that leaked audio recordings of star Mel Gibson abusing his then-wife Oksana Grigorieva hit the web before the picture’s release. Suddenly, Gibson – already a controversial figure, making his “comeback” – didn’t seem fit to promote the film.

The Beaver once held such promise, though.

In 2008, Kyle Killan’s screenplay topped The Black List, an industry compiled roll of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood. It told the story of a depressed toy manufacturer who begins to speak almost exclusively through his hand-puppet: a British rodent named ‘The Beaver’. It beat Will Reiser’s I’m With Cancer (later retitled 50/50), Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s The Descendants, Jason Reitman’s Up in the Airand Bert Royal’s Easy A, among others.

Steve Carell was originally linked to star, but Gibson eventually stepped in when old friend Foster became attached to direct. He seemed perfect to play a man who loses his family while enduring a severe emotional breakdown.

And he was. The Beaver features a bold performance from Gibson – both funny and heart-breaking – as well as from Foster as his long-suffering wife.

Foster has taken the unprecedented initiative to send screeners of the picture to the entire membership of the Acedemy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (paid for out of her own pocket). Summit did not send out screeners to Academy members for Oscar consideration as they did – somewhat ironically – for 50/50. As a result, The Beaver was denied any nominations.

Still, Foster is proud of the movie. In a heartfelt letter to her peers, she implores them to watch the movie, not so that it may receive any late accolades (that would be impossible according to Academy rules anyway), but just so they might be able to look past the controversy and admire the work.

“As a director you give your heart on the screen in the hopes that others will have a chance to experience that passion and commitment. You want your peers to know what it is you believe in and — effectively — who you are. Many people worked so hard for this film, cast and crew alike. They too deserve that opportunity. THE BEAVER is an unusual film, to say the least, with a voice and tone unlike any other. Mel Gibson’s performance is undeniably deep and raw. I am so proud of the work we did together.”

You can read the full letter here, as well as Foster’s Deadline interview in which she elaborates on her decision.

Perhaps The Beaver will one day find its audience.

Discuss: Have you seen The Beaver yet? What were your thoughts?

2 Responses to “The sad tale of The Beaver ends with a letter from Jodie Foster”

  1. I did see The Beaver on first release at my local Cinema and found it to be a moving film and I recommended it to many of my movie going friends.

    It is such a shame that so many let their personal distaste for Mel Gibson in his personal life influence their decision not to see the film.

    They missed a fine piece of acting by Gibson and an equally good ensemble cast performance. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves film.


  2. I much prefer Mel when he was in his prime and in “hero” mode- Braveheart, Mad Max, even The Patriot. And Lethal Weapon. Not interested in seeing him with a talking puppet. Even his directorial effort for Apocalypto was OK. I feel sorry for Foster to be caught up in this mess.

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