Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson
Jodie Foster, who has stood by Mel Gibson
throughout the very public trials of his private life, hopes audiences reconnect with the actor in his next film – which she directed and also stars in.
"At this particular place, the most beautiful part of Mel, I think, is onscreen," Foster, 48, told PEOPLE at Wednesday's premiere of The Beaver
at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. "People will see the movie, and they'll see what an incredibly deep and committed performance he gives, and hopefully they'll have some insight into who Mel is as a human being."
Films may be fiction, Foster says, but they can reveal truths about the actors who work on them.
"Obviously we're playing characters," she says, "but it's our gestures and our psyches that are on the line, and this film is all about a lot of what Mel cares about."
It certainly has an offbeat premise. Half comedy and half tragedy, it stars Gibson, 55, as a clinically depressed man rescued from the brink of suicide by a beaver hand puppet, who becomes his best friend and worst enemy. Foster stars as Gibson's wife.
Gibson was sentenced last week
to probation and counseling in a long and sordid battery case involving his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. But Foster says the real Mel Gibson is nothing like the caricature he's become in the media.
People would be surprised, she says, by "what a sensitive person he is, and what an incredibly thoughtful guy he is. He's just an incredibly good friend, and a very thoughtful man."