"Life is full of this half-comedy, half-tragedy. And the only way to get through it is to know you are not alone."
That was Jodie Foster, speaking at the premiere of her new film, "The Beaver," starring Mel Gibson. (Miss Foster directed the movie and also acts in it.)
Jodie was referring to the main character in the film, played by Mel -- an insecure man who can only communicate with others through the use of a hand puppet; the beaver of the title. But surely she was also stating her personal feelings about Mr. Gibson, whom she has stood by during his troubles.
When a reporter asked Foster directly if she had any regrets about casting her old friend and co-star (they worked charmingly together in "Maverick") she said, "I am incredibly grateful to have Mel's performance in this film," and then went on: "Anyone who has ever worked with Mel Gibson knows he is the most beloved man in this business." She added, "The second is Chun Yun-Fat!" (He played the king of Siam to her governess in 1999's "Anna and the King.")
Jodie also speaks beautifully about Mel in the recent issue of the Hollywood Reporter. "I knew the minute I met him I would love him all my life." In the same interview, she dismisses a question about Roman Polanski with "That's not my business." (Jodie and Kate Winslet star in Polanski's coming "Carnage.")
Jodie Foster is a remarkable woman, and clearly the kind of friend you want to have in your corner.
Her sensitive defense of Mel's person, rather than his actions, caused me to think about Charlie Sheen. On a popularity scale with the public, Charlie rates higher than Mel. Many of those who have come to Sheen's defense seem to be playing into the actor's jolly/manic defense of himself and his belligerent tangling with his CBS bosses. He has become a punch line and a populist hero. His trashy, even threatening, treatment of women is admired by men who'd like the money to behave similarly, and even some women give Charlie a pass because "the girls he hooks up with are just tramps, anyway!" (This means, I guess, they are not worthy to be saved from physical violence?)
Mel Gibson's wrangles with Oksana Grigorieva were made public with the release of some shocking tape-recorded rants (he rants, she is cool as a cucumber). Gibson has never joked about this ongoing drama. Nor has he ever said much about accusations that he is anti-Semitic, only to deny he is, and to refuse to denounce his father, who is openly anti-Semitic. Gibson's infamous drunken remark, "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," has never been definitively addressed by the actor. He never really took it back, after sobering up, although he did issue an apology.
Both Sheen and Gibson look ravaged and far older than their years. But Gibson looks like a tortured soul. Years of drinking and a lifetime of emotional conflict are carved deep into every furrow and line on his once-beautiful face. Charlie just looks like an underfed drug addict with two intense worry lines that defy Botox.
Charlie Sheen is an angry man. Mel Gibson is an angry man. The difference is, Sheen is working his anger like a carnival barker -- literally taking it on the road. He appears to be having fun. Gibson keeps it to himself. He does not appear to be having fun.