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Behind the Scenes

The Beaver Post-Production

No one knows what will happen to The Beaver, Jodie Foster’s new film starring Mel Gibson, where Gibson plays a suicidal man whose life is changed by a hand puppet.

POST-PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR ANDREW CHALMAN: I’m back. This place looks like a bomb—

FOSTER: Just tell me what they said.

CHALMAN: ILM will do it. But—

FOSTER: How much? Andrew, how long?

CHALMAN: You’re going to have to dip into the Little Man Tate fund.

FOSTER: Four months?

CHALMAN: Eight months. Four to get the puppet into the computer and the robot animated, but we can do voices in six weeks.

PRODUCER COLIN MEVES: (Bursting into the room) Oh, man. Did you hear this? The new one? Like all the c-words? He threatens to kill her.

FOSTER: Just go ahead.

All listen to the new recording—a now-familiar daily ritual—through the expensive monitor speakers.

FOSTER: Colin, do you understand my position? I basically was America’s female assault victim for 10 years and now I’m the director and co-star of America’s national abusive monster. My next big star turn is as Leni Riefenstahl. And I’m a lesbian, and my girlfriend has a really lesbian name. You see the problem? You think that the American people can understand these levels of subtlety? Or that I will now be known as the lesbian BFF of both Racist McWifebeater and Adolf Hitler? And what will that do to my Nell residuals? Which means I’ll be making Flightplan II.

MEVES: Jodie, do you understand the position I’m in here—

FOSTER: (Waving him away.) Not now. Nora, is he answering his phone?

ASSISTANT TO JODIE FOSTER NORA SANDOVAL: His people said he’d call back. Some—cardinal? Bishop? I don’t know. They’re all over there watching CNN. You know those... people.

FOSTER: I know.

SANDOVAL: Also, AMIG—

MEVES: The insurers.

FOSTER: I know who they are.

SANDOVAL: —AMIG called and want to meet you yesterday to go over the waiver. They said they’d be by tonight. Or at your hotel. Or in your car.

FOSTER: Forget it. Did you talk to him at all? How did he sound?

SANDOVAL: In the background. Maybe it was him? Just the word “bitch” over and over and the sound of breaking glass. A scream of pain and pleasure. A dog barking. Deep, rapid breathing, rain on a windowpane. A squalling infant cut short by a roll of thunder. The sound of nails driven through pale flesh. The elevation of the host. A jacuzzi turning off.

MEVES: (Dark laughter.) You should have taped it. Andrew, I forgot, did we talk to ILM?

CHALMAN: Just before you got here.

MEVES: And?

Chalman makes an S in the air, draws a line through it—a dollar sign.

MEVES: Are we animating the puppet or replacing Mel with the robot voiced by Robin Williams?

CHALMAN: Maybe both. I talked to Creative and Robin’s on for post on the Happy Feet sequel.

SANDOVAL: Even Happier Feet.

CHALMAN: Yeah. That’s done in four weeks then he goes to Maui. But he says he’ll look it over.

MEVES: Do I have the latest?

CHALMAN: (Opens his laptop, waits, curses Final Draft.) It’s now 106B, “a 3D animated beaver puppet teaches a man with the voice of Robin Williams who suffers from an affliction that keeps his face digitally blurred about the value of family?”

MEVES: No, I don’t have that. The version I have is “in a New York much like the present a robot comes to life when he meets a puppet that belongs to a real boy and they both try to become human.”

CHALMAN: Wait, yeah—that’s the latest. Does it end on Christmas?

MEVES: Hold on. (Scrolling.) Last line: “Merry Christmas, Mr. Beaver. Fade to black.” Then a page of V.O. about how they were friends forever. God, really?

CHALMAN: No, there’s a new draft. It’s Chanukah now and Kwanzaa. For obvious reasons.

FOSTER: How much for Robin?

CHALMAN: Unspecified.

FOSTER: Oh man.

CHALMAN: But you know that otherwise AMIG is going to go ape.

FOSTER: We can go back to plan A. Let it blow over. Shelve it so that Mel has time to build his own women’s shelter. Like build it with his own two hands. He knows the drill. And then just get all of them together into a conference. Get GLAAD again, and and the NAACP—Nora? Who else?

SANDOVAL: Uh, LULAC, because of the comments on Latinos, and the ADL again, we know people there. RAINN, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence… maybe just call the UN and ask them too?

FOSTER: I mean, if only there was some way we could have known he was an alcoholic abusive racist we could have avoided this entire thing. At least this way maybe some good will come of it. Like a summit.

MEVES: (Peeved.) You want to have the international meeting of people Mel hates? First of all no stadium could hold them. And then you wait 30 months for this to settle while he drinks himself to death. Because this might not end with a tolerance summit but a shotgun blast. And then you are the one who told them to wait. Or... we do the CGI, we’re out in nine months, his name’s not even in the credits. Quirky black comedy becomes family-friendly story of a robot coming to life after being joined to a magical puppet.

FOSTER: ILM can do that?

CHALMAN: ILM said if we want the beaver nine feet tall and blue with a tail they can do it.

DIGITAL INTERMEDIATE COLORIST MIKE RAWLS: Look, guys, I don’t want to keep working on beaver shots if it’s all getting canned.

MEVES: Who are you?

FOSTER: Ryan? Did Ryan get here?

MEL GIBSON STAND-IN RYAN OGDEN: I was just out for some air.

FOSTER: Get into the motion capture suit and start watching Bicentennial Man.

A quiet moment.

FOSTER: (Cont’d) Somehow I know. I am going to spend the next 10 years apologizing to rabbis.
 

biopic

TMN Contributing Writer Paul Ford is the author of Gary Benchley, Rock Star, a novel that was originally serialized here on TMN. He was formerly an editor at Harper’s Magazine, was an occasional commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, and is now sole proprietor of Ftrain.com (which has a Facebook group). More by Paul Ford