Jodie Foster‘s decision to cast Mel Gibson in the lead role in The Beaver — a quirky, Napoleon Dynamite-ish dramedy about a gloomy, verging-on-suicidal middle-aged guy who finds rejuvenation when he adds a second personality in the form of a beaver hand-puppet — is inspired. I’m saying this because Gibson’s behavior in recent years has persuaded me that (a) he’s a bit of a loon and (b) is therefore in some ways a kind of real-life incarnation of the “Walter” character in Kyle Killen‘s script, which I read last year.

star Mel Gibson, director-costar Jodie Foster

The role is essentially that of an eccentric angst-ridden kookoo bird, and if Gibson has done one thing in recent years he’s proven repeatedly that he’s at the very least familiar with this aspect of the human condition. Or at the very least with having to constantly swat away demons and struggle with manic impulses.

Gibson’s nutter essence is the reason why his most memorable all-time performance was as Martin Riggs, the pop-eyed, heebie-jeebie, verging-on-suicidal cop in the first Lethal Weapon (i.e., a character that was softened up and copped-out-on in the LW sequels.) It’s why he’s an intense Catholic and why he’s had alcohol problems — two obsessions or behavior patterns that go hand-in-hand. (I’m alluding to the syndrome of people who can’t handle life’s anxieties on top of their own craziness so they need either booze or Christ to get them through the day.) It’s why he’s so hyper in interviews. It’s why he looked like a Bedlam inmate when he wore that huge John Brown beard when he was shooting Apocalypto. It’s why he called that female cop “sugar tits” when he was drunk at the Malibu poilce station.

I’m not saying Gibson is incapable of acting rationally or smiling or being polite and charming at parties and all that. Obviously he is. I’m saying that he’s obviously got a madhouse going on inside, and the occasional pop-throughs are why the crazy-Mel image has taken hold.

Foster will direct The Beaver as well as costar as Gibson’s wife. Variety‘s Sharon Swart is reporting that Foster “boarded the project and brought it to Gibson, with whom she co-starred in 1994’s Maverick. Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Keith Redmon will produce the film which wil cost around $18 opr $19 million. Producers are pushing for a September start date in New York. A studio could pick up the project or it could go the indie route, as Golin did with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Babel.”