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Dating of Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver' ferrets out more questions

December 2, 2010 |  5:36 pm

Gibson
Mel Gibson will be back on the big screen sooner than many of us thought. A spokesman for Summit Entertainment confirmed Thursday afternoon that the studio will be releasing his quirky dramedy "The Beaver" this spring.

There's no specific date yet, but a person familiar with release plans who spoke on condition of  anonymity because they had not been authorized to talk about those plans publicly said that an April weekend was being considered. The movie will not be a last-minute entrant into the Sundance Film Festival, according to the source, who at the same time wouldn't rule out other festivals. (The Berlin Film Festival takes place in early February and would be a logical platform, particularly given a likely late-winter and early-spring release by distributors in several international territories.)

The tentative scheduling closes one chapter for the Jodie Foster-directed film, in which Gibson plays a lonely man whose best friend  is a beaver puppet he wears on his hand (he talks to him and treats him like a real person). But the news also opens another, possibly more complicated chapter.

It's far from certain that the fallout from Gibson's rants at ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva will have blown over by spring, or somehow be less toxic than they would have been had the movie come out in its initial target season of this fall -- especially given that Gibson's custody battle rages on, as does the possibility that criminal charges could still be filed against the actor. (Certainly "Hangover 2" director Todd Phillips was not, in the final analysis, convinced, and dropped the idea of having Gibson do a cameo in that movie.) Is Summit counting on a sea change in public opinion, or is it simply dumping the movie in the U.S. shortly after it comes out in some international territories?

Also still murky -- and less talked-about in the Mel pell-mell -- is the quality of the film itself. The movie has been the subject of numerous Hollywood whispers about tension on set, and a source close to the production described intense jockeying between producer Steve Golin and Foster, as well as a number of reshoots. (Incidentally, the movie, based on a beloved script from "Lone Star" creator Kyle Killen, was troubled from the start. Numerous directors as well as stars including Steve Carell and Hugh Jackman flirted with it before Foster joined and persuaded producers that Gibson was their man even though, in his mid-50s, the actor was a good decade older than the character as he was written.)

Either way, nothing is set in stone. A trailer debuts Friday night. If it doesn't fly -- or if Mel's stock continues to sink -- don't be surprised if "The Beaver" moves again.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Mel Gibson in "Edge of Darkness." Credit: Warner Bros.

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