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AUSTIN (Reuters) - Actor and director Jodie Foster on Wednesday defended her choice of Mel Gibson for the lead role in her movie "The Beaver," saying she had "no regrets" about hiring him despite his personal troubles that delayed its release.
"Obviously all sorts of stuff happened after the film was finished," she said in a question-and-answer session following the movie's premiere at Austin's South by Southwest arts festival on Wednesday night. "I certainly have no regrets about him being in the film and his performance."
Foster's drama was delayed for months beyond its planned U.S. debut last year and had been expected to compete for awards during Hollywood's Oscar season.
The postponement came after a series of audiotapes were posted on celebrity website Radaronline.com of a man, widely believed to be Gibson, making a racial slur and sexist comments to his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.
Neither Gibson nor his representatives have confirmed he made the comments but they have not denied it either. Only last week he pleaded no contest to a charge of domestic abuse linked to his bitter breakup with Grigorieva.
Throughout his troubles, Foster has defended her long-time friend and at Wednesday's premiere, she told the audience she felt "incredibly grateful" for Gibson's performance and would not change anything about the movie.
"The Beaver" tells the story of deeply depressed Walter Black (Gibson), his wife (Foster) and teenage son (Anton Yelchin) who do not understand the pain he is in.
He finds a beaver puppet one day in a trash dumpster and, when he slips it onto his hand, he is able to communicate more easily in the voice of the animal which, strangely, has a London cockney accent.
At its heart, the movie explores complex issues surrounding depression and the impact it has on people and families.
Foster, who has directed other films including "Little Man Tate," called making the movie "probably the biggest struggle of my professional career" because of the difficulty striking the right balance between the movie's comedy and drama.
After "The Beaver" screening was finished, she seemed relieved at the warm reception it received from the audience.
"You're all still here," Foster joked when taking the stage for the question-and-answer session.
"The Beaver" opens across the United States in May.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte