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Jodie Foster defends absent Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson's absence from the press conference supporting his new film did not stop him dominating proceedings.

The actor plays a depressed businessman who uses a beaver hand puppet to communicate in The Beaver, which is directed by his co-star Jodie Foster who attended the press conference in Cannes.

The actress, who has been friends with Gibson since they starred in the 1994 western Maverick, faced a barrage of questions about the actor who has been accused of racism, homophobia and anti-semitism and appeared in court this year on a battery charge after a complaint from ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.

But she insisted the troubled star, who is due in Cannes today to appear at tonight's screening of the film, "was the right actor for the role" and had "a deep understanding of the struggles" faced by the character.

She said: "He really understood the character in a way that was extraordinary. I think that he was willing to go to such a deep place and willing to expose himself in some ways, to really talk about something he knows a lot about which is struggle, wanting to change, wanting to transform yourself, not wanting to be who you are and I'm so grateful for that performance".

Asked if the film would help rehabilitate him in the eyes of the public and in Hollywood, she said: "I don't know, I have no idea."

Foster added: "Anything that you do that you obsess about and think about and give that much to for six months of your life in his case... allows you to look deeper at yourself and the people around you and the effect of what you do and has to have some kind of therapeutic, cathartic end.

"I know that he is incredibly proud of the movie and I think that he is proud of what he's shown and I think he wants people to see that side of him and he's an incredibly private man so what he shows on screen is deep as you could possibly get".