Diary: Mel Gibson plays grave heart in his big-screen comeback

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The Independent Online

A movie trailer has arrived, bearing a much-anticipated first look at Mel Gibson's potentially career-saving performance in The Beaver: a family drama about a man who self-cures his crippling depression by talking things through with a beaver-shaped hand puppet.

Gibson – better known as an allegedly racist, allegedly sexist, allegedly alcoholic alleged domestic abuser – was also once an Oscar-winning film-maker and celebrated actor. The Beaver's director and his co-star, Jodie Foster, describes her troubled chum as "the easiest, nicest person I've ever worked with ... The Beaver is one of his most powerful and moving performances". Steve Carell was originally slated for the role of Walter – a mentally ill chief executive of a toy-manufacturing company.

Foster, however, must have thought Gibson a better fit for a character that the trailer calls "a hopelessly depressed individual – the successful man he used to be has gone missing and [he] can't seem to bring him back".

The film is due for release next year, but its trailer already reveals at least one embarrassing flaw: the beaver puppet is portrayed as possessing an Australian accent. In the wild, beavers are found only in North America and Europe.

* Given that Jeffrey T Kuhner, a leading columnist for The Washington Times (circulation: almost as substantial as The Independent's), called this weekend for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be assassinated, I'm loath to continue with this column's burgeoning series of Assange sightings. Then again, given that Kuhner's previous op-ed pieces include "Is Obama fomenting a race war?", "Will America Break Up?", "Should Arizona Secede?" and "Radical Islam's Conquest of America", one imagines – or, at least, hopes – that the US State Department pays his views little or no heed. In the interests of radical transparency, then, I must reluctantly report one reader's assertion that she spotted Assange (thought to be in hiding somewhere in the South East) "browsing through the womenswear section of Next in Stevenage. Maybe he was buying a disguise."

* In an online Q&A with Guardian readers (conducted, presumably, from his Herts hideaway) Assange asserted that "In yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are references to UFOs". As if he hadn't already encouraged the conspiracy nuts enough, this caused chaos in the crazier corners of the web. "The feds are trying very hard to suppress this information," claimed Jarod Teller, a "UFO expert" from, naturally, LA. "It does make one wonder if the Government doesn't want us to know something about UFOs." Does it, though, really?

* A Christmas round robin arrives from Jonathan King – singer, songwriter, pop impresario and convicted sex-offender – who regales his addressees with tales of an eventful 2010. Among King's accomplishments this year was the submission of his debut novel, Beware the Monkey Man, written under the pseudonym "Rex Kenny", to the Booker Prize selection process. King's plan to triumphantly expose himself (as its author) was foiled when the judges failed to pick the title for the Prize longlist. "One judge loved it and championed it," he claims, somewhat implausibly. "The others didn't." Still, there was a sales rush when Rex Kenny's true identity was finally revealed: Amazon, he says, shifted "dozens" of copies.

* A heart-rending story of seasonal woe, meanwhile, from Saturday's Daily Mail, in which Charlotte Metcalf recounted the details of her new life on the middle-class bread line. "Less than five years ago," she recalled wistfully, "Christmas for me meant leisurely afternoons in Harrods... This year, the arrival of the festive period has sent shivers down my spine." Charlotte, you see, is "poverty-stricken". Once, she would have "thought nothing of spending £45 on a pot of gold-lidded lusciously scented body cream for a distant cousin. Now... my cousins will have to make do with little trinkets for their children only." And the smoked salmon-starved dear is not alone: "One girlfriend told me that she'd planned to spend only £50 on her 15-year-old daughter and yet the same daughter is now asking for an iPad..." My heart bleeds: those mean Mail features editors, sending poor Charlotte's whinge out into the world, with no protection whatsoever from the online commentariat. People are ravenous out there. She'll be eaten alive.

* Eric Clapton once claimed Chancellor George – né Gideon – Osborne's music collection was the best he'd ever seen, The Sunday Telegraph reports. Did he get a tax break for that?