For those of us who grew up on kid-friendly, puppet-centric shows like “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show,” our association with the fuzzy, frequently funny creatures is mostly a positive one. Therefore, anytime a puppet is featured in a commercial or film, we’re sort of trained to expect them to be lovable.
In “The Beaver,” the new film starring Mel Gibson, Anton Yelchin and Jodie Foster (who also directed the flick), one of the supporting players is a beaver hand puppet that Gibson’s character uses as a therapeutic tool to help him recover from a crippling case of depression. This particular puppet isn’t entirely warm and fuzzy all the time, although it did make for a unique filmmaking experience for cast and crew, including chief puppeteer Gibson.
When MTV News caught up with Yelchin and Foster during a recent press day for the movie, we asked them to explain how different a puppet the Beaver is, and how filming with a puppet affected them.
“I think there is that sort of comic aspect to puppets, and you tend to sort of react to them as though it’s sort of a toy or a plaything or whatever,” Yelchin explained. “The script, at first, it just seems kind of funny, you know, and just seems kind of silly. And then you do really realize how delusional this man is, and how it’s not a joke and it’s not just something that’s sort of a gimmick to appear funny in the film. It’s a really sick man. So I think that transition is very powerful in the script and in the film.”
Foster, meanwhile, spoke about the effect the puppet had on everyone when Gibson was controlling it — both off camera and off set.
“When he drags the puppet around and talks through it, you know, it really changes how people approach him and his connection with them,” she said. “You can’t help but snicker and you can’t help but feel uplifted and kind of joyful and full of life. So, he did a little bit of that at the dry cleaner and at the prop truck and it was interesting to see how people changed.”
“The Beaver” opens in a limited number of theaters on Friday, and will receive a wide release on May 20.
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Beaver.”
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