EXCLUSIVE: I’m hearing from myriad insiders that Summit Entertainment has scheduled the Jodie Foster-directed film The Beaver starring Mel Gibson for Spring of 2011. Once the studio decided not to give the film an Oscar qualifying run, it was just a question of when the best release date was. I also hear that Entertainment Tonight is airing the trailer on Friday night’s show. The film was supposed to debut in 2010 but the studio delayed when Mel’s rants against his ex-girlfriend became a matter of public record. But Jodie has described Gibson’s performance as “one of his most powerful and moving performances”. (Although Gibson has 2 Oscars at home for directing and producing 1995’s Braveheart, he has never been nominated for his acting.) In the film, Gibson plays a father who walks around talking to a beaver hand puppet. In the fall, a CBS News/Vanity Fair poll that found 76% of respondents saying Gibson’s personal troubles would have no effect on whether they would see one of his movies. Though Hollywood has a history of forgiving the man and not forgetting the moviemaker (Elia Kazan, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Oliver Stone), it’s not clear what the public thinks. Summit faced a difficult dilemma given Gibson’s domestic disputes and the alleged racial slurs and sexist epithets and alleged physical and verbal abuse of his girlfriend that’s come out from behind closed doors. However, it’s long been my stated belief that, if a litmus test were given for behavior, nobody would ever work in showbiz again. Ever since he made The Passion of the Christ, audiences have rewarded Gibson with their moviegoing loyalty despite his personal travails. Trust me, Mel’s base is still out there. When I revealed that Gibson’s agency WME Entertainment had fired him because Mel allegedly used the “n-word” racial slur during a private domestic quarrel, 50% of all the comments flooding in to Deadline were willing to give Gibson the benefit of the doubt and defend him.