Mel Gibson was noticeably absent from the South by Southwest Film Festival last night when 'The Beaver,' his long-delayed dark comedy directed by friend Jodie Foster, premiered to an excited audience. While Jodie was singing his praises on the red carpet, Mel took the evening off to get booked in his criminal battery case, but I'm told that even if he wasn't doing some housekeeping, the film's top brass didn't want the guy there.

"Having him attend was just going to be too big of a risk. He could have gotten booed on the red carpet before the film even began," an insider tells me. "Everyone including Jodie decided it would be better if Mel didn't attend."