is an "incredibly loving and sensitive" person, according to Jodie Foster.
The actress-and-director has defended the controversial star - who last week pleaded guilty to a charge of battery relating to his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva - saying he's the "most loved" actor she has ever worked with.
Speaking at the premiere of her film 'The Beaver' - in which Mel stars -in Texas, she said: "He's so incredibly loving and sensitive, he really is. He is the most loved actor I have ever worked with on a movie.
"And he's not saintly, and he's got a big mouth, and he'll do gross things your nephew would do. But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my life."
Jodie has been close to the 'Braveheart' star since they appeared in 1994 movie 'Maverick' together, and she admits she has helped him deal with the end of his relationship
with Oksana - with whom he has an 18-month-old daughter, Lucia - in April 2010.
She said: "I know him in a very complex way. I know that he has troubles, and when you love somebody you don't just walk away from them when they are struggling.
"We talked about it all the way through, about what was going on in his life. I don't think he told me until it was something he couldn't handle by himself."
Jodie, 48, also thinks Mel, 55, gives an "extraordinary performance" in the film, which sees him play a deeply depressed husband who starts speaking only to a beaver hand puppet as he struggles to resolve his relationship with his wife and son.
She told The Hollywood Reporter: "I think anybody who comes to see the film and understands Mel's extraordinary performance in the movie can't go away untouched by his humanity.
"The performance he gave in this movie, I will always be grateful for. He brought a lifetime of pain
to the character that we've been talking about for years, that I knew was part of his psyche and who he is.
"It's part of him that is beautiful and that I want people to know, too. I can't ever regret that."