He fell out with a number of senior Wales team-mates following the publication of his controversial autobiography and he never found favour with previous national coach Gareth Jenkins.
But Gatland insists the slate has been wiped clean and he intends to restore Henson to the heart of the Wales team.
“He is an immense talent and I am absolutely a fan. I remember being impressed by the kid’s kicking and running game when I first saw him play,” said Gatland.
“If we can harness that talent it has got to be good for Welsh rugby.
“I couldn’t care less what he has done in the past. He has a clean slate with me and a fresh start.
“I love players to be individualistic. I like them to be able to express themselves. I encourage guys to be a little bit different. We don’t want clones and everyone turning out the same.
Gatland added: “I have worked with a lot of individual talents. Someone like Carlos Spencer is quite similar. He is quiet and unassuming off the field but gregarious on it. Gavin is like that.
“Test matches come down to one or two individuals who can change the game - the match-winners who have the ability to do something different.
“This game is about expressing yourself under pressure and Gavin has the ability to be able to do something special. You need those players in your team.”
Henson was recalled to the Wales side for last month’s one-off Test against South Africa and, although the world champions won comfortably, he impressed Gatland.
“He showed some nice touches,” said the New Zealander.