There may not be a literal “movie jail” in Hollywood, but it’s still real — just ask Mel Gibson.
Gibson graced the Oscars once again on Sunday night and looked in good spirits, as he should have: His movie “Hacksaw Ridge” was a best picture nominee, he was nominated for best director, and it took home two awards (for editing and sound mixing).
But 10 years ago, the once-superstar actor and Oscar-winning director hit his public rock bottom when he was arrested on a DUI charge on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. It was neither the first nor the last time a movie star will meet that fate, but it’s the infamous, hate-filled rant he went on while being placed into a police car that caused his media implosion.
“F—ing Jews … the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” the drunk Gibson slurred that evening in the leaked recording.
Gibson took his hits for the comments, made his public apologies, and met with Jewish leaders to ask for forgiveness.
All wasn’t forgiven, but he was on the right track.
In 2010, however, the mega-talent agency William Morris Endeavour dropped Gibson after tapes surfaced of him going into a racist rant and making a death threat against his ex-girlfriend.
For many in Hollywood, it was the last straw. They turned their backs on him. Since 2006, he’s only starred in one studio-backed movie (“Edge of Darkness”).
“I think he’s essentially been blacklisted in the industry,” “Lethal Weapon” screenwriter turned director Shane Black (“The Nice Guys”) told Business Insider back in May of 2016. “I think people don’t want to work with him.”
There have been exceptions. Close friend Jodie Foster cast Gibson in her 2011 directing effort, “The Beaver,” and Robert Downey Jr., who found support in Gibson when he had his own substance-abuse problems in the late 1990s, tried to convince Marvel Studios to hire Gibson to direct “Iron Man 3.”
But mostly Gibson has been an outcast in Hollywood, and that was most evident in his directing efforts, which had dried up following 2006’s “Apocalypto.”
That was, until “Hacksaw Ridge.”
As much as we love to see our stars knocked down a peg (whether we acknowledge it or not), we’re even more excited when they stage a comeback. And that’s where we are in Gibson’s career trajectory right now.
The World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge,” Gibson’s first directing effort since 2006, has fuelled the best press Gibson has gotten in a decade.
Along with earning over $US175 million worldwide, the movie and Gibson himself received a warm welcome from the Academy, a sign that Hollywood’s elite inner circle has welcomed the 61-year-old legend back into the club.
Taking some good-natured ribbing by host Jimmy Kimmel on Sunday night was sort of the climax to moments this past year when Gibson put on a brave face to face his critics. While promoting “Hacksaw Ridge” on Variety’s “Playback” podcast, Gibson spoke about his 2006 arrest, and he was candid, though also much too defensive.
“Ten years have gone by,” Gibson said. “I’m feeling good. I’m sober, all of that kind of stuff, and for me it’s a dim thing in the past. But others bring it up, which kind of I find annoying, because I don’t understand why after 10 years it’s any kind of issue. Surely if I was really what they say I was, some kind of hater, there’d be evidence of actions somewhere. There never has been.
“I’ve never discriminated against anyone or done anything that sort of supports that reputation,” Gibson continued. “And for one episode in the back of a police car on eight double tequilas to sort of dictate all the work, life’s work, and beliefs, and everything else that I have and maintain for my life is really unfair.”
Obviously Gibson has some scars. But hopefully he’s aware that in addition to “eight double tequilas” behind the wheel leading nowhere good, the drinks don’t excuse the speech or ideas behind them.
It’s likely Gibson will never again be the leading man of a studio movie, and perhaps he finds that doing gonzo movies like his most recent “Blood Father” works best for him.
But it’s his directing work that might define him for the next decade, and “Hacksaw Ridge” is the foundation for that.
“Ridge” star Andrew Garfield plays Desmond T. Doss (and received a best actor Oscar nomination for his work), an Army medic who served during the Battle of Okinawa and refused to carry a gun. He went on to become the first conscientious objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honour.
Gibson’s work behind the camera (which earned him best director and best picture Oscar wins for “Braveheart” in 1996) is as moving and bloody as ever.
The film’s distributor, Lionsgate, eventually got more comfortable touting Gibson. The first poster for “Ridge” didn’t even have his name on it, reading instead “from the acclaimed director of ‘Braveheart’ and ‘The Passion of the Christ.'” But TV spots before the release called “Ridge” “a film by Mel Gibson.”
This has all led to Gibson being thrust back into the global spotlight (whether he likes it or not). He was reportedly in talks with Warner Bros. about directing the “Suicide Squad” sequel. He’s also working on a sequel to his mega-hit “The Passion of the Christ.” Titled “The Resurrection,” it will be “a huge undertaking,” according to Gibson (a script is currently being developed).
“Passion of the Christ” had its own controversies surrounding it, of course, but no one could deny its devoted fans and box-office might. Given Gibson’s slow climb back to relevance, a movie about the resurrection of Jesus seems like an oddly fitting comeback.
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