There's a famous frame hidden in the trailer of Apocalytpo, Mel Gibson's controversy-laden but critically acclaimed film about the downfall of Mayan civilization. The movie hit theaters about six months after Gibson made headlines by slinging anti-Semitic slurs at a police officer while handcuffed in the back of a cruiser for a DUI charge. Around the 1:45 mark you'll see a frame planted as an Easter egg: a wild-eyed Gibson grinning at you with a beard down to his chest and a cigarette in his teeth. By the next frame, he's gone.
That flash of another Mel is a good way to think about Gibson breaking his silence in his recent interview with Allison Hope Weiner. He doesn't sound crazy, angry, or delusional. In fact, he sounds rather humble if guarded and frankly honest. Also, he's quit smoking--or at least switched to electronic cigarettes. You can sense something under the surface, though. Gibson mentions in passing how the tapes of him verbally abusing Oksana Grigorieva had been edited, presumably making the whole incident sound worse that it really was. Furthermore, his "mundane" private life is "nobody's business." And the blowback from the public? Mel doesn't care if he doesn't act anymore.
Allison Hope Weiner provides a good perspective on Gibson. She's the one with whom Gibson first spoke after the drunk, anti-Semitic incident. Her brother, Matthew Weiner, created Mad Men, on which Mel Gibson was rumored to guest star last year. She's also written extensively about the Anthony Pellicano case, a glimpse into the twisted world of private investigators and wiretapping in Los Angeles. She writes in the introduction to this latest Gibson scoop, "There were no pre-set conditions, no topic off limits, and no ground rules."
Sounds salacious but it's not. Unless you compare some of his answers this time around to his answers from the last interview with Weiner. The interviews follow the same sort of arc: warm up, scandals, current project, life in general. The first and third parts are kind of interchangeable but in talking about scandals and life, you can see a sadder Mel. And that crazy, bearded Mel also shows his face.
When asked in this latest interview, Gibson denies allegations of anti-Semistism and abuse towards Oksana, sort of:
I’ve never treated anyone badly or in a discriminatory way based on their gender, race, religion or sexuality -- period. I don’t blame some people for thinking that though, from the garbage they heard on those leaked tapes, which have been edited. You have to put it all in the proper context of being in an irrationally, heated discussion at the height of a breakdown, trying to get out of a really unhealthy relationship. It’s one terribly, awful moment in time, said to one person, in the span of one day and doesn’t represent what I truly believe or how I’ve treated people my entire life. (Deadline, 04/18/2011)
When asked in five years ago, Gibson denies wrong-doing but acknowledges that what he calls "the ravings of an inebriated, angry person" surprised him:
My God, I made people afraid. It never dawned on me before; I thought, Who would be afraid of me? But all of a sudden I realized I could make people afraid. And it was a horrible feeling. That's when I said, My God, I don't want to be that monster. I don't want to make anyone afraid. (EW, 11/29/2006)
It's no secret that Gibson began focusing more on directing than acting, but in the year's interview, he seems satisfied never to do it again. Answering three roughly identical questions, respectively, he said:
I don’t care if I don’t act anymore... It really is true... I’m beyond that, way beyond that. The whole experience has been most unfortunate. And so it’s not without all the downside. (Deadline, 04/18/2011)
In 2006, he gave a glimmer of this sentiment and talked about hiding:
There's something kind of squirrelly about acting... I think what you have to do is not work too often. You don't want to inflict yourself on the public too much. ''Not him again.'' You've got to walk away. (EW, 11/29/2006)
On life, Gibson sounds downtrodden today:
Hey, I do what I can to sort of just stave off the clock--walk, swim, try and smoke an electric cigarette. I mean it’s all bad for you. Life is bad. We’re all dying. We’re all in the process of oxidizing. Everyone of us is in the process of oxidizing so to sort of interrupt one aspect of that while everything else goes on, it’s a freak show. (Deadline, 04/18/2011)
This answer is encouraging, a major scandal later, when you look at his (rather violent) answer to a similar question about life as a star:
You're a caged animal all the time. Wherever you go, there are photographers. Everyone's got a phone. It's a nightmare. You're getting the valet ticket and--bang--it's flash, flash, flash. And it registers immediately in the animal part of your brain--it's an instant fight-or-flight thing. You feel in danger and threatened. You could end up striking or injuring someone. (EW, 11/29/2006)
Gibson's current project, Beaver, sounds fitting for the director who may never act again. He plays an emotionally bankrupt, entirely depressed alcoholic who talks to a beaver for therapy. It's getting rave reviews.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.