Can an audience truly ever separate the artist from the art? The short answer is no.
The long answer is, go check out Mel Gibson as a case study. The man is a Hollywood legend. But sadly, not for the right reasons. By now, the whole world knows of his violent outbursts and bizarre, alcohol-fueled rants. I won’t go into detail. That’s what the gossip sites are for. But to give you a basic idea of how crazy Gibson has become in recent years, here’s a sample: he was arrested on multiple occasions for threatening to kill his then-girlfriend, Russian pianist Oskana Grigorieva. He even (allegedly) punched her in the face while she was pregnant with his child. Then there were the nonsensical and racist verbal tirades that went viral all over the net. How can anyone still watch a Mel Gibson film nowadays and remain completely impartial? It’s hard, to be honest. Unless you’re the type to completely not care what a star is like off-screen.
The Hollywood studios sure care. It’s their business to, after all. They all look at him as a liability and an embarrassment. Several projects Gibson had in the pipeline, whether as actor or director, were either cancelled or postponed ‘indefinitely’. His career is in serious trouble. Even his recent performance in the Jodie Foster-directed film “The Beaver”, which is reportedly brilliant, has been swept under the carpet. The film itself can barely get a wide theatrical release, although it’s been ready for months now. In short, he’s become a pariah.
It’s a terrible shame, because Mel Gibson is a truly talented performer and a very solid director. I’ve always enjoyed his films, and ironically, it’s precisely because he invests his characters with a burning, almost psychotic intensity that makes him so magnetic to watch. As a director, Gibson’s a little more hit & miss, but he’s the guy who gave us the superb (and Oscar-winning) “Braveheart” and the visceral, vivid “Apocalypto”.
Since his recent controversies, Gibson has been lying low. If anything, Hollywood has a relatively short memory, and tends to be more forgiving of white male stars. He’ll be back. In fact, he’s already starting to engage the media once more. His first step towards repairing his broken public image was an interview with Deadline’s reporter Alison Hope Weiner. In the exclusive one-on-one, Gibson was candid about his present position in the showbiz industry, albeit a little politically correct. It’s a sign that he’s choosing his words very carefully but still trying to speak plainly about his thoughts and feelings. Here’s the full transcript of their conversation…
Alison Hope Weiner: Are you worried that audiences will hold what happened against you, and you won’t be able to act anymore?
Mel Gibson: I don’t care if I don’t act anymore.
AHW: Really? Is that true?
MG: It really is true.
AHW: Aren’t you going to be hurt if people judge you based on what they believe occurred here?
MG: I’m beyond that, way beyond that. The whole experience has been most unfortunate. And so it’s not without all the downside.
AHW: But if you don’t get to act again… I’m asking the same question.
MG: I could easily not act again. It’s not a problem. I’m going to do something now because I want to do it and because it’s fun. I’ve already pulled another job and it’s going to be fun. I don’t know if it’s going to get off the ground, but I’m going to go work for [Best Picture Oscar winner Braveheart’s screenwriter] Randy Wallace again. He’s got this script and he’s had it for years. He wrote some book and he’s adapted it to a script. And it’s almost like Alexander Dumas — like that swashbuckler kind of stuff.
MG: Yes. It’s total bodice-ripping swashbuckling stuff, but it’s funny. It’s funny and yet it’s got really good serious undertones too. Randy writes a decent script. And I responded to it right away. I thought this is hilarious. I’ve got to do this. And I’m not the main guy in the film — which is great.
AHW: You were going to do a small part in Hangover II. How did you respond to being asked to do that and then having cast members not want you in it? How did it feel to have them allow a convicted rapist [Mike Tyson] in the movie and not you?
MG: You have to let that go. I sat here and talked to [director] Todd [Phillips] about it. I like Todd. How could you not like Todd? He’s smart and he’s gifted and so are the other people in the film. It’s okay. You just have to let that go.
AHW: That’s a very Hollywood hypocritical moment.
MG: It shows you a few things. You just move on and go okay. I’m not greatly offended by it. It seemed like a good idea at the time and it went south.
AHW: What gets you to the point of ‘I don’t care’? I don’t believe you don’t care about people coming to see your work.
MG: It’s like being a chef. If you’re making a cake, you don’t just make the cake and have it look nice and have nobody tastes it. But that doesn’t take away from your ability to execute what you do as well as you can and to have it be something for many. So that it’s like, say Apocalypto when it came out. I think it’s a good film. It doesn’t have a lot of dialogue; it’s mostly just like watching stuff happen in a language you never heard before. It didn’t do surprisingly well at the box office, no, but it has this life where people see it and they go “Whoa,” and the feedback is really amazing, so you know that you’ve hit. And that’s enough. That’s enough. And the end of the day, it’s what did they think of that? Did they get something from it? Were they entertained? Were they educated? Were they elevated? Were they all three? You know, which is really good? Entertain, educate, elevate. I think that’s what Jodie did [in The Beaver]. If you can get all three of those, you’ve got the Trifecta going.
AHW: Do you think that the audio tapes have hurt your ability to make your own movies?
MG: I don’t know. I don’t know. Guys like Robbie [CEO Rob Friedman] over at Summit [Entertainment] have been really nice. It didn’t seem to bug those guys at all. They were like, ‘This is crap. We’re going out with this movie.’ The next movie I’m in is How I Spent My Summer Vacation and it will have a distributor because we’re in the business of entertainment.