As falls from grace go, it doesn’t get much steeper than the spectacular decline of Mel Gibson.
News that the Lethal Weapon veteran – now more famous for anti-semitic and sexist outbursts than playing LAPD agents – will be one of the award presenters at this weekend’s Golden Globes has been met with a predictably lukewarm response.
But does he deserve the bile?
Things began to go a little sideways back in 2006 when he was arrested for yelling “Fucking Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” at the police officer who arrested him for drink-driving. Gibson then asked the lawman: “Are you a Jew?” For what it’s worth, he was.
Just as it looked like some casual bigotry might have been forgotten, in 2010, his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva recorded phone conversations in which he allegedly used both racist and homophobic slurs.
Gibson denied the authenticity of the tapes, but public opinion against him set off downhill like an avalanche. So too did the quality of his movies, with small roles in The Expendables 3 and Machete Kills. It’s a long way from his Oscar-winning days or even Lethal Weapon 4.
Can he be defended ahead of his Golden Globes comeback? Should he be? To an extent, perhaps.
The fact is, Gibson is a long-struggling alcoholic who had a spectacular fall off the wagon. And according to Gibson himself, when he drinks he can be “mean” and “stuff comes out in a distorted manner…”
That’s one way of putting it.
Behind the scenes, Gibson has quietly been attempting to right his wrongs. He has reportedly formed friendship with some leaders of the Jewish community, and has focused on philanthropic work with a number of children’s charities. He has also been battling to maintain his sobriety. We can only assume that battle has been successful, as there have been no stories since the Grigorieva tapes about any other horrific outbursts.
His slot at the Globes proves just how far Gibson has come in re-introducing himself to Hollywood.
One man thrilled by the prospect is host Ricky Gervais, who wrote “Thank you Jesus” following the news Gibson is joining him onstage.
Gibson also has the support of Hollywood heavyweights Jodie Foster and Robert Downey Jr who have stood by his side. Downey asked guests at an awards do to forgive Gibson for his past misdemeanours, as they have for the non-saintly Downey.
Downey Jr told the American Cinematheque Awards: “I humbly ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin – in which case you picked the wrong fucking industry – in forgiving my friend of his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate that you have me and allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame.” Which is a hell of a sentence.
What Gibson said in the past was appalling – and it’s deeply worrying if his bigotry and homophobia is what lies at his core that only drink allows to be set free. But then we probably also all know otherwise reasonable people who turn into idiots when drunk. At least Gibson’s recent behaviour appears to show remorse.
And whether you think his comments indefensible or not, Gibson is box-office. And Hollywood can be a very forgiving place. Just ask Roman Polanski.
Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1