Mel Gibson's horrendous mistake on Friday morning may have reverberations far worse than he could imagine. For one thing, Gibson is set to release a hugely expensive and largely questionable film with family-friendly Disney on Dec. 8. "Apocalypto," which has no stars, cost at least $50 million. It was a gamble of a vanity project to begin with, set 600 years in the past and with dialogue only from the Mayan dialect of Yucatec.
"Apocalypto" was set to open next week, but Disney pushed it back after inclement weather during the Mexican shoot put the movie off schedule. The Dec. 8 date puts "Apocalypto" right in the middle of holiday releases.
But now the question is how Gibson will possibly be able to do publicity for such a dicey movie without addressing his embarrassing and rather horrendous behavior Friday in Malibu.
If you don't know it already, Gibson was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and taken into police custody. He reportedly had an open bottle of liquor in the car, concealed in a paper bag marked Hazardous Tequila. Then, according to the report filed by a Malibu sheriff, he let loose an anti-Semitic rant followed by insulting comments made to a female police officer.
The Web site TMZ.com published what it reported were four pages of the original report prepared by the arresting officer in the case.
Gibson has since issued a public apology and will no doubt turn up on something like "Larry King Live" begging for forgiveness. But no amount of groveling is ever going to explain exclaiming: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."
He then apparently asked a deputy, "You a Jew?"
The deputy wrote in his report that Gibson "blurted out a barrage of anti-Semitic remarks" about "f—-ing Jews."
Gibson also told the officer making the report: "I'm going to f—- you. You're going to regret doing this to me."
It isn't the first time Gibson has faced controversy before releasing a film, but this is much different. When "The Passion of the Christ" was being readied, it was revealed that Gibson had built a private church for Catholics who did not agree with contemporary church doctrine. It also came out that his father was a Holocaust denier. Gibson refused to repudiate his father's statements and many reviews of the film — including the one I wrote in this space — accused the director and actor of anti-Semitism.
But "The Passion" was funded entirely by Gibson, who used the now nonexistent distribution company, Newmarket Films, to get his movie into theaters. This time, he's convinced Disney — a major studio with a family-oriented reputation — to put up some of the money, possibly another $50 million for marketing and promotion and to distribute the film. With "The Passion," Gibson also had the built-in audience of church groups to help him. "Apocalypto" doesn't carry that kind of constituency; its success was going to be built solely on Gibson as a visionary.
But will audiences want anything to do with Gibson once the reality of what he's done this weekend sinks in? I think not. More importantly, will the usual press-junket and media shills who regularly trade control of their interviews for access to a star simply avoid the whole arrest and rant mess so they can talk to Gibson about "Apocalypto?" Maybe it's naïve to think so, but someone on the red carpet or on a junket will, hopefully, have the integrity to refuse such a proviso.
Watch this week to see if Disney will stick with "Apocalypto" or use an "act of God" clause to get out of dealing with this situation. No one can blame them if they do. Gibson's apology does not deny one word of the police deputy's report. It's one thing to have been embarrassed when arrested, and maybe even so drunk as to keep repeating, "My life is f—-ed" over and over once the realization of what's happened dawned on him. But his anti-Semitic remarks underscore what many have suspected since the "Passion" controversy erupted.
As I reported last February, Gibson invested another $5 million tax-free into his Malibu church last year. With 70 or so members, Holy Family Church is designed to follow outdated Catholic doctrine that the Jews are responsible for killing Jesus Christ.
Gibson, I wrote, has never quite refuted his father's statements. In fact, an article I cited from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review revealed that Gibson is planning to fund a church similar to Holy Family in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa., called St. Michael the Archangel. According to the article, Gibson was persuaded by his father to become involved and may have assisted in the purchase of an existing structure for a little over $315,000.
The only upside of this is that maybe Gibson will now find even less support for his planned miniseries on the Holocaust. But the very serious and major downside here is that an international superstar, whom many people admire and respect, now seems to have confirmed our greatest fears about him: that he is a bigot, full of carefully unexpressed hatred that has now spilled out of him thanks to some inopportune drinking.
He may be able to rationalize this to himself, but Mel Gibson is going to have a hard time convincing Disney that it should have anything more to do with him.
I’m told it’s over between "American Idol" star Fantasia Barrino and 19 Entertainment, the company that owns the show.
In the last few days, sources say, Fantasia has fired her managers at 19 Entertainment, the firm that owns the TV show. She’s said to be considering offers from several new advisers.
Fantasia isn’t the first "American Idol" star to ditch 19 Entertainment. Clay Aiken, the contest’s second series runner-up, got out as quickly as he could. His lawyer also extricated Mario Vasquez before the 2005 season was completed, because he feared the diminutive singer would win and then be tied to 19 for a long period. Vasquez is now managed by Arnold Stiefel, Rod Stewart’s long time adviser.
Last March, Kelly Clarkson—the original American Idol—dumped 19’s Simon Fuller as her manager, claiming he wasn’t really involved in helping her. Fuller is controversial figure: in 2003, British group S Club claimed that he’d paid them each a total of $500,000, while Fuller himself made 100 times that amount off the group’s success. Will Young, the British winner of that country’s "Pop Idol" show, has also feuded with Fuller over money. Ruben Studdard, who beat Aiken, has almost completely disappeared.
The timing of Fantasia’s departure is interesting, because her second album is due out on J Records in October. She also plays herself in an autobiographical Lifetime movie next month, directed by Debbie Allen.
But Fantasia’s career, which should have skyrocketed following her "American Idol" win in 2004, has been quite pedestrian. By contrast, Jennifer Hudson, who lost to her in that season, is about to become a breakout star in the film version of the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls."
“Simon doesn’t really care,” a source told me yesterday. “He encourages everyone to leave as soon as they can. Because of the contract, he still makes money from them anyway.” Fuller also manages Annie Lennox’s solo career, and is responsible for celebrity curiosities David and Victoria Beckham aka “Posh Spice,” creating their fame in vacuum of renown. Fuller often compares himself to the Beatles’ long-deceased manager Brian Epstein, because he invented The Spice Girls.
Fuller sold 19 Entertainment—which is named for a hit single by Paul Hardcastle called “19”—in 2005 to Robert Sillerman’s CFX company for $156 million, but agreed to stay on as an advisor. CFX also owns a majority interest in Elvis Presley’s estate. Sources say that in recent months, ex-Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola has gone to work for the firm as a consultant. CFX’s original name was SFX, which was responsible for the rise of Clear Channel Entertainment several years ago when Sillerman sold them a huge number of radio stations.