Published March 02, 2009
Can Mel Gibson be rehabilitated?
In case you missed it — I know I did — Gibson appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show that aired in some markets after the Academy Awards. The show was rebroadcast this past Friday night.
Gibson looked, sorry, nuts. He sported a Civil War era goatee and a handlebar mustache. He must have known it looked strange because he allowed Kimmel to spoof him in a weird Colonel Sanders video bit.
The main purpose of Gibson’s appearance was, I guess, for rehabilitation. Kimmel stayed away from Gibson’s famous 2006 Malibu arrest for as long as he could, then threw it into the conversation as a joke. Yes, it seems so funny now looking back at it that Gibson ranted anti-Semitic comments to the cop who arrested him for drunk driving!
Kimmel then — this is all scripted — led Gibson into a quick discussion of whether he also called a female police officer "sugar tits." Gibson denied saying it, the two laughed about it, and then Gibson said he’d wished he’d actually coined the phrase. "I wish I could copyright it," Gibson said, "I wish I had said it," Gibson observed. Kimmel agreed. It was a great phrase!
And so begins the campaign to make Mel Gibson seem normal again. He didn’t appear to be normal on the show. More than ever, his eyes rolled around in his head as he kept smoothing the goatee. There is almost no sense of the hot young actor who first captivated audiences in "Gallipoli" or "The Year of Living Dangerously." That guy is gone. As Kimmel pointed out, it’s been thirty years since the first Mad Max movie, "The Road Warrior." This Mel Gibson is not the same person.
Gibson was also on the show to promote the Blu-ray release of "The Passion of the Christ." No mention was made of the lawsuit filed against him by the screenwriter of that movie. Benedict Fitzgerald claims Gibson lied to him about the movie’s budget and paid him only $75,000 for his work. "Passion" has earned hundreds of millions of dollars. Fitzgerald wants some of it. A much delayed trial is set to begin in June. The case will likely settle, because if it reaches open court, Gibson’s business dealings will be cracked open for public perusal.
Some of the allegations in Fitzgerald’s original complaint against Gibson are pretty interesting. Just as a matter of trivia, Fitzgerald mailed Gibson his finished screenplay on September 11, 2001. Also, Fitzgerald and his lawyer both say that during all the negotiations, Gibson claimed that "The Passion" would be a $4-$7 million movie and that Gibson would take nothing from it. He was doing it as a "gift to his faith." Gibson, he also says, forced him to add the actor’s name to the screenwriting credit. And Fitzgerald says that by 2003 he was so in debt he had to borrow $200,000 from Gibson.
According to Fitzgerald’s complaint, it was discovered during a 2006 audit that Gibson reneged on his "gift to this faith" promise. He received $5 million for directing the film and 10 percent of the gross "from first dollar."
According to boxofficemojo.com, "The Passion of the Christ" earned $611,899,420 worldwide during its theatrical release. That would give Gibson at least $66 million if Fitzgerald is correct.
"Passion" has made so much money, in fact, that Gibson has parked over $40 million in a private foundation that feeds his Holy Family Church in Malibu. The church made headlines when it was revealed in the New York Times that Gibson had built it at the behest of his father, Hutton Gibson, the infamous Holocaust denier, a writer of anti-Semitic, neo Nazi literature who doesn’t subscribe to modern Catholic law. (In 2003, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported Hutton Gibson was a featured speaker at a conference sponsored by the Barnes Review and the American Free Press, both of which regularly carry anti-Semitic articles and reprint writings by Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders.)
On his website Hutton Gibson promotes his book called "Is the Pope Catholic?" Needless to say, the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize the Gibsons’ church in Malibu.
Last year, according to federal tax records, Mel put another nearly $10 million in the foundation that operates Holy Family. As much as he likes to be portrayed on TV as a jokester, he is not kidding around.
Gibson wasn’t included on this year’s Academy Awards show. It seemed like his Kimmel appearance was supposed to make up for that. He said that he keeps his two Oscars for "Braveheart" buried in couch cushions in order to surprise guests. They sit on them by accident. The Academy governors are probably thrilled to hear that story.
Some time this year, Gibson will star in his first movie since his scandal. It’s called "Edge of Darkness." Robert DeNiro was supposed to be his co-star, but dropped out on the first day. Ray Winstone replaced him. Warner Bros., which has distributed many of Gibson’s films, has taken this one on, too. Audiences will probably not care about Gibson’s scandals if the film is good. But it should be interesting to see if the lackeys at the syndicated shows, the folks who do the red carpet interviews, have brave enough hearts to ask about it.
Watching Gibson with Kimmel, it seems unlikely he can ever really come back. Like Tom Cruise, Gibson has sent himself into a weird purgatory from which his reputation can never fully recover.
Forget the snow, and even a lousy review in The New York Times. Last night’s Broadway opening of "Guys and Dolls" was a hit no matter how you slice it, with plenty of star power to applaud the underrated revival.
The big revelation for me was Lauren Graham, who was the star of the annoying TV series "Gilmore Girls." She can sing like crazy, and she’s a hot blonde as Adelaide, the stripper and 14 year fiancée of Nathan Detroit, played by Oliver Platt. Lauren told me being on Broadway was a "childhood dream," and luckily it’s not a nightmare.
Platt had a lot of friends in the house last night including Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick to cheer him on. It’s a tough part since around him lots of people are dancing. "Did you notice my moves? Oliver asked. "And I get to sing!" He does, some of the best songs in musical history. Not a musical performer, Platt pulls off Nathan Detroit his own way — Nathan would be proud.
Elsewhere in the audience I saw Ben Vereen, Matthew Broderick, Valerie Harper, Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann, and Jim Burrows, the Emmy winning TV director (Mary Tyler Moore, Cheers, Frasier, etc) whose late father Abe wrote "Guys and Dolls."
"I think I’m one of the few people in this room who was at the original opening night," Burrows quipped. He loved the show.
"Guys and Dolls" has a hit right here, to paraphrase one of its eminently hummable songs. The score is to die for, and the story is pretty relevant considering the condition of New York right now. Damon Runyon wrote the stories that became this show from a gritty city full of characters. With the economy and peril, and a mayor who’s put gigantic potted planters and preposterous outdoor café seats all over Broadway, we need colorful Nathan, Adelaide and their pals more than ever!
One of the surprise pleasures of the weekend was listening to Paul McCartney’s new Fireman radio on Sirius XM, Channel 33. It’s Macca 24/7, with lots of rare cuts, old tracks, new gems, etc.
Fireman Radio was put together by Paul’s nephew Lee Eastman, who got the idea to help market McCartney’s excellent new Fireman CD, Electric Arguments. As Paul has drifted away from conventional CD releases — he’s not signed with any major label — he’s putting out music on his own.
Sirius should be doing more of this. They have stations dedicated to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and others. The McCartney station is a great idea. Already Eastman tells me one of the more obscure songs has been licensed for a commercial. Even casual listeners are making discoveries in between "My Love" and "Band on the Run."
So Sirius, get in gear: where’s the Stevie Wonder station, etc? There are a lot of artists with deep catalogs just ready for the programming!