Mel Gibson is in a lot of trouble now, but his problems began a long time ago.
Two years ago, Gibson gave an interview to former Republican speechwriter Peggy Noonan for Reader's Digest. Now the outtakes of that interview have been made available to this column.
His unpublished remarks, according to the Digest’s publisher, are shocking. Gibson actually ridiculed the historically acknowledged number of Jews killed by Hitler.
Of the Holocaust, Gibson told Noonan: “I mean when the war was over they said it was 12 million. Then it was six. Now it’s four. I mean it’s that kind of numbers game …”
Gibson told Noonan he thought the Holocaust actually happened, refuting his father’s belief that it didn’t occur at all. But Gibson equivocated, citing a friend who’d been in the Holocaust because “he worked in a concentration camp.”
The actor also said to Noonan: “The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century, 20 million people died in the Soviet Union.”
Gibson also proved to be prescient in the March 2004 interview, addressing criticism then that he was anti-Semitic.
He told Noonan: “Nobody wants to have their name, you know, besmirched on the front of newspapers and people say wicked things about them and their family and call them all sorts of names, accuse them of being anti-Semitic and everything else. I mean that’s not part of my design. I don’t enjoy experiencing that. That’s just coming from some place that I have no control over.”
None of this should play well today as Disney takes a further look at their participation in Gibson’s upcoming film, "Apocalypto." This column was the first to report on Monday that the family-friendly studio would back off releasing the film, since all the publicity would be about Gibson himself. Since then, countless media outlets have echoed our story.
But the reality is "Apocalypto" is now in limbo whether or not Disney wants to own up to it today or next week.
The Disney board and chief executive Robert Iger are too smart to let this go on for very long. They’re not going to put $50 million to $100 million plus their reputation into a film made by an admitted alcoholic, scofflaw and apparent bigot.
My guess? "Apocalypto" is pulled off the schedule and quietly released by Gibson, at his own expense, a year from now.
Mel Gibson’s acts of contrition and his several apologies for making anti-Semitic statements last week have been accepted by Flory van Beek.
Van Beek, a Holocaust survivor, is the proposed subject of an ABC miniseries which Gibson was supposed to produce. ABC has since removed him from the project.
In an exclusive chat this afternoon, Mrs. Van Beek told me: “I believe in atonement. In the Jewish religion, if you atone for your sins you have to be forgiven. I forgive Mel Gibson and accept his apology.”
But Van Beek — author of the memoir "Flory: Survival in the Valley of Death" (Seven Locks Press) — confirmed for me that the ABC Television Network does not want Gibson involved with the project anymore. Other sources told me earlier today that the miniseries will continue, but without Gibson.
Van Beek told me: “The American people are very sensational. In a week, this will be forgotten.”
She added: “So many people think what he said. When I came to the United States, it was very anti-Semitic.”
Van Beek and her husband Felix, who live in Southern California, are Dutch. They survived the Holocaust when three families of Dutch Christians hid the couple in their homes for three years.
By the way, Van Beek pointed out that the real producer of her miniseries was always supposed to be, and still is, Daniel Sladek, a former talent manager whose previous projects included Marlo Thomas’ award-winning film “Nobody’s Children.”
“I’ve never met Mel Gibson and I’ve never seen 'Passion of the Christ,'” Van Beek told me. She added, using some Hollywood vernacular: “Mel Gibson was just involved because he had a deal with ABC.”
Michael Jackson’s latest set of lawyers have quit, but this time is a little more serious than the last.
William Wachtel, of Wachtel and Masyr, had been representing Jackson in a $48 million lawsuit brought on by Darien Dash, cousin of hip-hop mogul Damon Dash.
Wachtel’s firm, of course, has gone unpaid, and the attorney says he’s been unable to contact Jackson since meeting with him in June in Paris.
Earlier this week, another former lawyer, Brent Ayscough, sued Jackson for about $200,000 in unpaid fees. In that case, however, it’s a little unclear what Ayscough’s authorization was regarding Jackson as a client. Ayscough is closely associated with self-appointed Jackson spokesman and lawyer Brian Oxman.
But the Dash case — known as Prescient Capital vs. MJJ Trust — is an interesting one. The judge in the case permitted the entire spectacle to proceed based on Prescient’s claim that Jackson agreed to pay a 9 percent fee if Dash could find him financing to buy out his loans from Bank of America in 2005.
Dash found such financing with Fortress Investments, and 9 percent of the more than $500 million that group offered up is $48 million.
At this point, Jackson still owes Marc Schaffel roughly $1 million from a judgment in a jury case decided last month. Add to that the various lawsuits from law firms who feel they’ve been stiffed by Jackson, plus the Dash case, and it’s unlikely the pop star will be returning from Bahrain to the United States anytime soon.
He’s there right now — trapped, as it were — because of selling himself into indentured servitude to Prince Abdullah .
Meanwhile, it’s a sad summer at the Neverland Ranch. I’m told that in addition to the zoo animals being relocated to a variety of new homes, the carnival rides are also being sold off after sitting in disuse for more than two years.
To add insult to injury, the No. 1 album this week is by a singer named LeToya. She is not, however, La Toya Jackson but LeToya Luckett, the founding member of Destiny’s Child who broke off with Beyonce’s manager father, Matthew Knowles, several years ago to go off on her own.
And at the same time, there’s some controversy about MTV not playing the newest Janet Jackson video from her upcoming album, “20 Years Old.”
I can only sympathize with Janet about not getting an answer from MTV: The execs there are so famous for not returning calls that I’m starting to wonder if they still have jobs. You never know …
MTV, by the way, is part of Viacom, which owns CBS, which was recently fined by the FCC for Janet’s “wardrobe malfunction” 18 months ago. But I am sure these are all coincidences …
Mariah Carey kicks off her summer tour on Aug. 5 in Miami. Sadly for Madonna’s fans, who are obsessed with a non-existent feud between the two performers, I will not be able to make Carey’s premiere or even her New York date. I’m sure she will do very well.
Madonna, now on tour in Europe, will have to be beamed in from Paris to be part of those MTV Video Music Awards. She’s performing there that night. It continually cracks me up that the two singers have such ardent fans that they’re convinced one of them is more favored by the press than the other. It’s hilarious, really.
Madonna, by the way, is set to play Moscow University on Sept. 11. What does this mean, if anything? I don’t know. Is Russia ready for Madonna? That’s one show I’d like to be a fly on the wall for. I hope Madonna’s videographers capture the whole thing backstage. Talk about truth or dare!