Mel Gibson Talks with Sean Hannity

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 13, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: I'm Sean Hannity, reporting live from Los Angeles. We get right to our top story tonight: Earlier today, I sat down for a rare interview with Oscar-winning director and actor Mel Gibson.


HANNITY: Mel Gibson, good to see you again.


HANNITY: "Apocalypto" — new beginning...

GIBSON: New beginning.

HANNITY: ... what does it mean?

GIBSON: New beginning? Well, everything has to begin, and sometimes things have to begin again, so you go through stages of that. You reach a height. You devolve into some sort of chaos. Maybe you crash and burn, and then like the Phoenix, reborn, fly again, perhaps.

It's a legend. It's a mythic legend, and it's like that for a reason. I mean, it was — I'm sure it was to instruct someone on lessons in life, you know. And it's like that quote at the beginning of the film that says, "No great civilization has ever been conquered from — without first destroying itself from within." And that's true of people, too. It can happen.

HANNITY: Happens to a lot of people.


HANNITY: It's like a lot of your films, though. I don't care if it's "Braveheart," "The Patriot," this film.


HANNITY: It's a life struggle; it's good versus evil. You love those themes. This is...

GIBSON: Well, those are the big themes. I mean, that's a mythic theme, the major themes in all storytelling, I think, in even the most complex, simple, even like — people wouldn't credit Woody Allen's films, for instance, with being mythic, but they are. I mean, he has that sense, even in his stories, you know, about life, and how self-involved it gets, and neurotic, and everything. It's about good and evil.

HANNITY: Especially neurotic in his case.

So I come out to Los Angeles today, and here it is, right in Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and pick 9/11.

GIBSON: China, and all this stuff.

HANNITY: One of the things, you know, you're showing real evil brutality, the slaughtering of a village, the just incredible steps people would take to inflict pain, misery and death on other people. That's really — it's part of the human experience. This is real.

GIBSON: It is. And it's been there since the year dot, and history tends to repeat itself, unfortunately. When will we learn? I guess never. But, you know, you're seeing humanity in its highest and its lowest aspects, and I think it's interesting to juxtapose those things.

It creates a conflict in story, and it gives you the full scale to look at. And one can experience vicariously the human experience in all its horror and in its highest moments, you know? And I like stories like that; I like the myths.

HANNITY: Some of the tougher scenes — you got literally scenes where somebody's heart is ripped out, held up.


HANNITY: You've got a panther taking off...

GIBSON: Jumping up a guy, yes.

HANNITY: ... the face of somebody, beheadings, and bodies being thrown out a long — this all happened.

GIBSON: Well, you know, this was the method of human sacrifice back then, and there were eyewitnesses to it in the Mayan world. They said, "The Mayans never did that." Well, they did. They probably learned it from the Aztecs, because there was a lot of conquest there.

The Mayans were more like Grecian in their empire, and the Aztecs were more like the Romans, you know, a little harder. But somewhere along the line they melded, and a lot of the practices traveled from the north down.

It wasn't as common an experience, but I think it was the Aztecs. There was one experience — within four days, I think there were 20,000 ritual murders. I mean, that is movin'. That's better than a cardiac every minute and a half. They must have had four or five temples going at the same time.

But they needed a lot of people to do that. Where did they used to get them? They actually used to send people out, because the Aztecs and the Mayans, as warriors, were trained not to kill, to kill if they had to, but mostly to capture. And it was a real art.

HANNITY: Was there any reaction from Mayans, from people?

GIBSON: Yes, we had a lot of Mayans working on it.

HANNITY: Working on the film, yes. But when the final product?

GIBSON: I've heard mixed reactions. I've heard, "Oh, that never happened." And then other people say, "Well, yes, it did," you know? I've heard people say, "That's total rubbish."

But, you know, I tend to go with the archaeologists, and the scholars, and, you know, the guy that cracked the code, and experts in the Mayan dialects and things. Yes, it happened.

Plus history books, you know, like El Mirador Basin with my assistant and an archaeologist, Dr. Richard Hanson. He's been down there for 20 years, and he's unearthing things, but he has to bury them, because he hasn't got the money to kind of keep it going and preserve things. So he has to rebury them when he finds something.

And it's unfortunate. This is the only piece of rainforest left in the entire — in all of Guatemala is in the El Mirador Basin —and there's fires burning up on it all the time, so it's precarious. There's 26 cities in there, and they're all older than anything they've found. Up until 1931, they thought it was a volcano, but it's actually the largest pyramid in the world.

HANNITY: You opened number one at the box office your first weekend.

GIBSON: Yes, sure.

HANNITY: A lot of people had predicted your demise. People said they'd never work with you again. Barbara Walters said she'd never go see another Mel Gibson movie. What did it mean to you, the reaction?

GIBSON: Well, I think that people will always react favorably if a story that they're being told is compelling and if it's being told responsibly, which I believe I did, you know? There are people with axes to grind who go, "Violence, violence!" you know, and not excessively so, not for the subject matter, I don't think.

HANNITY: I watched you on Viking slave trader who was, you know, stealing people from convents and selling them for money.

HANNITY: Oh, great.

GIBSON: You know, who knows? But we are the sum of everything that went before us.

HANNITY: We are.

GIBSON: We are.

HANNITY: We are.

GIBSON: I think we have all of these ancestral "chi" thing that goes back. That's why some people think they're reincarnated. And I think it's this: It's that feeling like, "Oh, man, I've been here before." It's where you came from, all those generations back. It remains with you. So who knows? There's all sorts of unknown dark stuff, you know?

HANNITY: I guess what maybe what I mean by that question is, you know, look at your life. Look at the success you had.

GIBSON: Yes, sure.

HANNITY: You know, it's interesting. If you look at the box office results, you look at the reaction on Jay Leno, it sounds to me like people are wanting to embrace you, support you. They have your whole career. I look at your box office numbers. Every movie you've ever done has been astronomical. I don't think there's been a flop in the bunch.

GIBSON: Oh, there's been a couple.

HANNITY: One or two?

GIBSON: A couple of stankers, yes, sure. Everyone's got a couple.

HANNITY: How many?

GIBSON: I keep them in the closet, you know?

But that's good. But, you know, material gain means very little in all of this.

HANNITY: But you have a good life, in other words?

GIBSON: Yes. You have to have a good life, despite any kind of material gain or anything tangible that you can touch. You have to have another kind of life, and that's hard to do, because we're here...

(LAUGHS) an imperfect place.

HANNITY: Is that what you meant when you said that, in the end, what had happened to you was good for you?


HANNITY: Because any time you go through anything publicly, that's hard.

GIBSON: Well, it's humiliating. And humiliation generally leads to finding humility, which is not a bad thing, which means, you know, hey, I'm just an ant down here, and I don't really have any power over anything. And you've got to keep in mind — you have to keep in perspective— your place in the scheme of everything.

HANNITY: So you found humility in this?

GIBSON: Of course.

HANNITY: You changed?

GIBSON: Well, you can't help but, and sometimes it takes a little rap on the knuckles to, you know, to get there, but that's OK. I mean, you know, it's a question of...

HANNITY: But you said, at one point, too, that your faith, your religion, you can't do it without God, I think was the exact quote you said.

GIBSON: No, you can't. I can't. And that's my experience, I think. And if you're a little lax or you back off on stuff like that, then you find, if you're trying to do it your own way, generally you'll come a cropper. That's Australian for meaning stumble and fall. But you'll come a cropper, because we are so imperfect.

HANNITY: Do you worry about it? Do you worry about...

GIBSON: No, you can't worry too much about it. You have to just do your level best, just every day is an "Apocalypto."

HANNITY: In other words, a new beginning. Is worry the antithesis of faith?

GIBSON: I think so, yes. Too much worry, it's bad, because what are you worried about? You're worried about usually the future, and that's a bad place to live completely. One has to be, you know, smart, think about the future, yes. Maybe even plan for it some. But one cannot live in fear or worry about the future, particularly if it hasn't happened yet.

HANNITY: Tell us about the night that you said with your kids, because I think that — it sounds to me like that was the night that changed you, when you went home and to tell them what had happened. You drank two beers...

GIBSON: It was the morning.

HANNITY: The morning, OK.

GIBSON: It was the following morning. Oh, it's just simple. It was straight out like, "Well, here it goes. Get ready." So...


GIBSON: They're fine. They know who I am.

HANNITY: They love their dad.

GIBSON: Well, yes, you know? I used to change their diapers and put a roof over their head. I still do that.

HANNITY: And you still do that for some of it, right?

GIBSON: I don't change their diapers.


HANNITY: If you look at where you are in this new movie, you're going to come out with other projects and things...


HANNITY: ... I think what you're saying is, maybe you're probably sick of talking about it — I know you said at one point you apologized a lot, and you did...


HANNITY: But, you know, you're Mel Gibson. If Mel Gibson talks about the war in Iraq, people listen.


HANNITY: If Mel Gibson talks about "Kramer" or Michael Richards, people listen.

GIBSON: Kramer? Yes.

HANNITY: You know, if Mel Gibson gets in trouble with the law, people...

GIBSON: Notice.

HANNITY: Notice. Is that hard in terms of — because it's also that Mel Gibson that gets a warm reception on Leno...


HANNITY: ... that people go spend money and go see his movies.

GIBSON: Things balance out. And I think, with that in mind — I mean, sometimes it hits you like a mallet, like, oh, god, yes, the perception of me is something other than I have of myself. So one has to look through those things and try and extract the good from it. If there's something you can say that's helpful to someone, you know, it's a kind of at least "buys back," you know?

HANNITY: Is that meaningful to you, that you could help somebody?

GIBSON: It is, yes. It's necessary. And you have to do that. We're obliged to do that, and — if you can.

HANNITY: You know, I think I've been around you enough, and I've watched your movies closely. I'm a fan of your movies, everyone of them, you know, for the most part. I don't know the stinkers you're talking about...

GIBSON: A couple of stankers.

HANNITY: ... but, like, "Braveheart," "The Patriot." I loved "Apocalypto," loved "The Passion of the Christ." I've said all of these things on TV. And, you know, knowing you and having been around you a little bit, you're a guy whose mind probably goes faster than anybody I've ever met, in terms of pure, raw energy, creativity.

GIBSON: That's because there's eight people living in there.

HANNITY: Do you know their names?


In that sense though, here's my question. That's probably where the creative energy comes to create mega-hits on the screen...


HANNITY: ... is your blessing, your curse, because maybe you don't have a peace — you can't shut it off.

GIBSON: Well, there is a compulsion to keep going, like kind of workaholism, which is healthier than the other — some of the other "isms," but even that you need to shut off. But, you know, as you get on, you sort of realize, "You know what? Take a breath. You know, walk away, take a breath." And that's a good lesson. Take a breather. Go fishing.

HANNITY: Catch some fish.

GIBSON: Catch a fish. Throw him back if you want. You know, eat him, whatever. Sushi him.

HANNITY: Let's talk about where you go from here. You've got "Apocalypto." Obviously, this is the second weekend, and now I guess — I understand it's now going to the rest of the theaters in the country.

GIBSON: Yes, I hope.

HANNITY: I told...

GIBSON: It's up to the exhibitors.

HANNITY: I can tell you what people I know that I've spoke to want you to do.

GIBSON: What? "The Life of Christ," right?

HANNITY: How many times do you hear that?

GIBSON: A lot. That would be a huge project, and it would be — I'd have to find an access to that. I'd have to think about that. It would have to be absolutely no cheesiness to it. You'd have to absolutely understand it.

HANNITY: Explain that. Go on...

GIBSON: Well, you're trying to explain things of another realm in this realm and things beyond comprehension. And you would have to find a way to present that, that would enter people, and that they could make some sense of that would hit them emotionally and logically. Very difficult. I mean, it's the inexplicable sometimes, you know? It's a very tough, big task.

HANNITY: When you looked at "The Passion," I mean, did you ever expect the success of that to that extent?

GIBSON: I didn't think about that.

HANNITY: You didn't think about it?

GIBSON: No. Nor this. You know, it's not that. It's about a compulsion to tell a story, and work hard on it, and make the story you want to see. And if other people appreciate, then you can share that work so much the better, because you're really not working for an elite. What you're trying to do is find your commonality with the rest of humanity and, you know, share something.

HANNITY: But looking at "Apocalypto" or "The Passion," I mean, is the story of good and evil, and Christ, that's the real passion in your life? That's not manufactured for the screen...

GIBSON: Sure, it is, and it's in us all. Good and evil is in all of us, you know, the capacity to do either. And it's a matter of — and some people, I mean, gosh, I mean, I just — you know, you hear stories — in young people, too — where they take a course that they can't come back from, you know?

HANNITY: Happens to a lot of people.

GIBSON: Yes. And it's only by grace that you're not going down that road yourself sometimes. I mean, whoa, you look at some deals, and it really makes you thankful. Like this kid — I mean, he was drinking, and he drove, and somebody got killed in his car. I can't remember the guy's name. But he was in that TV show. And, wow, he's got to feel horrible. And will he ever get over that?


HANNITY: Now, tomorrow night we'll have part two with Mel Gibson. We'll talk about his faith, his personal life, his religious beliefs. That's all coming up tomorrow.

Watch "Hannity & Colmes" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET!

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