Transcript: Gibson on 'The Passion'

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, February 24, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, Mel Gibson's new film "The Passion of the Christ" (search) opens on about 4,000 screens tomorrow all across the USA.  You've heard about the controversy.  Now let's hear about the film..


O'REILLY:  Do you believe there's a physical presence of Satan in the world?  Did that reflect your view?

GIBSON:  Hmm.  A physical presence?  I think that evil pervades  certain areas and comes to each of us in an individual way, in a way that it's going to best ensnare us.  Firstly, it wants to make you believe that it doesn't exist.  And secondly, I think when it does come, it's going to come in a magnetic form.  I mean, it's not going to be holding a neon sign with steam coming out its  nostrils.

O'REILLY:  Yes, what temptation is?

GIBSON:  Yes, sure.  Yes.

O'REILLY:  When you use this character, this Satan character, it's so  effective in the film.  And I was mesmerized by it, I have to say.  I had never seen it done before in that way.

So you think people will understand the point that they're trying to get across there?

GIBSON:  I hope so.  I think it's kind of alarming because you think perhaps it's an angel.  And then you realize that there's something wrong with it.  And that's the whole idea.

O'REILLY:  Yes, well you see, the insect in the nose, you realize -- it isn't an angel.

GIBSON:  Sure, there's a maggot dwelling inside of her.

O'REILLY:  Right.

GIBSON:  And it's disturbing, but that whole idea of something wholesome, something beautiful, something like the image of motherhood, or any of these things, and that that the mask is slightly askew so that you can see something very nasty, indeed, underneath the initial facade, which may, of course, be pleasing or wholesome...

O'REILLY:  Now you introduced the good character, Jesus, and the Satan character at the same time in the opening of the film in the Garden of Gethsemane (search), which signaled to me that the movie was right off the bat going to be a struggle between good and evil.

GIBSON:  Sure.  I mean...


GIBSON:  Absolutely.  I wanted to make it clear from the very beginning.  It's kind of like the coin toss at the beginning of a sporting event.  It's like here's the players, here they are, this is what's going to happen, and this is why.

O'REILLY:  So that was your first departure from scripture.

The second departure was Simon of Cyrene (search), who you -- is mentioned in the scripture but not defined.

GIBSON:  Sure.  No.

O'REILLY:  You define Simon, who was ordered by the Romans to carry Jesus' cross when he could no longer bear it -- and he was a Jew.  You defined him heroically.  Why did do you that?

GIBSON:  Because it was -- he's in the book as protesting.  He didn't want to do it.  He's saying, hey, remember, I'm not the criminal here, he is.  I'm just helping, OK?

And it's sort of -- it's like the journey, I think, that we all have about a -- choices we have to make, and I wanted to take that opportunity to take this man and have him have a burden put on him that he didn't necessarily want, but that he ended up taking and that he ended up engaging with and that he ended up learning from and that -- and that he transcended any kind of self-concern and became a true hero.


GIBSON:  You know -- and I think people have the capacity for that, and I...

O'REILLY:  I thought that you might have done it because you knew you were going to get criticism from some Jewish groups, and this was a Jewish hero.

And the second thing was nobody's mentioned it, and -- after reading and knowing all the controversy and I saw that Simon of Cyrene character and there's a line in the movie -- they call him a Jew.


O'REILLY:  They said Jew, and I said, you know, maybe Gibson put this in there intentionally to show that there was Jewish heroism in "The Passion."

GIBSON:  Well, if you look at the whole story, I mean there's only Jews and Romans in the story.  I mean I just wanted to flesh that character out and make that a drama about the people around Christ when he was going through this passion.  I mean that's well known, but what about those people around him?

O'REILLY:  Is it your mission to spread the word of Jesus to people who don't know him?

GIBSON:  Here's the deal.  I think that what the film speaks about is a sacrifice of a loving God willingly taken, that it's about faith, hope, love, and forgiveness, which I've, you know, said before, and that these are good, valuable messages to sort of send out there.

I know I've been -- you know, had the finger waggled at me and said you're blaming, you're -- I'm not playing the blame game at all.  I think it's very clear from the outset and through the film, and it's evenhanded as much as I can make it.

The other thing is that it's -- I'm an artist, you know, and one doesn't -- when one fashions art, it usually comes out of who one is and from a very deep place.


O'REILLY:  In a moment, I had two problems with the movie, and I will put them to Mel Gibson, as our exclusive interview with the actor/director continues on "he Factor."


O'REILLY:  Thanks for staying with us.  I'm Bill O'Reilly.

Continuing now with the "Personal Story" Segment, reviews for "The Passion of the Christ" have been mixed. Movie critic Roger Ebert (search) says it's brilliant.  Others say it's abysmal.  Unfortunately, many of the reviewers are pandering to their editors or their personal beliefs rather than just reviewing the movie.  Now you can read my review on and I did have a couple of problems with the film.

I put them to Mel Gibson.


O'REILLY:  Two quibbles I had with the film, and the first one you've heard before.  It's exceedingly violent...


O'REILLY:  ... in an almost unrelenting fashion.  I found, as a viewer now, that I became numb to the violence after a while, that it didn't have the effect on me, and I said to myself maybe that was not good.

GIBSON:  Yes.  Well, I think everyone has a different capacity for what they can withstand.  I was very conscious -- well, firstly, it needed to be for me shocking, and I wanted to push the audience to the edge.

O'REILLY:  Right.

GIBSON:  And my gift, I think, as a filmmaker is to try and -- you know, if you're going to push them to the edge, try and hold their hand a little bit, and, if it's going to be horrible and ugly, try and make the violence -- try and find the beauty in it, try and find the lyricism in it, and also implant within the story many escape hatches, places where you can go when it gets too much, and I feel I used a fair amount of those trap doors to like flashback, flash-out.

O'REILLY:  Right.  The other thing was the Romans come off as horrible brutes, but you went a little light on Pilate who historically is a brute.  He was known as a very horrible administrator because there were so many crucifixions...

GIBSON:  He was.

O'REILLY:  ... and he was actually called back to Rome, and they told him knock it off.

GIBSON:  They did, yes.

O'REILLY:  You treated him a little soft.

GIBSON:  Well, no, they called him back to Rome twice and told him, if you don't knock off, you know, what you're doing, we're going to knock you off, and he could see his career in the balance.

He'd been warned by the Caesar (search) twice, and you didn't mess with Caesar too much.  He was already scared of Caesar, and his enemies knew this, so they could use that.

Basically, what it comes down to is he actually said, you know, I find no cause in this man, he's innocent, all this kind of stuff.  He actually condemned a man to death who he had proclaimed he thought was innocent.

O'REILLY:  Yes, he -- he's not a hero.  What kind of...

GIBSON:  He's a monster.

O'REILLY:  He's conflicted.  The lead character, Jim Caviezel (search)?

GIBSON:  Caviezel.

O'REILLY:  Caviezel...


O'REILLY:  ... should be nominated for an Academy Award (search) as best actor, OK.

GIBSON:  Sure.

O'REILLY:  Absolutely.  I mean the guy's performance is...

GIBSON:  It's something else.

O'REILLY:  ... stunning.  Caviezel said in an interview that you knew while you were shooting this film that this film was going to ignite controversy all over the place, and you knew -- you went -- going in, you knew.  How did you know?

GIBSON:  Well, I think any time you delve into this sort of religion, politics, as you well know, you're going to, you know, touch a few nerves.  I wasn't -- now -- and this is the honest truth.

I didn't think it was -- it was a small film, OK.  This is a small film.  It looks big because I know how to do it, but this ignited stuff like -- it surprised me.  I found it staggering.  I mean, every morning, I opened up the newspaper expecting to find a digitally altered photograph of myself sharing a cigarette with a handsome farm animal, you know.

I mean it's like -- it's getting -- it's like mud-slinging, nasty editorials and...

O'REILLY:  The nastiest I've ever seen.

GIBSON:  You know -- and, hey, it's been character-building, I have to tell you.

O'REILLY:  It's rough on your family, though.

GIBSON:  Sure, you know, but, again, character-building.

O'REILLY:  But anything worthwhile, you have to suffer for, I believe.

GIBSON:  It's called suffering for art.

O'REILLY:  No, I believe that anything in life, you know...

GIBSON:  Yes, that's true.

O'REILLY:  ... that's worthwhile, you have to suffer for it.

GIBSON:  You've got to take a few whacks.

O'REILLY:  Yes, you do.

What did you learn from all of this?

GIBSON:  Oh.  I learned that -- well, have another Bible script handy because the studios are all going to want to do it now.  I don't know.  That's -- I'm sorry.  I'm being flip.

O'REILLY:  That's all right.

GIBSON:  I -- what did I learn?  Oh, boy.  I'm not even sure if I know yet.

I'll tell you what I did need to learn was tolerance, and I think I've been actually given a daily opportunity to practice that, and it's -- it's -- and I know that that sounds almost like a backhanded slap, and it is in a way because I haven't been successful at it every day.  Some days I'm pissed off.

O'REILLY:  Oh, you bet.  I know exactly how you feel.

GIBSON:  And it -- you know, just the injustice of some stuff, but that's part of it.  You've got to take the good with the bad.

In fact, I -- I filmed a scene after the film was over, way after it was over, and I inserted it in the film, and it's the bit where he's on the mountain, and he is saying, hey, you've got to love everybody.  You can't just like people that like you.  You've got to like people that hate you, too.


GIBSON:  Otherwise, what's the use?  And I put that in the film relating it to a lesson that I had to learn.

O'REILLY:  Did you get there?  Do you like the people who hate you?

GIBSON:  I don't like them, but I love them.

O'REILLY:  Yes, I know.  I forgive them, but I don't like them.

GIBSON:  Well, this -- you have to -- you've to do that.  Otherwise, you'll -- it will eat you alive.

O'REILLY:  So the tolerance was what you learned the most.

GIBSON:  Sure.

O'REILLY:  But you're a pretty savvy guy.  You've been around Hollywood a long time.  You never expected to be treated fairly, did you?

GIBSON:  Of course not.  No one really gets a fair shake.  You have to negotiate the -- you have to negotiate the traps as best as possible.  It's -- Hollywood's a mine field.  I mean it's...

O'REILLY:  And the press.

GIBSON:  Oh, yes.  It's not a charitable institution.  I mean they're...

O'REILLY:  And the Vatican.

GIBSON:  Yes.  You can say that again.

O'REILLY:  Because we checked it out, you know, and what you reported happened.

GIBSON:  Yes, it did, and then it didn't, and then it did.

O'REILLY:  Well, they got scared.

GIBSON:  I don't know what.

O'REILLY:  No, no.  They got scared.  Not the pope.  The pope is almost out of it.  He prays all day long.  He's very frail.


O'REILLY:  But the people around him say we don't want to get involved in this controversy, that's not what we do.  We don't want it to be Siskel and the pope.

GIBSON:  Right.  It was -- you know -- but, you know, they're just people, I guess.  You know, institutions come down to people...

O'REILLY:  Yes, they do.

GIBSON:  ... and you can't blame the institution for what people...

O'REILLY:  They should have done the right thing, though, the Vatican.  I was disappointed in them, and I'm glad I could report to the folks the real story.  And the pope saw the movie, he respected the film, and he said it is as it was.

GIBSON:  Or something like that.

O'REILLY:  No, that's what he said.

GIBSON:  I don't know.

O'REILLY:  I mean we talked to the people.


O'REILLY:  So that's it.  And the pope, I think if he were a younger man and if he had control of the situation, would have stood by his words.  My opinion.

Now I heard you made this film an atonement for "Lethal Weapon 3."  Is that true?


GIBSON:  To get even for "Lethal 3."

O'REILLY:  You know, to say, listen, God, I'm sorry about "Lethal 3."  I'm going to do this.

GIBSON:  I think it was "Lethal 2," actually.

O'REILLY:  All right.  I took a lot of heat for you, Gibson.

GIBSON:  You did.


GIBSON:  Well, you're one of those guys that -- you just look at you.  I mean you're one of these guys that was born to go down with the ship, man.

O'REILLY:  Oh, yes?

GIBSON:  Yes.  Hand to the forehead...

O'REILLY:  I'm one of those guys that was born to take this kind of stuff.

GIBSON:  Oh, yes.

O'REILLY:  Do you feel sorry for me?



GIBSON:  You bring it on yourself.

O'REILLY:  So let me get this straight.  I take all this heat for you, all right, and you don't feel sorry for me?

GIBSON:  No, I'm going to stick you out there and -- no, that's it.  I -- OK.  I'll buy you ice cream later.

O'REILLY:  The reason I did it was not because of you.  You and I are in business together on a project far before "The Passion."  It was because I thought what you were doing was worthy.  It was worthy, and I thought people should be able to see it and make up their own mind.

GIBSON:  Oh, absolutely.

O'REILLY:  You know, I'm not going to give O'Reilly four stars.  I don't do that.


O'REILLY:  But -- and I felt that you were unfairly attacked.  And if you had made a movie about Mohammad or Buddha or anybody else and they had done this to you, I would have been on the side of that.

GIBSON:  Yes.  You got to stick by what you're -- what you do, and, you know, hey, no matter what, you know.  So, well, I guess we're both going down with the ship, huh?


O'REILLY:  Two footnotes.

THE FACTOR broke the story about Mel Gibson's father and the controversy surrounding him, and we talked to Mr. Gibson about it more than a year ago.  If you wish to see that interview again, it is posted right there on, all right.  So we have that posted if you'd like to see it again.

Also, as we told you dozens of times, Mel Gibson has optioned my novel, "Those Who Trespass," for the movies.  So you might want to take that into consideration when considering my point of view.  If you're curious about the book, it's in the bookstores.  "Those Who Trespass."

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