[Wherein I discuss Jodie Foster’s Golden Globes speech, tucked safely after the jump for anyone who is already tired of it.]
I was considering just how to respond to Allison Hope Weiner’s interview with Mel Gibson that went up on Deadline last night, but Kyle Buchanan at Vulture pretty much nailed it here. I mean, here’s a sample question: “You were going to do a small part in ‘Hangover II.’ How did you respond to being asked to do that and then having cast members not want you in it? How did it feel to have them allow a convicted rapist [Mike Tyson] in the movie and not you?” And she followed that up with “That’s a very Hollywood hypocritical moment.”
So instead, I will echo something Buchanan says: It’s a weird interview, couched in extraordinarily sympathetic wording from a reporter who, at times, bends over backwards to accommodate her subject. There are no follow-up questions about, say, whether or not he beat his girlfriend; he pled guilty to that charge last month, but tells Weiner he accepted a deal that lets him maintain his innocence. He says: “I could have continued to fight this for years and it probably would have come out fine.” Apparently that doesn’t warrant a follow-up question. He also refers to all those leaked tapes (of him yelling at his girlfriend) as “one terribly, awful moment in time, said to one person, in the span of one day and doesn’t represent what I truly believe or how I’ve treated people my entire life.” But when you’re interviewing a guy who was arrested for a D.U.U. and spit out anti-Semitic and misogynistic blather at the arresting officers, you definitely want to let that go and just ask how he feels audiences will look at him.
It’s very unsurprising this story appeared on Deadline, a site which has been relentlessly sympathetic towards Gibson. (Only recently, I might add; circa Gibson’s 2006 D.U.I. arrest and anti-Semitic rantings, the site’s coverage seemed a little more reasonable.) Weiner writes that she “opted to give Gibson’s interview to Deadline because editors at other media outlets seemed inclined to use this story to pursue their own agendas,” while this interview had “no pre-set conditions, no topic off limits, and no ground rules.” From the standpoint of a reader, it seemed the only agenda being pursued here was allowing Gibson a platform to control a relatively easy interview.
Until five years ago, Mel Gibson was one of the best-loved and best-paid talents in Hollywood, not to mention one of the town’s few real family men. How to explain the foulmouthed, violent bigotry that has since burst into public view, making him an industry pariah, even as his 26-year marriage imploded? With the help of Gibson’s friends—and his movies—Peter Biskind delves into the roots of a star’s divided life.
— Peter Biskind spends nearly 8,000 words on Mel Gibson, trying to puzzle out how recent revelations relate to the perfect image the star once projected. I am really dreading his inevitable, “contrite” resurgence in a few years or maybe even a decade from now. (Gibson’s resurgence, not Biskind’s. Obviously.)
In a new profile in GQ, Winona Ryder reveals she had an inkling about the whole “Mel Gibson is a homophobic, bigoted anti-Semite” thing LONG before the rest of the world:
“I remember, like, fifteen years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties. And he was really drunk. I was with my friend, who’s gay. He made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it. I’d never heard that before. It was just this weird, weird moment. I was like, ‘He’s anti-Semitic and he’s homophobic.’ No one believed me!”
Also, there’s some interesting bits about what happens when Ryder has regular conversations with regular people:
[S]uddenly the person she’s having the conversation with will say something to her that reminds her that (a) she is Winona Ryder, the famous actress, and (b) nearly everyone she meets already has “this whole idea” of who she is, already thinks they know everything there is to know about her, more or less. And inevitably when this happens, she starts thinking about what it is people think they know about her, which is never a good idea, and the conversation never really recovers.
You could say the same basic thing happens to lots of celebrities lots of the time. I have met and conversed with a relatively small number of celebrities during my professional and personal life, and while I cannot say this for certain, I am pretty sure none of the conversations ever progressed without that spectre and the ensuing problem and meta-problem.
But it’s really all very interesting and excellent and worth your read considering the not-so-small subset of people for whom, really, Winona Ryder and her career have either represented the nexus of so many important pieces of pop miscellany.
Who wants to see a hateful, racist, anti-Semitic homophobe talk to a hand puppet, again? Because “The Beaver” has a release date! It’ll open in limited release on March 23 and expand on April 8, just in time to get overshadowed by “Your Highness” and a week before “Scream 4” sucks up the oxygen.
Early prediction: It won’t do terrific business, but the curiosity factor (engendered by a marketing campaign playing on Gibson being a well-known crazypants) will actually help it surpass the piddling $43 million domestic gross Gibson’s “Edge of Darkness” earned. It will earn just enough to make some cash, but not so much it’s anything more than a mild non-disaster.
Jodie Foster’s next directorial effort, “The Beaver,” fell victim to that classic Hollywood trap: She hired an abusive rage monkey as her star right before tapes of his hateful, bigoted rants towards his ex were leaked. The movie was shelved because, c’mon, who wants to see Mel Gibson in a movie anymore? But get excited, because if you want to see him talk through a hand puppet (that’s the plot of this movie, which will be immediately dismissed due to his presence, despite the purported high quality of the script), the thing might finally head to theaters in the spring.
This story comes courtesy of Mike Fleming, who is one of the less noxious parts of Deadline yet still manages to be irritating. This time, he restates Deadline’s belief that Mel Gibson’s personal issues should be a non-issue because his movies made a lot of money and other people in Hollywood are also scummy. Weirdly, he uses the exact same wording as his boss. Witness:
Nikki Finke, on Sept. 22:
It’s long been my stated belief that, if a litmus test were given for behavior, nobody would ever work in showbiz again.
However, it’s long been my stated belief that, if a litmus test were given for behavior, nobody would ever work in showbiz again.
That’s weird, that two different people have the exact same opinion, stated the exact same way. Are they just cutting and pasting each other’s pablum at that site? Whatever, not important. As soon as somebody at Deadline notices the issue, they will probably just change it, as the site has a history of altering posts without noting that they are making updates in an effort to look like they never, ever make a mistake, as Gawker’s John Cook has intelligently documented.
Also! Fleming had this to say, on Gibson:
Ever since he made ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ audiences have rewarded Gibson with their moviegoing loyalty despite his personal travails. Trust me, Mel’s base is still out there.
This is a factually incorrect statement, which is odd for the error-free folks at Deadline. Because since that film came out in 2004, Gibson has starred in one (1) film: “Edge of Darkness,” which came out in January and earned a piddling $43 million domestically (just more than half of its $80 million budget) and less than twice that amount worldwide.
Before that movie, Mel Gibson’s movies had an average domestic box office gross of $66 million. That would make “Edge of Darkness,” which earned two-thirds of his lifetime batting average, an underperformer. Between 1992 and 2002, Gibson had eight films earn at least $100 million, and five of them opened with at least $33 million. “Edge of Darkness,” which opened with $17 million and finished with $43 million, earned about 50 percent less. That would mean his audience from his career peak (a run that began in the early 1990s) — his “base,” if you will, that showed up and financially supported him as an actor — is not, in fact, still out there. (And the funny thing is, we have a direct comparison for “Darkness,” an R-rated crime drama with Gibson as a man obsessed with revenge: “Payback,” the R-rated crime drama with Gibson as a man obsessed with revenge. They had almost identical budgets, but “Payback” earned about twice as much as “Darkness” domestically as well as worldwide.)
In fact, since 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” — which earned $370 million domestically and was an otherworldly box office performer — he has made two big projects. The first, his directorial follow-up “Apocalypto,” earned $50 million dollars domestically after opening in late 2006, just exceeding its $40 million budget. That’s still just a seventh of the domestic box office earned by “The Passion,” which is exactly what you would imagine for someone audiences “have rewarded” with their loyalty. Then, just over three years later, “Edge of Darkness” was a colossal success. Clearly, audiences are rewarding Gibson with their loyalty, if by “loyalty” you mean “not seeing his movies.”
Interestingly, the statement from director Todd Phillips says he and Warner Bros. were all for Gibson’s appearance. “But I realize filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and this decision ultimately did not have the full support of my entire cast and crew,” Phillips says in the statement.
Hmm. Weird timing. The Page Six story broke on October 17. The next day, Vulture noticed star Zach Galifianakis seemed to voice some issues with “The Hangover 2” on a comedy podcast this month (emphasis added):
But a movie you’re acting in, you don’t have a lot of control — you just show up and vomit your lines out. I’m not the boss. I’m in a deep protest right now with a movie I’m working on, up in arms about something. But I can’t get the guys to [listen] … I’m not making any leeway.” Galifianakis cut Aukerman off with an abrupt warning sound as the host began to mention the film’s title, but after Aukerman pressed, “I know you’re filming The Hhhhhhhh … ” Galifianakis admitted, “It has something to do with a movie I’m working on, yeah. I’ll tell you about it later. It’s very frustrating.”
Commenters on the Vulture story noted that it was likely the Gibson thing. It does seem like too much of a coincidence to be anything else. It’s nice to know that Galifianakis (and anybody who vocally agreed with him) still has some moral grounding. Not to say Gibson never can/should work again, because the world is the world and he will get movie roles down the line (Jodie Foster will make damn sure of it), but it’s not like he did something wrong, went to therapy, did anything to remotely show penance or remorse, etc. Not sure that will help terribly, because he has a bit of history as a Jew-hating/woman-threatening/gay-bashing Aussie Hulk, but I’m just saying. The dude’s latest bout of dangerous behavior is still news to some people. It’s recent. It’s fresh. Why reward him?
While Bradley Cooper might be getting the bigger movie roles, Galifianakis is the lynchpin of this pseudo-franchise, so it’s admirable that he’d take a stand on this. And it’s nice to know Phillips and Warner Bros. are full of the kind of integrity and sound judgment that you would expect from people who want to make “The Hangover 2.”
UPDATE: TMZ reports discontent from cast members, not just one, so there’s that.
(By the way, two notes on Deadline’s weird little mini-story: A) They call it “The Hangover Part II,” which, is it the 1980s? Do people still do the “Part II” thing? and B) They say “despite web rumors.” Uh, pretty sure Page Six is printed? Part of a newspaper? And also has a Web site? OH, right, Deadline is just being dismissive of any other outlets, so they can continue acting like they are the only actual entertainment reporters around, and also because dismissing it as some Web chatter makes their “scoops” all the juicier. Right. Gotcha. Of course, they learned this because Warner Bros. released a statement, but whatever.)
Since Mel Gibson is such a swell guy who totally doesn’t have problems with rage or women or Jews, Hollywood should do something nice for him! Could they give him another “Lethal Weapon”? No, he’s probably too old for that shit. How about his own superhero franchise? Is there a superhero known for threatening women and trying to attack Israel or something? No? Okay, how about a cameo in “The Hangover 2”?
Yes, that last one is real! Mel Gibson, last seen (or heard) ranting and raving and threatening his ex (and before that, ranting and raving about the Jews), will appear as a tattoo artist in the Thailand-set sequel. It’s just like when they gave Mike Tyson that cameo in the first movie! These “Hangover” guys, they just love working with people who are dangerous threats to their significant others.
Jodie Foster gave an interview promoting her directorial effort “The Beaver” — that supposed Mel Gibson comeback that was derailed by all those angry tapes furthering his image as something of a psychopath — not knowing at the time that her star’s actions would delay the movie’s release. But she’s still got his back!
“When you love a friend, you don’t abandon them when they are struggling,” Foster told MORE. Man, she’s lucky she’s not Jewish or black or gay or the mother of his children or dating him, amiright? She went on to say: “Of course, Mel is an undeniably gifted actor and director, and ‘The Beaver’ is one of his most powerful and moving performances. But more importantly, he is and has been a true and loyal friend. I hope I can help him get through this dark moment.”