He is risen indeed. I’m talking about Mel Gibson, who after a rather public mid-life crisis (he calls it his “andropause”) and a long stint in rehab, has been reincarnated as an Old Testament prophet. I caught him on the Stephen Colbert show recently, replete with magisterial beard (grown for his next acting role).
In 2011, five years after being arrested for drunk driving, and widely reported as spouting anti-Semitic invective, he did public penance in Jodie Foster’s The Beaver. Gibson played a man in full mid-life meltdown, who resorts to speaking through a glove puppet in order to save his marriage. It was an unusually touchy-feely moment. But that beard signals a fresh start: Mad Mel is back, firing on all apocalyptic cylinders.
Gibson is currently embarked on a press junket for his new movie Hacksaw Ridge, which is how he came to be on the Colbert show. Based on the true story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor for non-combatant service during the Second World War, the film seems likely to rank among his best work to date. One thing is undeniable: Gibson knows a good story when he sees one, and he is capable of telling it well, too.
So long as you can take the blood. Watch a series of movies directed by Gibson and red is definitely the colour that stays with you (he’d have fared badly in The Village). Then there’s the pain. Mel is all about pain. While he eventually cut 10 minutes of flagellation from The Passion of the Christ, it can’t have been easy to persuade him. Even in a film that is all about death, there is such a thing as overkill. There’s violence, and there’s gratuitous violence. There’s penitential (“those were my hands hammering in the nails”), and there’s pathological.
Anger is fissile stuff. It feeds a chain reaction which always ends badly. “It’s a pity that one has to be defined with a label,” Gibson told Colbert, “from, you know, having a nervous breakdown in the back of a police car from a bunch of double tequilas, but that’s what it is. Now, you know… that moment shouldn’t define the rest of my life.”
Colbert asked Gibson if he had learned anything from his time in politically incorrect hell. Gibson spoke of earning time off purgatory, which he referred to as being “on the meat rack”. Not immediately grasping the reference, his Catholic host quipped: “Is that Australian Catholicism?”
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