To put it mildly, you could say that in recent years Mel Gibson has caused a lot on controversy. From the release of The Passion of the Christ to his headline making arrest in the summer of 2006 you’d be forgiven for thinking that Gibson had been revolting against the system for years. Nothing however could be further from the truth. For almost twenty years Gibson was one of the biggest box office draws in the film business. He also achieved what most leading men crave- women and men wanted to go and see his films, no matter which genre. That’s a rarity in the film business.
If the truth be told Mel Gibson was (is) one the best leading men Hollywood has ever known. Sure, you might not agree with his personal opinions but he has made some iconic films that will stand the test of time- Lethal Weapon, Braveheart and Mad Max are standouts in their respective genres. Even his lesser works such as Maverick and Air America have an immense watchability factor because of Gibson’s charisma and screen presence. Which brings us to ask the question- will Gibson ever star in a film again? My personal opinion is no. I believe that Mel Gibson decided to end his acting career on a high.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs was Gibson’s highest grossing film, and he also delivered one of his finest performances. It’s been six years now since its release and the star hasn’t got any other acting projects in development. His passion (no pun intended) now appears to be directing, and his directorial efforts appear to be developing a sense of style and energy that could well make him an iconic director as well as an iconic star.
Gibson has always said that at one stage he would forgo his acting career and move behind the camera and he seems to be staying true to his word. Although we must also remember that this is the man who stated that he would never make Lethal Weapon 4. It is possible that he will be tempted out of retirement and with fresh rumours that Warner Bros. want to revisit the Lethal Weapon franchise following the success of Live Free or Die Hard there is a slim possibility that he could grace our screens again. If there is one man who could achieve this it would be director Richard Donner, Gibson’s friend and frequent collaborator (six films including all four Lethal Weapon movies). It would however have to be a huge payday for Gibson, who reportedly received around $35 million for the franchises last instalment and you’d have to wonder if the film ever turned a profit.
Gibson seems to have settled into directing and self financing large scale historical epics, his next film allegedly deals with Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez De Balboa. Gibson has been able to establish himself as an independent filmmaker by using his past success and vast wealth from his time playing the Hollywood game. Unlike actors who seem to alternate between large scale films and smaller, riskier projects (George Clooney springs to mind) Gibson never seems to have attempted this with, maybe with the exception of Hamlet and The Man Without a Face. He seems to have played the game, collected all of his chips, left the table and then came back to buy the casino.
Today it seems almost impossible to write any sort of article about Mel Gibson without mentioning his strong Catholic roots and his anti-Semitic outburst when he was pulled over for drink-driving in Malibu. This incident has caused many in Hollywood to openly state that they’ll never work with him and many believe that this is the reason he remains unattached to acting projects. Whatever the outcome Gibson does have complete control over his films and the financial success of Apocalypto shows that audiences will still go to see his films, despite his bad press and the lack of commercial appeal in the films subject matter.
No matter what happens to Mel Gibson or his career, his place in Hollywood history is already cemented. The press may not always be good and he may have lost a huge portion of his fan base, but I’m sure that he will continue to entertain and provoke controversy through his films. With a bit of luck he’ll balance directing and acting again in the future, much like Clint Eastwood has and if that fails he could always make a fifth Lethal Weapon or a fourth Mad Max to please audiences.
This article was originally published on Collider in 2008. Since then Mel Gibson has returned to the screen in The Edge of Darkness and The Beaver. How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Get The Gringo) is set for release next month.