Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski Mount Comebacks in the Era of #MeToo
So much for progress.
In late August, the news broke that Amazon Studios had “shelved” Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York, a romantic-comedy film starring Timothée Chalamet, Selena Gomez, Elle Fanning and Jude Law. The move came in the midst of the #MeToo movement, which has led Allen devotees to reevaluate the child-abuse charges levied against him by his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow. If that weren’t enough, Allen was lured over to Amazon by Roy Price, who was ousted as president of Amazon Studios last year following sexual-harassment allegations from Isa Dick Hackett, producer of the television series The Man in the High Castle. Amazon’s decision to abandon a completed $25 million film because it didn’t pass moral scrutiny was seen as a step in the right direction—one towards accountability and away from unscrupulous commerce.
Not so fast. This week, Warner Bros. announced that it had tapped Mel Gibson to co-write and direct a reboot of The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 bloody Western shoot-‘em-up, while it was also revealed that exiled filmmaker (and convicted child rapist) Roman Polanski will helm J’Accuse, a drama about the Dreyfus Affair, wherein a Jewish soldier in the French army was falsely accused of spying for the Germans, starring Jean Dujardin—surely a meta-exploration of his own culpability, from a sex predator who recently called #MeToo “collective hysteria.”
On top of his Wild Bunch gig, Warner Bros. is currently said to be courting Gibson for a role in The Six Billion Dollar Man, a blockbuster adaptation of the ‘70s TV series. The film will star Mark Wahlberg, who shared the screen with Gibson in last year’s family-comedy Daddy’s Home 2, and has his own checkered past. That a major Hollywood studio—and one that is currently battling its own #MeToo controversy over A Star Is Born—would hire Gibson to not only marshal a big-budget remake but also co-star in another, is baffling given his hateful past and utter lack of contrition.
The problems with Gibson seemed to begin in 1991, when the Spanish newspaper El País ran an interview with the A-list star in which he made a number of homophobic comments, including, “They take it up the ass. [Pointing to butt] This is only for taking a shit.” When Gibson was asked to apologize, he offered, “I’m not apologizing to anyone. I’ll apologize when hell freezes over. They can fuck off.” When he was again asked to apologize in a 1995 Playboy interview, he once again refused, saying, “I think if you suggest that you find some modes of behavior unnatural, then you… get vilified.” (In that same Playboy interview, he argued that men and women “are not equal,” branded a female ex-business partner “a cunt,” and claimed that evolution is “bullshit.”) For positive PR, Gibson attended a filmmaking seminar hosted by GLAAD on the set of his 1997 film Conspiracy Theory, where he spoke with gay filmmakers about LGBT representation in cinema, defended his decision to kill a gay character for laughs in Braveheart, and ultimately “stopped short of apologies.”
(Warning: Contains graphic language.)
In addition to his homophobia, Gibson, the son of a Holocaust denier, is an anti-Semite, a racist, and a woman-beater. His cabal of evil, hook-nosed Jews in The Passion of the Christ notwithstanding, when Gibson was pulled over for drunk driving in Malibu, he asked if the arresting officer was Jewish. According to the police report, Gibson then remarked, “Fucking Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Back at the Malibu police station, he sexually harassed one of the female officers, yelling, “What do you think you’re looking at, sugar tits?” Four years later, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery for assaulting his then-partner, Oksana Grigorieva. She produced graphic images, claiming that he struck her twice in the face, shattering her teeth. Grigorieva also managed to catch the actor on audio screaming about “wetbacks,” that she “fucking deserved” to be hit, and that if she were “raped by a pack of n*ggers” the blame would fall on her.
Despite his myriad transgressions, Gibson has only issued a single apology in the form of a written statement to the Anti-Defamation League in 2006. Shortly after the DUI arrest, he told Diane Sawyer that he was “ashamed” of what he said, blaming his vile words on excessive alcohol consumption, but never apologized to any of his victims, or confirmed that he does not espouse those hateful views. Then in 2016, during a much-ballyhooed appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote his World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge, despite the host’s numerous attempts to coax Gibson into an apology, he said that he has “not one” regret in life, and that he’d essentially paid his price for his sins.
“So, you know, you take the shots. You try not to yell too much. You be manful about it. Don’t react too much. You know, it’s interesting,” Gibson explained. “But it’s a moment in time. It’s a pity that one has to be defined with a label 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, this is not—that moment shouldn’t define the rest of my life.”
A moment in time. That moment. But this wasn’t just one moment; rather, it’s a lifetime of ugly, mostly-unrepentant behavior. Gibson has never publicly apologized for his homophobic statements, or his racist comments, or physically abusing his ex, instead opting to flip the proverbial bird. (Hacksaw Ridge was eventually nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Gibson.)
In Gibson’s newest film Dragged Across Concrete, a dreadful right-wing fantasy that asks its audience to empathize with a racist, abusive cop, his character confesses, “I don’t politick and I don’t change with the times.” If it sounds like the actor’s personal manifesto, it should. Don’t take my word for it? Just ask Gibson.
“I am one tough motherfucker and you can’t bother me anymore,” Gibson told The Telegraph in 2010. “You ask anybody what their number one fear is and it’s public humiliation. Multiply that on a global scale and that’s what I’ve been through. It changes you and makes you one tough motherfucker. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s really that simple.”