A powerful Hollywood lawyer, Berk has represented stars like Kanye West, Ryan Seacrest, Heather Locklear, Kiefer Sutherland, and Lindsay Lohan in their paparazzi scuffles, stalking problems, and DUI arrests. But one of Berk’s most infamous clients was Mel Gibson. She represented Gibson when tapes were released exposing an anti-Semitic rant against a police officer, a subsequent recording of racially charged threats against his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child Oksana Grigorieva, and her domestic-violence accusation against him. She’s damn good at her job. That’s why, despite the damning audio—and Grigorieva’s claim that the actor-filmmaker knocked her teeth out—Gibson managed a comeback tour at the Oscars this year for his war drama Hacksaw Ridge, and is now, inexplicably, starring in the purported family comedy Daddy’s Home 2.
TMZ provided a transcript of the rant in 2006, when Gibson was pulled over for driving drunk in Malibu and told a male deputy, who is Jewish, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” He then is alleged to have turned to a female sergeant and said, “What do you think you’re looking at, sugar tits?”
In the rant against Grigorieva, portions of which leaked online, he got even more explicitly racist and misogynistic: “You go out in public and it’s a fucking embarrassment to me. You look like a fucking bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n-----s it’ll be your fault. All right? Because you provoked it. You are provocatively dressed all the time with your fake boobs.” In 2011, Gibson pleaded no contest to battery charges against Grigorieva.
Gibson kept a relatively low profile following 2006’s Apocalypto, which was released around the time the DUI audio surfaced, aside from scattered appearances in B-movies like Edge of Darkness, The Expendables 3, and Machete Kills. That all changed last year when he returned to the director’s chair with Hacksaw Ridge. The film received a slew of nominations, including three Golden Globe nods and six Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Andrew Garfield). He was lauded in the media by Garfield, who practically orgasmed singing Gibson’s praises to E! News: “I love Mel. I have nothing but love for him and pride in him not only as an artist and a filmmaker but also as a man and as a good friend… I think it’s a good sign that the Academy has acknowledged his work. It’s utterly deserved, but it’s a really good sign that finally the healing he’s been doing internally and in his life and with the people in his life can finally be recognized on the outside as well. He’s not going anywhere. He’s been ready for this for awhile.”
The film ultimately won no Globes and only two Oscars—Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing. I have no idea if they were well-deserved, because I’m only sitting through a two-and-a-half-hour war movie if it’s directed by Francis Ford Coppola. But let’s talk about all of the “healing” he’s been doing internally that Garfield mentioned. Men love to laud other men for their “healing” after they’ve been horrible to women and minorities. You can already see the wheels turning on accused rapist Weinstein by directors like Oliver Stone and Woody Allen. But has Gibson truly atoned for his sins? Did he deserve his comeback? An appearance on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert last year suggests: hell no. He joked about his arrest with Colbert, then remained rather indignant about his past, referring to his litany of misdeeds as a singular incident.
Do men change? Sure. But a man like Gibson, who has been allowed to get away with his bad behavior for years and never even delivered a heartfelt apology, surely hasn’t.
In 2010, Winona Ryder told GQ’s Alex Pappademas that in the late ’90s/early 2000s, she ran into him at a Hollywood party and he was gleefully homophobic and anti-Semitic: “I remember, like, 15 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!”
If that weren’t enough, in 1991 Gibson shared his heinous opinions on gay men with the Spanish newspaper El Pais: “They take it up the ass. [laughs, stands up, bends over, points to anus] This is only for taking a shit.” He continued, “With this look, who’s going to think I’m gay? I don’t lend myself to that type of confusion. Do I look like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?” Four years later, when pressed on whether he planned to issue a GLAAD-recommended apology to the gay community, Gibson offered, “I’ll apologize when hell freezes over. They can fuck off.”
In this era of allegedly “believing women”—and by “era” I mean the last week, because let’s get real—do we now believe Ryder’s account of Gibson? And if so, do we then acknowledge that Gibson’s behavior went unchecked in Hollywood for years, culminated in drunk-driving, horribly racist rants, and a battery conviction, and then all he gets is a few years off before he becomes Hollywood royalty again?
Because his appearance in the upcoming studio comedy Daddy’s Home 2, where he plays the bad-boy father of Mark Wahlberg—making jokes about “dead hookers” and expressing homophobic disgust over Will Ferrell and John Lithgow’s relationship—seems to suggest that Gibson now gets to make money parodying himself (in a family film, no less). Except it’s not really a parody when he’s just paying himself, is it? How many years before Harvey Weinstein, thanks in part to Gibson’s powerful Hollywood attorney, gets to go on a late-night show, “joke” about groping actresses and return to business as usual? I give it five.