This Lent marks the 10-year anniversary of his controversial (and record-shattering) “The Passion of the Christ.” A journalist who befriended Mel Gibson looks at what has happened since.
During this season of penitence, the saga of Mel Gibson, I think, offers an opportunity for reflection on the choices we make, the struggles we confront, the demons we battle, and the forgiveness we all need —and, so often, withhold.
Writer Allison Hope Weiner:
It has been a decade since Mel Gibson made The Passion Of The Christ and watched it become the biggest-grossing independent film with $612 million in worldwide ticket sales. In the years that followed, Gibson made several comments that went public, made him seem anti-Semitic and racist. They made him persona non grata at major studios and agencies, the same ones that work with others who’ve committed felonies and done things far more serious than Gibson, who essentially used his tongue as a lethal weapon. As a journalist who vilified Gibson in The New York Timesand Entertainment Weekly until my coverage allowed me to get to know him, I want to make the case here that it is time for those Hollywood agencies and studios to end their quiet blacklisting of Mel Gibson. Once Hollywood’s biggest movie star whose film Braveheart won five Oscars and whose collective box office totals $3.6 billion, Gibson hasn’t been directly employed by a studio since Passion Of The Christ was released in 2004.
The Gibson I’ve come to know isn’t a man who’ll shout from the rooftops that he’s not anti-Semitic, or hold a press conference to tell media those audiotapes were released as part of a shakedown, and that he never assaulted the mother of his infant daughter. He won’t explain to people that he first got himself into a career spiral because he’s a long struggling alcoholic who fell off the wagon and spewed hateful anti-Semitic remarks to an arresting officer who was Jewish. He won’t tell you that he’s still got a lot to offer Hollywood as a filmmaker.
The fact that he won’t jump to his own defense is part of his problem, but also part of why I have grown to respect him. That is why on the occasion of this 10th anniversary of Passion, a film about an innocent man’s willingness to forgive the greatest injustice, I propose to Hollywood that it’s time to forgive Mel Gibson. He has been in the doghouse long enough. It’s time to give the guy another chance.
For those who are skeptical, I understand. For the longest time, I disliked Gibson and thought he was a Holocaust-denier, homophobic, misogynistic, racist drunk. I wrote as much in articles for EW and the NY Times. And whenever I wrote about him, I would get irate calls from his representatives saying I didn’t know him.
Then something happened that I never expected. I came to rethink my harsh assessment after I got to know the man.