Robert Downey, Jr. Asks Hollywood to Forgive Mel Gibson UPDATED

Image credit: Eric Charbonneau/WireImage

This past Friday, in the spirit of Christ’s forgiveness of the adulteress when she was presented to him by the holier than thou, a remarkably similar story has come to my attention from an area that I usually steer clear of: the shoals of Hollywood. And yet this is where a stunningly familiar event took place.

This news is all over the wires from Celebrity Gossip GHQ centered in LaLa Land. US Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, The Huffington Post, etc., etc., have all run versions of this story. Even Forbes(!) is reporting on it. You probably heard this already because, yes, I’m always the last one to know. The setting? The 25th Annual American Cinematheque Award. What’s that? It’s a token given to, “an extraordinary artist in the entertainment industry who is fully engaged in his or her work and is committed to making a significant contribution to the art of the motion pictures.” Why should you care? Entertainment Weekly’s, Grady Smith has the scoop,

Last night at the 25th Annual American Cinematheque Award Ceremony, which was honoring Robert Downey Jr., the Iron Man actor asked Hollywood to forgive Mel Gibson.

Gibson was invited onstage to present Downey Jr. with the prestigious award, since, in the words of Garry Shandling, “The Cinematheque was concerned a bit about Robert’s checkered past, so they chose someone to present the award who could help balance that out and the choice was so obvious, Mel Gibson.”

I know what you’re thinking. What a load of hooey. Balance?! As if Mel Gibson has a leg to stand on in this department. Don’t you know that his fall from grace since The Passion of the Christ has been nothing short of catastrophic, Frank? Yes, I know. Which is what makes this a Paul Harvey-esque “The Rest of the Story” vignette. Let’s get back to it,

Gibson spoke kindly of the star, who he famously helped to make a comeback by paying Downey Jr.’s insurance bond so he could star in 2003′s The Singing Detective. “You are my friend,” Gibson said. “When I saw you all those years ago and got all those warnings, I just thought, ‘There’s nothing so much wrong with him.’” Gibson explained, “You’re a good dude with a good heart.”

I wonder where Mel learned Christian charity like this? I can think of a parable, or two. Take a deep breath folks, and remember the admonition, “harden not your hearts.”

During Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech, he had even kinder words for Gibson. “I asked Mel to present this award for me for a reason,” he said. “When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.”

I’m thinking that by this time, the crowd is stunned in hushed silence as they witnessed this rare, and grace filled, moment. Sort of like “shock and awe,” but in a good way. A Holy Spirit filled way; a way that desires us to soften our hearts and to treat others the way we want to be treated. As the hushed crowd looked on in amazement,

He continued, “I did and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume, at the time, he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight. So anyway on this special occasion and in light of the recent holidays including Columbus Day, I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong f—ing industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you gave me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.”

The crowd in the room applauded vigorously, as Gibson appeared to tear up a bit.

As Our Lord said, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). I wonder how many heard “the call” that night because of the unexpected speech of one sinner on behalf of another? If even one soul is prompted to seek redemption, not just from mankind, but from the Creator, then this little footnote in forgettable celebrity history would be nothing short of miraculous.

That’s how I see it, anyway.


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Thomas Peters writes: God calls everyone, even the broken heroes of Hollywood.

Update II: Music for Mondays is back with “Air America!”

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  • Sandy

    This little boy-imp has created more scenes of forgiveness than.. well, you know what I mean. God bless Robert Downey Jr.

    • Frank Weathers

      Amen. And how ’bout that Mel Gibson, graciously accepting this call in front of the entire world. Humility check.

  • The Jerk

    Frank, Gary Shandling is a comic. The line about needing Gibson to balance Downey Jr. was a joke.

    • Frank Weathers

      Yes, but he was playing “Larry Sanders” here. ;)

  • Terry Fenwick

    Surely, any Christian, who knew how the evil one works, knew that Mel would be set up as a target to end all targets, after the Passion of Christ.

    We did not know how it would come or how bad it would be – we just knew it was coming, and it was bad!!! The good thing? Did not change the movie at all. It was powerful and will stay powerful forever. I would pray that Mel never drinks again – just water perhaps – not even coffee – nothing stronger than water – and thanks GOD for the experience and for saving the movie. Had this happened when he was working on the movie??? Dreadful.

    I forgive as God has forgiven me. I say that daily in the Our Father – and I listen when I say it and cringe a bit but I know how it works, if I want forgiveness, I must forgive. If I want continued forgiveness? I need to continually forgive! I pray that if, and when, Mel actually asks for forgiveness – everyone will forgive him.

    Mel, I was shattered and broken hearted for the Church and the Jews and everyone when it happened – I was shattered for the whole wide world, but I love you and watched your programs on EWTN telling about the filming and knew you were a believer – I know it now.

    God bless Robert Downey, and God bless you, Mel, and, as Tiny Tim (Christmas Carol) said, “God bless us, every one!” We all need to be forgiven and blessed! Get in line.

    • Frank Weathers

      I’m deep in the middle of the queue, for sure.

    • Natalie

      I have said the same thing many times. Doing the Passion made him an arch enemy of the Evil One. And, let’s face it, he’s human and us humans we are sinful stupid creatures sometimes. Forgive and move on.

  • julia Amateis

    God Bless the both of them, I usually hate hollywood for their grotesque perversion, but I am proud of Robert Downey and Mel Gibson. It’s not so horrible following Jesus is it! I will pay to see these two guys movies.

  • Magistra Bona

    Cut! Print it! That’s a wrap!
    It doesn’t get any better than this.
    You’ve heard of paying it forward.
    Robert Downey Jr. just paid it backward!
    (I guess, just pay it in any direction when you have the opportunity.)
    Way cool.
    La La Land just lifted itself a little bit out of the muck.

  • Manny

    Oh wow, this was very touching. I’ve got a new respect for Robert Downy Jr. and Mel. I don’t know if Mel Gibson needs my forgiveness, but I will certainly over look his indiscretions. I won’t hold the past against him. May he straighten out his life.

  • Anthony S. Layne

    The last two sentences of Downey’s speech should be carved in marble … just classic. And that phrase “hugging the cactus” is picture-perfect memorable.

  • http://desperateirishhousewife Susan Vigilante

    “Hugging the cactus.” How is it I haven’t heard that phrase before? It’s going to be one of my mottoes from now on.

  • Jayne

    If you can relate to the desperation of needing someone’s forgiveness so that you can move on and grown, this should resonate with you. I realize that at some point we will need to go on even without that forgiveness. But that doesn’t mean we don’t *want* it, desperately.

    Thank you for this. I’m crying now.

  • Fr. Peter

    I guess hugging the cactus embodies the elements of repentance – examination of conscience, admission of guilt, confession, penance, firm purpose of amendment too sin no more.

  • Pines

    very nice and interesting post. keep it up. :)

  • David

    There are some real men in Hollywood, we just don’t get told about them. Praise God!

  • Pat Gohn

    Great treatment of this, Frank. Gonna give it a replay on my blog’s Saturday roundup.

    • Frank Weathers

      Thanks! I’ll have to listen in.

  • Donna

    Thank you God for being so merciful, loving and forgiving. You ask us to be the same. Thank you for Isaiah 55:8-9

  • Christopher Riggs

    Could the pendulum be swinging now toward more traditional values, or is it possible for it to go even further the other way?

  • Isabell Warnke

    Despite what people may say about him, Robert Downey Jr. is a tenacious and determined man. He’s gone to rehab numberous times and has made sincere efforts and often has progressed quite well in his treatment. I think people that don’t have a working understanding of addiction and chemical dependence should reserve their bashing comments for another post.

  • Mark Joseph Schug

    This certainly gives hope to what is right……….

  • MM

    Thanks for the video and commentary. Just checked out the EW story for myself:

    Wow. Talk about misquoting. What Smith edited from RDJ’s speech completely changed the meaning of what was said.

    RDJ is quoted as saying:
    “…if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.” He continued, “I did and it worked…”

    When in reality, he said:
    “…if I hugged the cactus long enough I’d become a man of some humility and that my life would take on new meaning and I did and it worked…”

  • Ashley Spyres

    Thank you for your post! I would like to say that I LOVE ROBERT DOWNEY JR. but putting your name next to Mel Gibson as a supporter does not do him well :( By Robert making that powerful move it makes me have less respect for him. I know everyone is entitled to second chances but come on!!! How many times would we let a friend or relative act the way Mel has and continues to do before we just say enough and be done with them?? Just because he is famous that does not mean anything! Some people are just crap!

  • The Korrektiv Troll

    Hee hee! Fantastic. Surfing with Mel, anyone?