Mellow? Mature? It's Mel Gibson

In recent years, Mel Gibson has made anti-Semitic remarks, his marriage has ended, and he has only directed. Now he is back to acting and parenthood. By Gill Pringle

During a glittering 31 -year film career, Mel Gibson had, mostly, grown used to life in the spotlight. That was until four years ago, when the publicity turned ugly with lurid headlines detailing his DUI bust and anti-Semitic rants, followed by the unravelling of his 28-year marriage and subsequent affair with a Russian singer, who recently gave birth to his eighth child.

If he's at all nervous to be back in the public eye, then its not apparent when we meet to discuss his starring role as a homicide detective investigating the death of his own daughter in Martin Campbell's Edge of Darkness, a big-budget remake of Campbell's original award-winning BBC miniseries, first aired on TV 25 years ago.

The role also marks Gibson's return to the big screen after an eight-year absence, in the interim achieving much acclaim as writer-director-producer of both Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ.

"It's kind of like riding a bike, and it was time to come back," says the 54-year-old actor. "I felt the earning, sorry, I meant the yearning, not the earning. Was that a Freudian slip!?'"

Gibson's own well-documented fall from grace happened on the evening of July 28, 2006, when he was stopped for speeding in his car, with an open container of alcohol, in Malibu (later renamed by local pranksters who altered a local city sign to read "Melibu"). He subsequently admitted making anti-Semitic remarks during his arrest, and later numerously apologised for his "despicable" behaviour.

Ask today how he felt during that darkest hour, he smiles tiredly: "Look, I've told some whoppers when I'm loaded. And the other thing is: OK, do you know what the number one fear of every human being is? It's among the top three fears that almost everybody has? It's public humiliation. If you think about public humiliation, it's also about loss of anonymity, a little like what Tiger's going through now. All this stuff, it's public humiliation. 'We'll beat Tiger for a while...'"

His own lack of anonymity, he reckons, is the main reason why none of his own eight children – ranging in age from 29 years to three months (his girlfriend, musician Oksana Grigorieva, gave birth to a daughter, Lucia, in October last year) – have thus far followed him into Hollywood.

"None of them want to be actors. They've seen [my life], and they're like, 'the famous thing isn't so hot'. Everybody wants to be secure, of course. But I don't think they want to be wealthy and they're not. They've had to work for it. They don't want to lose that precious commodity: anonymity."

Gibson is unsure what the remaining two top fears might be: "Oh God, I mean fear of death, certainly, but public humiliation is even worse. I just hope to make it all mean something.

"I try and eat right but I don't work out much. I quit smoking so that's something in the right direction. I just don't do anything fun anymore. But that's dying, isn't it? You die in stages. You let things go in pieces. It's more than halfway through, right? Life's experiences, whether they be pleasant, unpleasant, torturous or excruciatingly wonderful and blissful, season you somehow and hopefully you learn from them. Isn't that what it's about?

"All I'm trying to do now is put some information on a chip that I can leave to my progeny and maybe they can do a better job than I can in this crazy, spinning piece of dirt. How did I quit smoking? It was torture. I'm on day nine now so it's almost over. The first three days I was like an axe murderer."

He remains ambivalent about his own mortality. "I did [have bodyguards] for a little while but it's a drag. If your number's up, its up. If I'm lying in bed and somebody comes into my room, I'll either wake up or I won't. And I'll either hit 'em with my big stick that I've got or my gun that I have stowed away... or they'll hit me. Look, in this day and age, you've got to be tooled up."

Born in New York, the sixth of 11 children, he spent his formative years in Australia until his 1979 breakout role in Mad Max brought him back home, and he went on to star in some of the most memorable films of the past three decades, including Gallipoli, Tim, The Year of Living Dangerously, Hamlet, four Lethal Weapons and two further Mad Max outings, along the way collecting both Best Picture and Best Director Oscars with 1985's Braveheart. In 2002, he announced he no longer wished to be a movie star.

However, under a deluge of negative publicity, its no wonder he would take refuge in acting, in Edge of Darkness, shortly followed by the release of Beaver, by Jodie Foster. "The Beaver is an odd concept, a guy's clinically depressed and finds a ratty old beaver hand-puppet and starts to express himself through the puppet. Ultimately, I'd like to direct more stuff."

Gibson will next direct Leonardo DiCaprio in a still untitled Viking movie which, like Apocalypto and Passion, will use native language. "I think it will be in the English that would've been spoken back then and old Norse, whatever the ninth century has to offer. I want a Viking to scare you. I don't want a Viking to say, 'I'm gonna die with a sword in my hand'. I want to see somebody who I've never seen before speaking low, guttural German who scares the living shit out of you."

Though Edge of Darkness is originally a British story, it has been reset in Boston; producer Graham King and director Martin Campbell agreeing that there isn't a British leading man capable of opening a $100m-budget Hollywood movie. It's about a beleaguered cop. Gibson says: "I look like I was going to die in this movie. I look like, 'Eww!' all drawn out and leathered. And I have aged. It's just a natural part of the holy human condition. What am I going to do? Get surgery? That just looks weird. Besides, that must hurt, so what's the point?"

His settlement with his wife, and mother of his first seven children, Robyn Moore remains unresolved, an estimated US$900m fortune at stake. In the aftermath, Gibson admits to something of a transformation, after meeting Grigorieva, 40, and starting a new family.

He has also directed her in four videos; her song "Say My Name" featuring on the closing credits for Edge of Darkness.

He admits that later-in-life parenthood is different, his newborn being only his second girl; his first-born daughter Hannah, is now 29."It is different because I'm different but the thing that isn't different is that I don't think I'll ever be able to get over the fact that there is a little life there in front of me staring at you with complete innocence and a total angelic blamelessness. So we'll see if I can do it better this time."

"I think I'm a lot better because maturity brings things out. I just wish I had that youthful spring again. But it's a trade-off, right?"

'Edge of Darkness' is out on 29 January

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness