LOS ANGELES, Nov 1, (Agencies): One of the most sought-after names in Hollywood at the height of his career, Oscar-winning Mel Gibson has been a pariah in the filmmaking community for a decade.
Ostracized by Tinseltown after an anti-Semitic tirade captured on tape during a 2006 drunk-driving arrest, the actor-director has since had to make do with a handful of parts in obscure or poorly received films.
It is a far cry from the adulation he enjoyed as the “Mad Max” and “Lethal Weapon” films established him as a star, before he went on to win Academy Awards for producing and directing 1996’s “Braveheart”.
As he unveils his new faith-based World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge” this weekend, the 60-year-old devout Catholic will be hoping cinemagoers have shorter memories than movie executives.
The film tells the true story of Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, who enlists and is determined to save lives on the front line as a medic, but refuses to carry a gun on moral grounds.
“It highlights what it means for a man of conviction and of faith to go into a situation that is hellish … and in the midst of that maelstrom, this man is able to hone his spirituality and achieve something higher”, Gibson told a recent news conference in Beverly Hills.
He had been asked to comment on the film’s brutal violence but could have been describing his own baptism of fire back in the glare of the Hollywood press pack.
Asked about his own faith, Gibson looked uncomfortable and responded simply that he was “imperfect” and a “poor practitioner” who could take a leaf out of Doss’s book.
If Gibson’s return to the director’s chair is as successful as reviews of “Hacksaw Ridge” suggest it ought to be, he may have to get used to answering awkward questions about his private life again.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is Gibson’s first directing effort since the critically —acclaimed “Apocalypto” in 2006 — the year of his anti-Semitic rant at a US sheriff’s deputy.
During the high-profile arrest in Malibu, north of Los Angeles, Gibson said Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world.
Gibson and his wife of 26 years Robyn Moore split up soon after, and there were no more starring roles on the big screen until the lackluster thriller “Edge of Darkness”.
Even after his acting comeback, the controversies surrounding the star were far from over.
Gibson was spared jail in 2011 when he decided not to contest domestic violence charges pressed by Russian pianist Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his seven-year-old daughter Lucia.
Gibson — who is expecting a ninth child later this year with 26-year-old girlfriend Rosalind Ross — was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to attend domestic violence counseling.
He won critical acclaim for his role in close friend Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver”, but the 2011 film was a commercial flop, with Entertainment Weekly concluding that audiences had stayed away because of Gibson.
He has since faced further accusations of anti-Semitic and aggressive behavior, which he has strenuously denied.
In a recent podcast with Variety magazine, Gibson said he was trying to put the 2006 incident behind him, and found it “annoying” that people were still bringing it up.
“Ten years have gone by. I’m feeling good. I’m sober, all of that kind of stuff, and for me it’s a dim thing in the past”, he said.
By Monday next week, the opening box office figures for “Hacksaw Ridge” will indicate whether the public has forgiven him.
“I think, (with) all directors who have touched greatness before, Hollywood, and audiences in general, have a willingness to take a chance on them again”, said Jeff Bock, a senior analyst at industry monitor Exhibitor Relations.
“Gibson has proven that he has directorial chops that transcend the often mediocre multiplex offerings. With ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ he seems to have the critical support as well, so that bodes well for playability through the holiday season”.
LOS ANGELES: Michael Douglas ended months of speculation over fellow actor Val Kilmer’s health on Monday by confirming his friend was suffering from cancer, several reports said on Monday.
Douglas reportedly told the audience at an event in London over the weekend that Kilmer, his co-star in 1996’s “The Ghost and the Darkness”, is “dealing with exactly what I had”, referring to oral cancer.
He added that “things don’t look too good” for the 56-year-old, best known for his role in “Top Gun” and as singer Jim Morrison in “The Doors”.
“My prayers are with him. That’s why you haven’t heard too much from Val lately”, Douglas, 72, told host Jonathan Ross, according to the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper and US entertainment industry bible Variety.
Kilmer has repeatedly denied reports that he is unwell, but his health has been the subject of persistent speculation since pictures showed him apparently with a tracheotomy tube last year.
Kilmer’s representatives did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
But Kilmer issued an oblique denial that he was incapacitated in a Facebook post promoting “Cinema Twain”, a filmed version of his one-man play about Mark Twain.
LOS ANGELES: Four Asian-American women shared their unique experiences on Sunday at the Asian World Film Festival in Culver City when they participated on the panel Asian Women in Hollywood.
The session, organized by the Korean Film Council, targeted the challenges confronting a demographic group that has not received much attention. Entertainment PR and marketing specialist David Magdael moderated the panel, which included professionals from talent management, music supervision, music composition, and cinematography.
Sunny Park, the executive in charge of music at DreamWorks Animation, whose credits include such titles as “Trolls” and the “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda” franchises, noted that she often finds herself in situations where she’s the only woman in a group of men. At DWA, however, she noted that most of the producers and the two co-presidents are female.
Sarah Shyn, a talent manager at 3 Arts Entertainment who has worked on the “Maze Runner” series and two seasons of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, noted that when she joined the firm it was “mostly a boys club” with only two woman managers — a number that has since grown to seven.
Film composer and orchestrator Sujin Nam, with credits on such pictures as the Spider-Man movies and “The Grudge”, described how being Asian may have in some ways helped her music career. “Every Asian has the advantage of growing up with piano lessons”, she half-joked. Nam and her husband take a proactive role in encouraging young musicians by inviting them to perform at their home while music supervisors and studio executives are also present.
Cinematographer Quyen Tran, whose credits include “Pali Road” and HBO pilot “Mogadishu, Minnesota”, told the group, “when I go shoot a movie out of town, I have to hire the crew, which is usually about 20 white men. And when I first show up on set someone usually says something like, ‘oh, the makeup department is back there.’”
Tran noted that only about 2 percent of all DP’s are women, and that there are only three Asian female DP’s working today.
Despite many obstacles, the group was generally optimistic about the future. Shyn summed this up, noting that the #OscarsSoWhite movement has made Hollywood super-aware of racial, ethnic, and gender iniquities. “Doors are opening and they’re hiring more nonwhites and women, so if you’re a minority, go for it”.