That’s because Gibson’s latest self-financed film, a $20-million, south-of-the-border crime drama set in a Mexican prison, won’t appear in theaters beyond Wednesday’s premiere in Austin, Texas, which was simulcast into a few auditoriums around the country. Instead, “Get the Gringo” will skip a theatrical run entirely and debut on the satellite service DirecTV on May 1 in one of the boldest bets on video-on-demand programming.
VOD transactions surged by 1 billion to 8.8 billion in 2011, according to a new study by Rentrak, but most of the movies released directly in the format have been low-budget art house fare like “Margin Call.” But Gibson’s movie, which the actor stars in, co-wrote and produced, is a relatively lavish action film that theoretically could have enjoyed a wide release at the multiplex.
But Gibson, in addition to all of his legal problems, has struggled at the box office recently. Last year, "The Beaver" failed to gross even $1 million, and the year before his $80-million drama "Edge of Darkness" sold just $43.3 million in tickets domestically.
“We’re just in a different era,” Gibson said at an Austin theater following the film’s premiere, with the actor’s interview by blogger Harry Knowles beamed into satellite screenings in cities such as Atlanta, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. “Many people just like to see things in their homes. It’s just another way to do it and a better way to do it. I think it’s the future.”
Once known as “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” the violent film was directed and co-written by Adrian Grunberg, who was Gibson’s first assistant director on “Apocalypto.” In “Get the Gringo,” Gibson plays a character known as Driver, a veteran criminal thrown into a squalid Mexican prison. The film’s jail is patterned after El Pueblito, a notorious correctional facility in Tijuana that operated as its own city, with guns, drugs and prostitution readily available. “You can buy anything,” one character says in the film, “except your way out.”
Knowles declined to ask Gibson about his recent, nasty feud with screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who was writing a screenplay about the Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee for Gibson to produce and potentially direct. Eszterhas in a long letter called Gibson an anti-Semite who "hates Jews" after Warner Bros. put the project on hold, while Gibson responded with his own letter, calling the “Basic Instinct” screenwriter incompetent.
Gibson said in the Austin interview that he is finishing writing a movie about the Vikings with his “Braveheart” screenwriter Randall Wallace. “It’s phenomenal,” Gisbon said. “I can’t wait to get my claws on it.”
He also said he had been meeting with writer-director Robert Rodriguez about a possible sequel to “Machete” called "Machete Kills."
“It sounds fun,” Gibson said.
Photo: Mel Gibson in "Get the Gringo." Credit: Icon Productions.