It's interesting to try to divine the chicken-and-egg of Mel Gibson's firing by WME last week: Was it his (first-alleged, now aurally proved) misogynistic and racist comments that enabled the agency to part ways with him, or was it the death of longtime agent Ed Limato that did the trick?
Earlier today the news surfaced that William Morris Endeavor had split with Gibson last week
-- as Limato lay seriously ill, and just several days after Radar Online broke the news that Gibson had verbally abused his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva
by using the N-word. (The reports were just that until today, when audio of the Gibson incident
was released on Radar.)
It's a juicy thought experiment to ask what Gibson's agency status would have been had only one of those events occurred. (For what it's worth, our guess is that Limato's death without comments would have spelled the end of the relationship, while comments with Limato around probably would have kept him on the WME docket, though with dubious professional results.)
There's of course a third variable in all this -- the fact that Gibson just wasn't much of a bankable star anymore anyway. His one stab at acting in the last eight years, the cop thriller "Edge of Darkness,"
was a flop, and we weren't hearing his name much for new projects, despite his industrious work habits and the fact that contemporaries like Bruce Willis were regularly booking action-movie gigs. There's a reason Gibson was spending his time directing, producing and starring in movies that were self-financed through his Icon production banner (one of those, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" -- about a criminal who, in un-Gibson-like fashion, rehabilitates himself -- is nearly in the can, though without U.S. theatrical distribution) and trying to resurrect his career with quirky indie movies like "The Beaver."
(Incidentally, we don't think we're being pessimistic in saying that, despite a deal for Summit to release that film in the fall, this movie will sit on the shelf for a long, long time. You can try to market a Mayan adventure in which Gibson doesn't actually appear, as Disney did with "Apocalypto"
not long after the Malibu anti-Semitism incident in 2006, but good luck releasing a movie in the coming months with Mel Gibson on the topline and in posters, and wearing a beaver puppet to boot. Jay Leno's writers won't have to work for weeks.)
This newest development -- the loss of one of the few power brokers loyal to Gibson, and now the loss of one of the few larger institutions that's been looking out for his professional interests -- is pretty much a fatal blow. There's little chance he'll land at another agency anytime soon -- signing would bring down a horrible avalanche of bad PR to any agency that got within smelling distance and, more to the craven point, any agent that signs him has little hope of booking him any roles anyway since there isn't a studio in town that will hire Gibson. (Some will point to a degree of international bankability, but unless Gibson makes a very niche movie exclusively with and for another continent, he'll still need someone in North America to bankroll it.)
If he works at all, Gibson will for the foreseeable future do so by financing and starring in Icon movies -- though even this seemingly safe step is perilous, since getting anyone in the U.S. to star in, distribute or see these movies will be tricky. (Well, that's not true. He should be able to lure people who aren't black, Jewish, female or have any sense of moral decency.) The fat lady hasn't just sung -- she's changed out of her gown and hit the showers.
Culturally, of course, the drama will continue to play out, as will the punditry. It is telling that it took a second round of unforgivable comments -- this time propagating the ugliest stereotypes about blacks, just as his 2006 remarks did about Jews -- for the nail to enter the coffin. Equally interesting is a contemplation of what the reaction might have been had the sequence of these two awful incidents been flipped, what with only agency honcho Ari Emanuel and some scattered others coming out and condemning Gibson when he drunkenly told a policewoman that Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Actually, strike that, because even now the silence is deafening. This would seem like a good time to make a public statement, Jodie Foster, longtime friendship or not.
Then again, it's not like Gibson had a terribly robust career over the last four years, so in a way you could say that Emanuel's 2006 call for a boycott served it purpose. But Gibson did take meetings and did land several roles, and as sad as it is that someone with all this experience could walk the world in his own bubble of hate, it's perhaps sadder that it took so many of us this long to realize what should have been clear all along.
Photo: Mel Gibson nearly singed by the flames in Edge of Darkness. Credit: Warner Bros.
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