Mel Gibson appears to be in a pool of hot water after Radar and other outlets reported that he invoked the the N-word in verbally abusing girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, and saying, "You look like a ... pig in heat," among other morally unsavory things.
Those comments, if true, pose serious image issues for a man whose career has already been bedeviled by them. And this time the stakes are higher, affecting a swath of Hollywood interests.
When the last scandal involving Gibson's alleged bigotry broke back in 2006 (the infamous incident on the Malibu highway), Gibson had a directorial movie waiting in the wings, "Apocalypto," but was not starring in any upcoming film. This is a different instance. Gibson is the lead in a movie called "The Beaver," a quirky indie that has been the passion project for many in the Hollywood film community for a long time.
After more than a year of false starts, producer Anonymous Content had put the financing together to make the movie last year, and "Twilight" studio Summit had come aboard just before the start of production to distribute the film. The company had planned on a release later this year, with a likely rollout at a number of the fall film festivals.
If these comments prove to be true -- and again, a strong qualifier here that reporters at this paper are still, as of posting time, seeking firsthand confirmation -- then it's not only Gibson who's in trouble, but the film itself.
"The Beaver" was perceived as a risk even before Gibson came on -- this is a script, after all, in which a loner man talks to a beaver puppet on his hand as though it's a human entity. Gibson's casting was seen as a challenge in part because of his age -- the character was originally written as in his 40s (earlier iterations of the film package alternately had Steve Carell, Hugh Jackman and Jim Carrey interested or attached to the project). But Jodie Foster, who had a professional relationship with Gibson, was packaged with Gibson as the star, in an iteration that would have her directing and co-starring.
Gibson was already seen as a box-office question mark for "Beaver" after his acting comeback, "Edge of Darkness," grossed just $43 million in the U.S. earlier this year. And any project in development -- including a Viking movie he might have directed -- probably will go into deep freeze.
But it gets even, um, hairier for "The Beaver." There will always be talk about building a campaign around someone other than Gibson. But that won't work. Gibson is the star of the film. You can't hide him. And putting out any marketing material with Gibson's face and the words "The Beaver" underneath would be such a laughably bad idea that it would make the Tom Cruise "Valkyrie" eye patch seem like a smart idea.
There's a silver lining for Summit in that, at the very least, the company hasn't spent any money yet marketing the film. But for film fans who were waiting to see "The Beaver," they may be waiting a long time.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Mel Gibson in "Edge of Darkness." Credit: Warner Bros.
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