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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson's 'You don't look Jewish' line falls flat

April 19, 2012 |  3:30 pm

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson’s problems with anti-Semitism don’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and the actor-filmmaker did little to improve his image at a Wednesday screening for his new film, “Get the Gringo.”

In an otherwise softball-question-filled conversation with Harry Knowles after the film’s premiere in Austin, Texas, the movie blogger asked if any of the lead “Get the Gringo” filmmaking team had any problems working with Gibson, who went on an anti-Semitic rant when arrested for driving under the influence in 2006 and recently was accused of “hating Jews” by screenwriter Joe Eszterhas.

“Get the Gringo” director Adrian Grunberg, a longtime Gibson colleague who said he wears both a Star of David and Christian necklace, said he and the “Lethal Weapon” star got along fine.

Stacy Perskie, another veteran Gibson collaborator who co-wrote the script for the prison drama with Grunberg and Gibson, then said that he was Jewish, to which Gibson replied, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.” The line elicited a smattering of groans.

But Knowles declined to follow up or ask Gibson about his feud with Eszterhas, prompted by the shelving of a planned collaboration between Gibson and the “Basic Instinct” screenwriter on a historical drama about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee.

There was one other opening for Gibson to apologize for any of his well-publicized transgressions. Knowles asked Gibson whether there was a most important career lesson he had learned. Gibson thought for a moment and replied, “Career lesson? Always remain an audience member. That’s the truth.”

"Get the Gringo" premieres on DirecTV on May 1; it will not be shown in theaters.


Mel Gibson's 'Get the Gringo' has a one-night theatrical run

Mel Gibson to Joe Eszterhas: Your writing is 'a waste of time'

Lawsuit tied to Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant must go to trial, judge rules

-- John Horn

Photo: Mel Gibson in "Get the Gringo." Credit: Icon Productions.


Mel Gibson's 'Get the Gringo' has a one-night theatrical run

April 19, 2012 |  6:47 am

Mel Gibson in "Get the Gringo"
Mel Gibson’s new movie, “Get the Gringo,” rolled into a handful of theaters Wednesday night for what is certain to be the shortest theatrical run in the actor’s history: one night.

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.


Mel Gibson to Joe Eszterhas: Your writing is 'a waste of time'

Lawsuit tied to Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant must go to trial, judge rules

Deputy who arrested Mel Gibson says he was punished for fighting coverup

--John Horn

Photo: Mel Gibson in "Get the Gringo." Credit: Icon Productions.

Mel Gibson to Joe Eszterhas: Your writing is 'a waste of time'

April 11, 2012 |  7:38 pm

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson has fired a return volley toward Joe Eszterhas in the jousting over why Warner Bros. rejected the screenwriter's screenplay for a proposed movie about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee.

The studio said Wednesday that it was not proceeding with Eszterhas' script and was "analyzing what to do with the project."

The news prompted the "Basic Instinct" writer to allege in a letter posted by the Wrap that Gibson, who was to produce and possibly direct the film, never wanted to make it because, as Eszterhas said of Gibson, "You hate Jews."

The actor and filmmaker, in response, sent Eszterhas a letter of his own, also sent to The Times, alleging that Eszterhas' script was "substandard" and "a waste of time."

The full text of the letter follows.


I have your letter.   I am not going to respond to it line by line, but I will say that the great majority of the facts as well as the statements and actions attributed to me in your letter are utter fabrications.  I would have thought that a man of principle, as you purport to be, would have withdrawn from the project regardless of the money if you truly believed me to be the person you describe in your letter.   I guess you only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your script.

I will acknowledge like most creative people I am passionate and intense.  I was very frustrated that when you arrived at my home at the expense of both Warner Brothers and myself you hadn’t written a single word of a script or even an outline after 15 months of research, meetings, discussions and the outpouring of my heartfelt vision for this story.  I did react  more strongly than I should have.  I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms.          

Contrary to your assertion that I was only developing Maccabees to burnish my tarnished reputation, I have been working on this project for over 10 years and it was publicly announced 8 years ago.  I absolutely want to make this movie; it’s just that neither  Warner Brothers nor I want to make this movie based on your script.

Honestly, Joe, not only was the script delivered later than you promised, both Warner Brothers and I were extraordinarily disappointed with the draft.  In 25 years of script development I have never seen a more substandard first draft or a more significant waste of time.  The decision not to proceed with you was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor. 

 I think that we can agree that this should be our last communication.  



Mel Gibson extortion case delivered to L.A. prosecutors

Lawsuit tied to Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant must go to trial, judge rules

Deputy who arrested Mel Gibson says he was punished for fighting coverup

— John Horn

Photo: Mel Gibson. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.



Mel Gibson's 'Maccabee' movie put on hold [updated]

April 11, 2012 |  5:28 pm

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson's planned collaboration with "Basic Instinct" screenwriter Joe Eszterhas on a historical drama about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee has been put on hold after Warner Bros. decided it was not ready to film the current script, the studio said Wednesday.

Gibson, who went on an anti-semitic rant when he was arrested for driving under the influence in 2006 and was criticized for depicting Jews negatively in 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," was to produce and potentially direct but not star in the Maccabee film. He will likely instead direct but not star in a movie about the Vikings written by Randall Wallace, who wrote Gibson's Oscar-winning "Braveheart" in 1995, a spokesman for the actor said.

A Warner Bros. spokesman said the studio was "analyzing what to do with the project" after the latest Eszterhas script was rejected. Gibson's involvement in the film had been criticized by Jewish leaders, with the Anti-Defamation League saying it "would be a travesty to have the story of the Maccabees told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people’s religious views."

Warner Bros.' options include hiring a new writer or shelving the project. Maccabee led a revolt against the Seleucid Empire around 160 BC and is considered one of the greatest Jewish warriors of all time and his accomplishments are celebrated on Hanukkah. News of the film's status was first reported by the website the Wrap.

[UPDATE, 5:20 p.m.: The Wrap subsequently posted a letter from Eszterhas to Gibson dated April 8 saying that the actor never intended to make the movie because "You hate Jews." The spokesman for Gibson told 24 Frames the actor planned to issue a "letter of response." A manager for Eszterhas did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.]


Mel Gibson extortion case delivered to L.A. prosecutors

Lawsuit tied to Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant must go to trial, judge rules

Deputy who arrested Mel Gibson says he was punished for fighting coverup

— John Horn

Photo: Mel Gibson. Credit: Kirk McKoy.





Young Hollywood: Mel Gibson 'intense human being,' Yelchin says

November 11, 2011 |  3:21 pm

Anton Yelchin talks about Mel Gibson at the LA Times Young Hollywood panel

When Anton Yelchin began working on "The Beaver," he knew his costar Mel Gibson had quite a lot going on in his personal life. But the 22-year-old said the various media reports about Gibson's non-work behavior never affected their relationship on set.

"I judge people on how they are at work and how they are to me at work, and he was lovely," Yelchin said last week at the Los Angeles Times' second annual Young Hollywood roundtable, which also featured Armie Hammer, Evan Rachel Wood and Kirsten Dunst.

Still, Yelchin admitted, he found Gibson to be an "intense human being."

"We had some really amazing rehearsals with him ... where he would just talk and we would sort of be in character and it would just make me weep because he's got a lot going on inside," the actor said. "When someone shares that with you in really close proximity, it's very affecting."

There's more on Gibson in the clip below. Check back with 24 Frames this week, as we'll continue to post short videos with additional highlights from the conversation.



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-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Anton Yelchin poses on the red carpet after the Los Angeles Times Young Hollywood roundtable. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

Mel Gibson gets a boost from Robert Downey Jr.

October 15, 2011 | 12:34 am

Mel gibson at robert downey jr. event

The slow but methodical rehabilitation of Mel Gibson in Hollywood took another step forward Friday night, courtesy of Robert Downey Jr.

Dozens of famous faces who've performed onscreen with Downey or directed him -- among them Gibson, Jodie Foster, Garry Shandling, Michael Douglas and Jon Favreau -- gathered to pay tribute to (and roast) the "Iron Man" star at the Beverly Hilton as he received the 2011 American Cinematheque Award.

The evening kicked off with a humorous video of Gibson, Shandling and Jamie Foxx poking fun at Downey. That was followed by a video clip of Foster receiving the Cinematheque Award in 1999 -- and receiving a congratulatory call from Downey, who was then incarcerated in a California state prison after several arrests on drug-related charges.

Numerous other presenters, including Foster, Douglas, and Jennifer Aniston came to the stage and made various references to Downey's long battle with addiction as they paid tribute to his abilities as an actor and his strength in overcoming his substance abuse issues.

Last onstage was Gibson, who starred with Downey in the 1990 film "Air America" and reunited with him onscreen in 2003 in "The Singing Detective" -- Gibson reportedly put up the money for Downey's insurance bond on the project when he was considered essentially untouchable by others.  

Gibson has been inching back into the public eye in the last six months, after he settled the ugly custody dispute with his ex-girlfriend that exploded into public view last year and after his movie "The Beaver" (directed by Foster) finally was released.

Gibson joked that people had warned him about Downey's unpredictability but said he just saw a good guy who was "making a few adjustments." Then, he added self-depricatingly, it was essential to remember that this was Mel Gibson making this assessment. 

When Downey came to the stage, he acknowledged his long friendship with Gibson and quipped that the two had shared the same lawyer, same publicist and same shrink. We should stage "an intervention" for them, he joked.

Turning more serious, Downey said that "when I couldn't get sober, Mel helped me," keeping a roof over his head and food on his table, and helping him get work. According to Downey, Gibson told him that he needed to find his faith and embrace responsibility for his acts, and if he did so, his life would find new meaning. "Hugging the cactus, he called it," Downey said. "And all he asked was that I help the next guy" in a similar situation. 

"It's reasonable to assume," Downey added sardoncially, "that he didn't expect the next guy would be him."

As Gibson looked at his shoes, Downey proclaimed that Gibson himself had "hugged the cactus long enough" and deserved support. Then the two shared a long embrace as the crowd broke into applause.


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-- Julie Makinen 

Photo: Mel Gibson speaks onstage during the 25th American Cinematheque Award ceremony honoring Robert Downey Jr.  at the Beverly Hilton hotel on Friday evening. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images 



Mel Gibson and Warner Bros. developing Jewish hero epic

September 8, 2011 |  4:48 pm

Mel Gibson Judah Maccabee

Mel Gibson, the Oscar winner who has defended himself against accusations of anti-Semitism, is developing a film for Warner Bros. about the life of Judah Maccabee, the warrior whose ancient victory is celebrated by Hanukkah.

Gibson's Icon Productions has closed the producing deal with Warner Bros., and Joe Eszterhas will write the screenplay. Gibson's camp said the filmmaker will decide if he's directing after the script is done and that he has not ruled out the possibility that he could act in the film.

Maccabee, his four brothers and his father led the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies. The role of his father, the priest Mattathias, might be a logical one for the 55-year-old Gibson if he does opt to appear in the film.

Maccabee is a figure who has fascinated Gibson for years, and at one point he considered this as a follow-up project to "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004. Gibson's camp describes the film in terms that resonate with past Gibson projects, such as "Braveheart" or Roland Emmerich's "The Patriot."

History and religion are career cornerstones for Gibson the filmmaker. He wrote, produced and directed "The Passion of the Christ," which became a global sensation and, with $612 million in worldwide box office, stands as the highest -grossing R-rated film of all time. The movie also set off an intense international debate as viewers walked away from the movie with very different messages.

Gibson's views on religion and politics made him a firebrand figure, but his standing in Hollywood was shaken by more personal controversy. A DUI arrest in the summer of 2006 became a life-changing calamity after anti-Semitic remarks he made while in custody were reported across the planet. Gibson apologized and called it "a moment of insanity" and a "public humiliation on a global scale."

Last summer, tapes of an enraged Gibson berating his girlfriend were made public, and the star's racist, violent and misogynistic comments made many observers predict his career as a bankable Hollywood player was over. Gibson later said it was "one terribly awful moment in time, said to one person, in the span of one day," and something that "doesn't represent what I truly believe or how I've treated people my entire life."

Eszterhas, best known for fare such as "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls," is an intriguing collaborator for Gibson. The screenwriter was awarded the Emanuel Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 for his writings about the Holocaust in Hungary and two of his projects, "Betrayed" and "Music Box," speak to Jewish themes.


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Wonder who's the biggest anti-Semite? Try the new Mel Gibson Scale

— Geoff Boucher

Photo: Mel Gibson in 2010. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.

Cannes 2011: A spell of conflict, and then (some) resolution

May 22, 2011 |  6:45 pm


With the major awards handed out and the last of the cinephiles, partiers, salespeople and hangers-on finally packing up for calmer climes, let's take a moment to look back at this year's Cannes Film Festival in all its intensity and strangeness.

The 2011 edition of the world's most prestigious film gathering was historic in several ways. Egyptian directors banded together to create and premiere shorts about their country's revolution just three months after it happened, while more female directors landed in the main competition than ever before (a sharp contrast to Hollywood's glass ceiling).

Less nobly, for the first time in the history of Cannes, a filmmaker was declared persona non grata at the festival. Leave it to Lars.

It was, as might be expected with any 64th installment, sometimes a festival of the familiar — Harvey Weinstein spending millions on high-profile films from the likes of Meryl Streep and Shia LaBeouf, and Woody Allen embraced again, thanks to his opening-night movie, "Midnight in Paris."

But it was also a festival filled with paradox.  Cannes always contains multitudes, but the contradictions rarely have ever seemed this pungent, and they've seldom grabbed so many headlines. Cannes this year saw the European premiere of Mel Gibson's new film — and yet he had to settle for second place for the festival's biggest race-themed controversy. The Croisette also saw a silent film, Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist," making some of the loudest noise.

It was a festival where the darkest of subjects, a school shooting, was given the flashiest of treatments with Lynne Ramsay's well-received "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

Cannes is filled with old-timers and veterans, and yet one of the biggest splashes came from a young 'un first-timer, "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn.

And finally, there was the festival's biggest enigma, Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," whose premiere ensured that the most scrutinized festival director was also the most invisible. Malick sat out the red carpet and the screening feting him and drove the point home when he also sat out the Palme d'Or ceremony Sunday, opting for his producers to accept on his behalf.

There was good and bad, strange and sane, in this year's Cannes. It's the favorable more than the dodgy one hopes will prevail, though in the end it will may well be that both co-exist. It was, after all, that kind of festival.

— Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France



What Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life is actually about (yes, we finally see it)

Awards Tracker: Palme d'Or goes to Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life

In interview, Lars von Trier says he doesn't deserve a Palme d'Or

Photo: Sean Penn in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." Credit: Fox Searchlight.

What does 'The Beaver's' performance say about Mel Gibson's popularity?

May 9, 2011 |  7:30 am


Critics were mixed on Mel Gibson's "The Beaver" at the start of the weekend — some found it a touching story of mental disassociation; others an ill-fitting mix of the quirky and the dour. Lovers and haters agreed, however, that they sometimes found it difficult to separate the star's on-screen issues from his real-life ones.

As it turns out, viewers had the same problem — that is, if they even bothered to see the film.

Gibson's turn as a depressed toy executive who turns to a puppet for help this weekend took in a dismal $104,000 on 22 screens, a per-screen average of under $5,000. To put that in lay terms, that means that in the markets the Jodie Foster film opened, very few people came out to see it To put that in other lay terms, the average was lower than that for the recent opening of "Atlas Shrugged," a movie so unpopular it prompted its producer to contemplate retirement.(For those who might wonder if the figures are misleading because "The Beaver" opened in only a limited number of theaters, the per-screen metric accounts for that; it's essentially a measure of a movie's box-office power adjusted for the size of its release.)

On Sunday, studio Summit was, interestingly, pointing the finger at its film more than its star. Domestic-distribution president Richie Fay told my colleague Amy Kaufman that he didn't think the results were "as much a repudiation of Mel and his personal life as it is about a film with difficult subject matter” and suggested that a planned expansion later in the month may be more limited than previously thought. “As it turns out, I think the film is more of an art-house specialty kind of movie than a broader commercial film,” he said.

Continue reading »

Cannes 2011: Auteurs, veterans and controversy?

April 14, 2011 |  3:55 am



The Cannes Film Festival announced its full lineup in the wee hours of Thursday morning. The big news from a cineaste standpoint: the presence in the competition category of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," which has been rumored for many a festival before finally being ready for this one; the new film from Pedro Almodovar, "The Skin I Live In," a revenge tale featuring a plastic surgeon; and the latest from the Dardenne Brothers, the Belgian dynamic duo that's already won the Palme d'Or twice. (The full story about the lineup on our sister blog Awards Tracker.)

Big-studio Hollywood will also be a robust participant this year: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Kung-Fu Panda 2" will both screen out of competition as part of their promotional rollout.

Not screening: "The Descendants," the new film from Alexander Payne starring George Clooney (a December release, it will likely go the fall-festival route) and "A Dangerous Method," David Cronenberg's foray into the land of Freud and Jung.

But perhaps the most newsworthy developments could happen away from both the big marketing and big prize-seeking realms. Several films have the potential to generate strong reactions.

The always-voluble Lars von Trier, who two years ago created a stir with his violent and explicit "Antichrist," returns with a science-fiction-themed film, "Melancholia," that features American stars Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland. And Jodie Foster's "The Beaver" will screen out-of-competition as well, raising the question of whether Mel Gibson, still embraced in some parts of Europe, will use the festival as the first leg of a comeback tour. Whether it's courting cinephiles or controversy, Cannes almost certainly won't be boring.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mel Gibson in "The Beaver." Credit: Summit Entertainment


Awards Tracker: Cannes lineup shows Malick, Almodovar and The Beaver

The Beaver goes back into the woods

First footage of Tree of Life exceeds expectations


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