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Monday, September 9, 2013

Mel Gibson Biography

Born to Hutton Gibson and Anne Reilly Gibson, Mel is the sixth of eleven children. In 1968, when Gibson was 12-years-old, the family emigrated to Sydney, Australia. 

His father had won $21,000 as a contestant on international game show ‘Jeopardy’ and had also received $145,000 compensation for a 1964 work accident that had caused him to lose his job as brakeman for New York City Railroad.
It was an opportunity for Hutton to get his sons away from the cultural changes of 1960s America, which he felt were immoral. He chose Australia, as it was his wife’s homeland, her mother having been an opera singer who had emigrated to the US years before, and she had extended family living there. Gibson kept his American citizenship and acquired an Australian accent.
Gibson attended school at St Leo’s College, run by Christian Brothers but constantly rebelled against their rules. His exasperated father eventually moved him to Asquith High state school, where he settled in to become a typical Aussie teenager. Gibson had no particular vocational yearning, thinking perhaps he may become a priest at one stage and then considering journalism. Extremely shy, he dated little, and usually took his friends along for moral support. He did however enjoy elaborately staged practical jokes and was an excellent mimic, having a penchant for different accents.
It was these skills that made his sister apply, on his behalf but without his knowledge, to the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. At the time, Gibson had graduated from school and was working at an orange juice-bottling factory. When he was offered a place to study acting at the Institute of Dramatic Art, he gladly accepted, moving out of his parents’ home and in with three of his friends, one of whom was Geoffrey Rush (now an Oscar winning actor). He overcame his stage fright (a result of his shyness) and put all his effort into the course, thoroughly enjoying the theatrical work. Gibson graduated in 1977 and began working on the small screen, appearing in television series ‘The Sullivans’ (1976-1983), ‘Cop Shop’ (1977-1984) and ‘Punishment’ (1981).

However, he hated television work as compared to the theatre, maintaining that good acting was only done within time constraints. He joined the South Australia Theatre Company and toured with ‘Waiting for Godot’. It was during this tour, whilst in Adelaide, that he met his future wife, Robyn Moore, who was working as a dental nurse. They were married on 7 June 1980 and went on to have seven children, first a daughter Hannah (b. 1980) and then six sons, twins Edward and Christian (b. 1982), Willie (b. 1985), Louis (b. 1988), Milo (b. 1990) and Tommy (b. 1999).
Gibson’s first big screen debut came in the form of an uncredited role as a baseball player in ‘I Never Promised You a Rose Garden’ (1977). However, it wasn’t long before he met director Phil Avalon and was cast in his low-budget surfer movie called ‘Summer City’ (1977), enjoying a brief relationship with co-star Deborah Foreman.
Two years later, Gibson was offered the lead role in George Miller’s sensational ‘Mad Max’ (1979). In a strange twist of fate, on the night before the audition Gibson was involved in a boozy fight, which left him with stitches in his head and a badly bruised and beaten face. It was the last thing he needed when trying to impress a casting crew, but it was in fact this ‘look’ that clinched the deal. In a role that secured his arrival as a star, Gibson played ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky, a ruthless, leather-clad survivor in the savage post-apocalyptic Australian Outback. The film became a cult hit that has since been followed by sequels.

Playing the title role in ‘Tim’ (1979) won Gibson his first Best Actor in a Lead Role Award from The Australian Film Institute and playing Frank Dunne in Peter Weir’s WW1 drama ‘Gallipoli’ (1981) won him his second. Not only was Gibson gaining big screen experience, his acting efforts were being noticed and rewarded, at least in Australia. With his offbeat charm, his magnetism, his piercingly blue eyes and his boyish good looks, he was becoming an obvious choice for male lead roles.
‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’ (1981) was another runaway hit and finally made a star of Gibson in America. To follow were two more war dramas, the mediocre ‘Attack Force Z’ (1982) and the ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ (1982) with Sigourney Weaver. He starred as Fletcher Christian with Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson in ‘The Bounty’ (1984). At this stage, Gibson was already struggling with alcoholism, finding that the inebriation took away his shyness and that he generally drank a whole lot more when he was away from his family, when filming. This caused an on-set rift between himself and Hopkins, a teetotaller at the time. In fact, in Toronto 1984, an inebriated Gibson rear-ended another driver. He pleaded guilty to drunk driving and was fined $300.
Gibson then worked on his first film with an American director and for the first time, adopted an American accent. It was New Yorker Mark Rydell’s epic love story ‘The River’ (1984), in which Gibson starred opposite Sissy Spaceck. He played prisoner Ed Biddle, with Diane Keaton and Matthew Modine, in the romantic drama ‘Mrs Soffel’ (1984) before returning once more to Australia and his Mad Max role, to film the third in the series. It was ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ (1985) with Tina Turner as Aunty Entity.
Unbeknownst to Gibson, he was about to become one of the biggest action heroes of all time. Upon his return to America, he was offered the role of Sergeant Martin Riggs in the ‘Lethal Weapon’ series. His partner in this “buddy film” genre was Danny Glover, with whom he shared great onscreen chemistry, helping the series that has spanned almost two decades, to become enormously successful. Between ‘Lethal Weapon’ (1987) and ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ (1989), Gibson starred in the action romance ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (1988) with Michele Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell. Then came adventure comedy ‘Bird on a Wire’ (1990) with David Carradine and the delightful Goldie Hawn, and action comedy ‘Air America’ (1990) with Robert Downey Jr, about the Vietnam War.
In an unusual switch of genres, from action to classical, Gibson played the Danish Prince in Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Hamlet’ (1990) with co-stars Glenn Close, Alan Bates and Paul Schofield, and certainly held his own. During the filming of ‘Hamlet’, chain-smoking Gibson changed to nicotine gum in an effort to better control his breathing, for the improved delivery of his lines. In 1991 he began treatment for alcoholism, with his wife threatening to leave him if he refused. He then starred with Elijah Wood and Jamie Lee Curtis in ‘Forever Young’ (1992) for which he was also Executive Producer but this role went uncredited. ‘Lethal Weapon 3’ (1992) scored its by-now-usual box-office hit and Gibson made his directorial debut with ‘The Man Without a Face’ (1993). In this heart-warming drama he starred as Justin McLeod. Next was his role as the gambling Bret Maverick Jr in ‘Maverick’ (1994), with charming lady thief played by Jodie Foster.
The unforgettable historical epic ‘Braveheart’ (1995) was Gibson’s second opportunity as Director, in which he played the lead role of 13th century Scottish rebel and hero William Wallace. The film was signed by Icon Productions, a company co-owned by Gibson and Bruce Davey, and Gibson achieved invigorating performances, brutal battle scenes and touching story telling. In short, with very little prior experience at Directing, Gibson surpassed everyone’s expectations by winning two Oscars at the 1996 Academy Awards, for Best Picture and Best Director, as well as a 1996 Golden Globe Award for Best Director. Also released in 1995 was Disney’s animated movie ‘Pocahontas’ for which Gibson provided the voice of John Smith, proving his singing abilities.
‘Ransom’ (1996) was a fast-paced kidnap story that had Gibson playing rich airline owner Tom Mullen, with Rene Russo and Gary Sinese. Julia Roberts starred with Gibson in romantic thriller ‘Conspiracy Theory’ (1997). Also that year were two uncredited cameo roles, as Scott the Body Piercer in ‘Fathers' Day’ (1997) and as Frances’ father in ‘FairyTale: A True Story’ (1997). In 1997, he was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia, the country’s highest honour. Then came ‘Lethal Weapon 4’ (1998) and the next year, Gibson provided the voice for one episode of the cult television series ‘The Simpsons’ (1999). He played Porter in ‘Payback’ (1999), a remake of the 1968 crime thriller that starred Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson.
Wim Wenders directed ‘The Million Dollar Hotel’ (2000) in which Gibson played FBI agent Detective Skinner alongside Milla Jovovich and Jeremy Davies. He then provided the voice of Rocky Rhodes the Rhode Island Red Rooster in the much loved animated film ‘Chicken Run’ (2000). ‘The Patriot’ (2000) was a slightly sentimental take on the American revolutionary war and then Gibson played a chauvinistic executive who, after an accident, is able to hear what women are thinking in ‘What Women Want’ (2000) with Helen Hunt, Marissa Tomei, Alan Alda and Bette Midler.
Gibson played Lt. Col. Hal Moore opposite Madeleine Stowe as Julie Moore in ‘We Were Soldiers’ (2002), a true story about the Vietnam War. In ‘Signs’ (2002) he was the Reverend Graham Hess and Joaquin Phoenix played his brother, Merrill Hess, in a story involving crop circles, car accidents and tests of faith. Gibson won a Global Achievement Award from the Australian Film Institute in 2002 in recognition of his contribution to acting. ‘The Singing Detective’ (2003), in which Gibson played a psychotherapist with Robert Downey Jr, Robin Wright Penn and Katie Holmes, topped the box office charts and was America’s biggest summer hit of 2003.
In ‘Paparazzi’ (2004), which he produced, Gibson played an uncredited role as an Anger Management Therapy patient. He admitted to drug and alcohol abuse in a 2004 Primetime interview with Diane Sawyer. Gibson committed himself to rehabilitation, having reached a low point of depression and guilt surrounding his behaviour and having even considered suicide. The need to reconnect with his spiritual side and his own strongly religious upbringing inspired him to direct and produce the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ (2004). It had been ten years in the research and making and Gibson reportedly spent $25 million of his own money on the project. The blockbuster, created by Icon Productions, the production company co-owned by Gibson and Bruce Davey, was surrounded by controversy before the film was even released. Not since Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ (1988) had a religious movie caused such a stir.
Gibson’s father was accused of having denied the Holocaust, to which Gibson replied that his father had been questioning the number of Jewish deaths rather than having denied it ever happened. Jewish pressure groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, responded immediately. Not to be left out, a group of Catholic ecumenists, activists and scholars compiled a list of transgressions in the script and demanded that the film be entirely remade. Some people in Hollywood even turned against Gibson during this difficult time. Determined to see his dream to fruition, he held his ground, even daring to have his actors speak entirely in Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin (although it was all subtitled).
The film told the story of the last hours of Christ in harrowing detail, vividly portraying his violent beatings and humiliation and made for intensely disturbing viewing. The Catholic Church distanced itself from the entire issue, which meant the film remained uncensored. Despite all the controversy, Gibson’s instincts had been correct and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Original Music Score, Best Cinematography and Best Makeup and won the People’s Choice Award for Best Drama. ‘The Passion of the Christ’ (2004) became the highest grossing R-rated film in American history and the 8th highest grossing movie of all time.
Inspired by this success, Gibson went on to direct the epic ‘Apocalypto’ and was also Executive Producer, Producer and Writer. The title is Greek for “new beginning” or “unveiling”. The film is set during the time of the decline of the Mayan civilization 600 years ago. As in ‘The Passion of the Christ’ (2004), Gibson used local dialect - in this case, Yucatec Maya – and unknown actors. Once again this was self-financed by Gibson, with Icon Productions retaining the international rights whilst Disney will distribute the film in the US.
The man who began his career being typecast as an action hero but who soon proved his great versatility as an actor, is certainly not slowing down after nearly three decades in the business. There is talk of the release of the fourth Mad Max movie, which is in the pre-production stage, with the working title of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. ‘Sam and George’, a drama directed by Richard Donner, is due for release in 2008. In the story about old friends reuniting, Gibson plays a man released from prison after serving twenty years for a crime he did not commit.
This award winning actor, director and producer is actually a fiercely private man who genuinely loves his wife and children. He and his wife donate to various charities, particularly those helping needy children around the world. His company, Icon Productions now has offices worldwide and produces international films and television shows. Brought up by strictly Catholic parents, Gibson spent years of drinking, smoking, brawling, gambling and womanising before battling his addictions and the controversy surrounding his personal views and behaviour. He has, at times, voiced prejudiced, anti-Semitic and homophobic statements and been fined more than once for driving misdemeanours involving alcohol, yet he always manages to recover from these incidents.
On 28th July 2006 Gibson fell foul of the law in a return to his old drinking habits. After being pulled over for speeding and drunk driving on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California, he swore and made a number of sexist and anti-Semitic statements, one of which was, “F***ing Jews… Jews are responsible for all wars in the world.” He was arrested and charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence) with a blood alcohol level above California’s 0.08 legal limit. He was also cited for a vehicle code infraction for having an open bottle of Tequila in his car when he was stopped. The following day, he issued two formal apologies for his behaviour and his comments upon being arrested, specifically apologising to the Jewish community in the second one. On 17th August 2006, he pleaded guilty to his charges and was sentenced to three years on probation, his licence was restricted for 90 days and he was fined $1 300. The Superior Court Judge also ordered Gibson to attend regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and to enter a rehabilitation programme.
With such talent and potential to keep achieving in the world of entertainment, here’s hoping Gibson manages to conquer his addictions once and for all and that his desire to become more spiritual will help him through the process and eradicate the controversy that often clouds an otherwise bright and ambitious character.
After 26 years of marriage, Mel and Robyn Gibson separated on 29 July 2006. In a 2011 interview, Gibson revealed that the separation occurred the day after his drunk driving arrest.
In a joint statement, the couple said: "Throughout our marriage and separation we have always strived to maintain the privacy and integrity of our family and will continue to do so."
Robyn cited irreconcilable differences and filed for divorce on 13 April 2009 after the publication of Mel embracing Russian pianist Oksana Grigorieva on a beach.

The divorce was finalised on 23 December 2011, with the settlement reaching $400,000,000 - one of the largest in Hollywood history.

Gibson made his first red carpet appearance with Grigorieva on 28 April 2009 and she gave birth to their daughter Lucia on 30 October 2009. In April 2010, it was revealed the pair had split and each party took out a restraining order on the other.

He returned to film in 'The Edge of Darkness' as a homicide detective investigating his daughter's death in 2010.

Gibson starred alongside Jodie Foster, who also directed 'The Beaver' in 2011 as a troubled husband and executive who adopts a beaver hand puppet as his sole mean of communication.

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