It’s been almost 8 years since Mel Gibson has headlined a major film, and he’s gearing up to make a return in this weekend’s, Edge of Darkness. The film is directed by Martin Campbell with a screenplay by Oscar winning writer William Monahan (The Departed). It centers on a father seeking revenge for his murdered daughter who’s willing to do whatever it takes to make her killers pay.
It’s been a while since Gibson has talked to the press about a film that he’s actually acting in, which means we had to play a game of catch up. He discussed his latest role in Darkness, but also gave up the juice on his upcoming film The Beaver, and that rumored Leonardo DiCaprio Viking epic. Even though it’s been a long time coming, after over 30 years in the business Gibson has grown personally, professionally, and is ready to move on…
As we previously stated, Gibson’s return to the big screen has been years in the making. We asked him if he was nervous about getting back into the game, or was it business as usual when he stepped in front of the camera.
Mel Gibson: Well a little bit. I remember Martin had to tell me to tone it down a couple of times because you forget levels and stuff. It’s like sort of dialing in levels and stuff so, you know, after that it was pretty natural. I mean you don’t do something for 30 years and forget it. So you know, it felt all right. It felt better, actually.
Did you feel the juices were back? Was it easy to get back into the groove again?
MG: Yeah, pretty much, yeah, and that was something that an old, well not so wise, not so old, guy told me once. You know, go away, dig a hole, do something else, come back and then magically it rejuvenates your creative impulses and stuff. He’s right, I think. I cannot qualify how exactly, but I know that something happened, just nothing better than a vacation sometimes, you know?
What attracted you to the character Tom Craven in Edge of Darkness? What was the most challenging moment for you during filming?
MG: Boy, challenging, well look, every time you go out there to do something you wonder if you can do it. But, you know, there’s no assured success. There’s no assured– there’s no secret recipe for success. Every time you go out there, you go out there with a possibility of great failure and the whole business of putting your wears on display whether you’re a chef or an opera director or a painter or an actor or whatever, a filmmaker, whatever you happen to be. You’re throwing your stuff out there for other people and it’s going to be judged and you’re either going to be excoriated or praised or somewhere in between or both. The whole gig is a challenge.
Why do you find yourself playing so many characters who’ve lost family and are fighting for justice?
MG: Well there’s a lot of anger around, you know? I think that’s a very old theme, in a lot of stories. I mean, look at Beowulf. I mean, Martin and I talked about this, it reminded us of a Jacobean tragedy from the 17the century in almost every way, you know, by one of those guys like The Duchess. I can’t remember but they were all written by English guys about the Italians. But it was all a Brit story, you know. It was like, ‘look at how revengeful!’, all talking about the other guy. So that sort of reminded me, like, everybody gets it, even the dog. Even the dog gets it, you know. So I don’t know; it’s an old theme and its part of most hero myths. Something sets the spheres wrong and somebody has to right it. It’s a big theme.
I was wondering if you watched the original BBC miniseries from which the film was based, because your performance is quite similar to Bob Peck’s.
MG: It was– well that’s interesting because I watched back in the 80’s avidly, and it was some of the best TV I’d ever seen. And in British television at that time it was great. We’ve all talked about that but I made a point to not watch it, you know, because I didn’t want it to be a part of that. But if you’re saying my performance was anything like what Bob Peck did, I’m flattered, you know, because I think he was amazing, you know?
You’ve been on the edge many times in your career, are you fighting to find new projects? Do you think your past troubles make you better?
MG: Well, all experiences are– what does not kill you makes you stronger and tougher. I think life’s experiences whether they be pleasant, unpleasant, torturous or excruciatingly wonderful, you learn from them. And isn’t that what it’s about? I mean that’s, like, all I’m trying to do now is put some information on a ship that I can leave to my progeny and maybe they can do a better job than I can in this crazy spinning piece of dirt in the future.
In the midst of a long acting career, how did you learn to direct and can you dial it back and take direction when you’re playing a character?
MG: Well, you know, how do you learn to direct? You hang around the hub and watch what’s gong on and ask a bunch of questions and then you’re there for the inception of an idea. You’re there to see it executed, you’re there to doubt it. You’re there to see if they pull it off or not, and you’re there to share the fruits of victory or failure. So it’s like, ‘wow!’ It’s like a big science experiment for 30 years. So how can you not pick it up?
I don’t think you can ever kind of totally let go of it. You can pull back on it and not be too forceful. I hope I wasn’t too hard on Martin here. I don’t think I was. But occasionally I’d say, ‘Look dude, why don’t we, you know,’ and I’d get an idea or something and you know what, a good director, if it’s a good idea, and I’ve noticed this, people come to my table when I’m directing and they get good ideas and I say, ‘That’s a goddamn good idea. Can I steal that?’ And they go, ‘Yes please.’ And you go, ‘Okay, I’ll take it.’ And he actually did swipe one of my ideas and that’s the earmark of a good director. When he sees a good idea and he takes it.
You said yourself that you’ve learned a lot over the past 30 years, what else do you want to accomplish in your career?
MG: I’m working with Graham [King,producer] here on “The Viking” movie. You want to hear the very first idea I ever had about making a film? When I was 16 years old, I wanted to make a Viking movie and I wanted to make it in old Norse, which I was studying at the time, and it was odd because at that age you’re like, ‘Well, that’s a stupidly ridiculous idea. How will I ever be a filmmaker. That’s a dumb idea.’ It’s some kind of romantic pipe dream but that was the first big, epic, wacky idea I ever had. It was to show Vikings real.
Does that mean that the Viking movie will be in English or in Old Norse?
MG: I think it’s gonna be in English, the English that would have been spoken back then, and Old Norse. Now whatever the 9th century had to offer, I’m gonna give it to you real man.
Is it very important to you that they’re portrayed as realistically as possible?
MG: Yeah, I want a Viking to scare you. I don’t want a Viking to say, “I’m gonna die with a sword in my hand.” I don’t want to hear that, it pulls the rug out from under you. I want to scare. I want to see somebody who I’ve never seen before speak in low guttural German who scares the living shit out of me coming up to my house, okay. What is that like? What would that have been like?
How hard is that going to be to cast, aside from Leonardo DiCaprio?
MG: Oh no, he’d be amazing. He’d be amazing. He’s a great actor this kid, huh? There will be a few Vikings out there; I’ll just get my family. Hey, nephews and…
Another movie you’re working on is The Beaver with Jodie Foster, how would you describe that film?
MG: The Beaver, yeah it’s– as the title suggests, it’s about a man who’s clinically depressed and the way that he, somehow or the other finds himself with a ratty beaver hand puppet on his arm. He can’t even kill himself properly but he ends up with a beaver puppet talking and he manages to kind of save himself and his life and his family and everything by expressing himself through this hand puppet because that’s all he can do. He’s too far gone, he’s too broken.
You mentioned earlier that you took a vacation to kind of a recharge. Was there a point during that period where you considered not coming back?
MG: Yeah, of course, yeah, probably further toward the beginning and as time went on, you think, yeah maybe I should try that again, you don’t know. That’s why I didn’t make some big announcement, you know: I’m quitting, I’m retiring. I didn’t want to do that but I just thought I’d back away for a while.
Was that because you were discouraged or were you just tired?
MG: Just tired and bored with it, you know? I’ve done that a couple of times. I’ve just walked away and spent a year not doing it or doing something else and I think it’s a natural thing. As soon as something starts getting a little tedious and you want to sort of spice it up again, you kind of have to change it up somehow.
Did you learn anything exciting while you were away from the industry about yourself, or life in general?
MG: Well, I didn’t really get away from the industry. I learned a lot about the industry. I learned about writing. From conception, to writing, to bringing that to the screen, to sort of mounting a film to producing it to directing it. Actually single handedly marketing and distributing and doing everything except exhibition, and I think I did it. I just bought a bunch of theaters in Australia called the Dendy Chain, so I’m an exhibitor as well.
So in the end, what made you return to acting?
MG: It was just time, I don’t know. I just felt like doing it. It was my first love. I used to love doing it and if there’s tarnish on it and the glow wears off, you kind of walk away for awhile and when it’s time to come back, you come back.
Edge of Darkness debuts in theaters nationwide on January 29, 2010.