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The Turbulent Career of Mel Gibson

VO: Rebecca Brayton
He was once the one of most celebrated actors in Hollywood. However, he went from People Magazine's Sexiest Man of All Time, to the most controversial Hollywood celebrity following his leap into the directors chair for his personal project The Passion of The Christ. And despite his high profile and Oscar Award-winning career, he has been cursed with an alcohol addiction and self-destructive behavior that would lead to loosing favor with the entertainment industry and movie-going public. Join us at as we take a look at the turbulent career of Mel Gibson and his return to acting.

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Mel Gibson Profile

He was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars before becoming the center of enormous controversy. Welcome to, and today we’ll be taking a look at the career of Hollywood actor and director Mel Gibson.

Mel Gibson was born on January 3rd, 1956 in Peekskill, New York before his family moved to Sidney, Australia when he was just 12 years old. In his youth, he contemplated joining the priesthood or studying journalism. However, he settled on a job at an orange juice bottling plant. Fortunately, his sister took it upon herself to enroll him at the institute of Dramatic Arts due to his hidden talent for doing impersonations and ability to produce realistic accents.

Upon completing his training, Gibson worked on several Australian stage plays and media productions. However, he achieved instant mainstream and international fame with the release of 1979’s dystopian action film “Mad Max”.

As a result, he was cast as the lead in the critically acclaimed World War I film “Gallipoli”, which earned him a best actor award from the Australian Film institute and cemented his reputation as a serious and versatile performer. It also was the performance that got him in touch with a Hollywood casting-agent.

In 1984, Gibson starred opposite Anthony Hopkins in “The Bounty”, a film shot off an island near Tahiti. During filming the cast engaged in serious drinking sessions. This caused him to return to his family with an addiction to alcohol, which he would never seem to be able to shake, and following a DUI charge he would later enter into an assistance program.

Despite his personal troubles, his Hollywood career was taking off with his quick adoption of an American Accent, which he introduced in “The River”, a drama in which he co-starred alongside Sissy Spacek as struggling Tennessee farmers.

Gibson simultaneously saw huge success with his two sequels to Mad Max, with 1985’s “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” causing his salary to soar to the million dollar mark, while earning him the title of sexiest man alive by People Magazine. And despite the popularity of the role, it turned out that the part that would forever cement Gibson as an American Hollywood star was that of the loose canon Martin Riggs in 1989’s “Lethal Weapon”, a popular role that he would revisit three more times during his career.

Throughout the 90’s Gibson remained a compelling force at the box office with a string of hits including, “Air America”, “Bird on A Wire”, “Forever Young”, “Maverick”, “Ransom”, “Conspiracy Theory”, and even as the bad guy in “Pay Back”.

However, his biggest accomplishment of the decade came about as the result of his directorial debut in 1993’s “The Man Without a Face”, as the project led to Gibson forming his own production company called ICON; which he used to produce, star and direct his 1995 epic, “BraveHeart”. The film earned several Oscars, including that of best director and best picture and made Mel Gibson Hollywood’s biggest star. His star power would comfortably carry him into the new millennium, with all three of his films in 2000 grossing over 100 million dollars. These box-office draws consisted of the American Revolutionary War Epic “The Patriot”, the offbeat romantic comedy “What Women Want” and as the charming voiceover of Rocky, in the stop-motion animated feature “Chicken Run”.

Ironically, shortly following his overwhelming box office success in M. Night Shyamalan’’s “Signs”, in which he played a priest who had lost his faith. Mel Gibson became the subject of intense controversy with the release of his deeply personal religious project, “The Passion of The Christ” in 2004. The result was a public and Hollywood uproar over the perception that the film was anti-semitic. Remarkably, the controversy became a powerful marketing tool and the film set a new record for pre-sales and became the number one film in America, taking in 850 million dollars. As a result Gibson suddenly found himself to be the richest actor in the world.

Taking a break from acting, Gibson’s follow-up project again landed him in the director’s chair for “Apocalypto”, an epic set at the end of the Mayan civilization. Unflinchingly, it became a hit despite coinciding with media coverage of Gibson's second arrest for impaired driving and further anti-semitic backlash following his drunken remarks to a police officer.

This heavily covered incident has since become considered one of several black spots on his career, and would only be followed by the shocking break up with his wife of 28 years and the pregnancy of his Russian mistress. Despite his battered public image and new focus on directing, Mel Gibson has returned to acting in the film adaptation of the BBC television series “Edge of Darkness”, in which he plays the role of a detective investigating the death of his own daughter. This marks his first starring role in eight years, and new focus on rekindling his former Hollywood status.

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