Mel against Gibson: portrait of the actor-director on the occasion of You will not kill, his immense film after ten years of absence.
France 3 will rebroadcast this evening You will not kill, a war film directed by Mel Gibson, and worn by Andrew Garfield. At its output, First had met its creator.
Interview of November 8, 2016: Mel Gibson has come a long way after the fall that almost destroyed his career ten years ago. In 2005, he was at the top, ranked fifteenth on the powerlist of the Premiere American of the fifty most influential figures in cinema. A decade earlier, when he was one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, he had decided to devote himself to directing, with overwhelming success: Braveheart had won him the two Oscars kings in 1995 (best director and best film) before in 2004, the delirious success of The passion of Christ does not cause (in addition to a controversy) the emergence of a new genre: the religious film (« faith movie » – literally « film from foi »), a vein that no one has been able to exploit with the same efficiency since.
At the time, Gibson did not accept the violence of certain criticisms directed against the gory outrageousness and the emotional excessiveness of the film. One evening in 2006, he was arrested for drunk driving and lost his mind. He drowned the police officer in a deluge of anti-Semitic insults which earned him a media lynching in order. He will apologize publicly on several occasions, undertake long-term rehab, and quietly work to right his wrongs. In 2010, when he seemed on the way to restore his image, the Gibson trajectory derailed again. His girlfriend uploads filthy recordings of their phone arguments, making him look like a dangerous maniac again. This time, nothing is going well. The Web is laughing, the press articles are merciless, the portrait (dependent) is complete. Not content with dragging a reputation as a madman for a sadomasochistic god and an anti-Semitic sociopath, he is portrayed as a sexist macho, capable of physically threatening the mother of his 8-month-old daughter. In Hollywood, studio bosses decide to boycott him, and let it be known. In less than five years, Gibson lost its credit, its reputation and, worse, its audience. Curtain ?
Thou shalt not kill, by Mel Gibson, is a very great movie [critique]
With the benefit of hindsight, the sanction seems heavy compared to his faults: words uttered in a daze, under the influence of alcohol or anger, while he was literally ” out of control “, to quote the title of his last star role before the fall (Martin Campbell, 2010). It is not a question here of finding extenuating circumstances for him, but of underlining an unstable personality, weakened by the permanent opposition of antagonistic forces. With him, opposites are inseparable: coarseness goes hand in hand with great delicacy, brutality with gentleness, darkness with seduction. In the early 2010s, then in turmoil, Gibson publicly admitted to having been diagnosed with manic depression. Basically, he never tried to hide this vulnerability. Throughout his career he has used it to nurture his roles, from Martin Riggs of The lethal Weapon, subject to outbursts of anger aggravated by alcoholism, until the ex-Hell’s Angels repented of Blood Father, released last summer. His new film You will not kill comes from the same process of laying bare, the same quest for Redemption. The film traces the exploits of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector decorated for having saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, without firing a single shot. It’s no surprise that Gibson was won over by this astonishing and paradoxical story. Between the “violent pacifist” Doss and the director, the meeting points are indeed legion. There is, of course, the theme of war (central in the work of the actor-director, of Galipoli To We were soldiers, Passing by Braveheart) and the weight of religion in their lives (Gibson is a devout Catholic, Doss was an Adventist, a doctrine attached to the principle of freedom of conscience while respecting public order). More intimate still, there is the notion of innate, hereditary violence. In the film, Doss becomes a conscientious objector to fight his own hateful impulses and break with the legacy of his father, a World War I soldier who drowns his PTSD in alcohol. Like Doss, Mel has had to deal with the controversial figure of his own father, Hutton Gibson, himself a veteran, writer who propagates revisionist and conspiratorial theses. Gibson finally shares with Doss a complex, almost painful relationship with notoriety and having to justify oneself in the face of others. Doss didn’t like to explain himself to those who criticized him for his uncompromising stance on guns, nor did he appreciate the prospect of having to put on a show after being decorated. Once the war was over, Hollywood studios approached him relentlessly – but unsuccessfully – for the rights to his story. He did not give in until the very end of his life (he died in 2006), on the advice of members of his congregation. A reserved attitude that struck Gibson by its value as an example, almost sacrificial.
Obviously, communication has always been a delicate exercise for the unpredictable Gibson, the constant threat of his slippage being heightened by the special circumstances of the promotion. He may have been used to it for many years, but he knows full well that he must remain alert and distant. In the past, several journalists have sought to exploit his hot temper to push him off limits. To preserve itself, it had to develop a number of rules and safeguards. At one time, one of these rules was inspired by “Drink or drive” : if he had been drinking, he preferred to shut up and let a “Designated speaker”, as we trust a “Designated driver” after an evening too drunk. Was it to avoid crossing the line that he took the precaution of speaking to Venice only in the presence ofAndrew Garfield ? In an interview, the duo extend the identification dynamic of the film, where the filmmaker seems to express himself through the Christ figure of Doss. The two men complement each other, finish each other’s sentences, play on their obvious complicity and their shared vision of the character. Some of the interviews take place in the form of round tables (between 6 and 8 journalists ask questions for about twenty minutes to the « talents » which pass from table to table). As always, Gibson is cautious, very factual, even if some of his jokes border on going off the road. After a discussion on the strengths “Superhuman” that would have inspired Doss with the ability to accomplish his exploits on the battlefield, a journalist asks him where he himself drew the energy to bring such a film to a successful conclusion. The answer is: « More drugs ! Better Drugs ! » (“No more drugs! Better meds! “). Then he smiles, before violently grinding his beard, explaining that he has indeed had to mobilize colossal efforts to follow through on his ideas, despite a modest budget and very tight deadlines.
“Something is going to happen”
Another moment on the wire comes when Gibson recounts that he had to spend a year in Australia for production needs and took the opportunity to reconnect with many of his high school friends. Laughing, he lets go that he spent his time apologizing to them. But about what? Mel Gibson: “You have to believe that I like it. See, I apologize to you around this table too, I don’t even know why … ” Andrew Garfield intervenes: “As a preventive measure, perhaps? “. Mel Gibson : “Something is going to happen …” He doesn’t think he can speak so well. The next afternoon, he will abruptly cancel all his interviews. First witness the incident live. Mel Gibson, still flanked by Andrew Garfield, appears in front of us for his first “two on one” of the day (two “talents” facing a journalist). The interview begins with questions related to the magazine’s 40th anniversary. Confronted with the cover of the issue on Braveheart, Twenty years ago, Mel Gibson tried unsuccessfully to remember the photographer’s name: “It was a funny picture to take. As if someone were looking at me in a door knob, because of the wide-angle lens … “ Things go wrong with the next question. What has marked him the most in his forty years of career and cinema? Reply : “Oh, man! I have a blank, I don’t remember anything. “ He offers to come back to it later, by releasing a limit valve for which he apologizes immediately, saying that in the state he is in, he has trouble getting past the stage of shit humor.
The temptation of Venice
The next question relates to the theme of the film (a soldier becomes famous by saving lives), which is the exact opposite of that ofAmerican Sniper (a soldier becomes famous by beating records of downed enemies). Gibson has seen the Eastwood movie but refuses to make the connection. Looking lost, he throws: “I can’t even think anymore. I am sorry. I haven’t slept for three days. I no longer have a brain. I am unable to answer. I’ll just sit there and have a glass of water. “ Garfield takes over, before realizing that: “Mel is gone. “ An assistant wants to be reassuring: “Don’t worry, he’s just taking a few steps to clear his head. ” Andrew Garfield : “Jet lag, you understand …” In fact, Mel Gibson returns and apologizes again: “Forgive me, my synapses have failed me. “ He sits down, closes his eyes and seems to doze off. Garfield continues on the innate violence of Doss and the part of his father that he is aware of carrying in him. As he searches for the name of this form of inheritance, Mel Gibson opens an eye to affirm in a sepulchral voice: “We call it ancestral Chi, the sum of everything that constitutes us”, a way of recalling his interest in a subject that he has obviously studied in depth. This will be his last intervention. A few minutes later, again called upon, he lays down his arms: “I am mentally drained. I want to, but I can’t. It’s as frustrating for me as it is for you. Very upsetbefore. I have nothing left except anger. ” Andrew Garfield will finish the interview for two.
Colossus with feet of clay
On leaving the Excelsior hotel, we stop to warn by text that the interview has been concealed. Below, Mel Gibson is just getting into a water taxi that will take him away from the festival, the press and the promotion of his film. He won’t come back. The other journalists who made the trip will be at their expense. All in all, the incident is typical of Mel Gibson, proverbial colossus with feet of clay, systematically overtaken by his own weaknesses. He said it just the day before, almost disarmingly: “The most difficult in life, and I experience it every day, it is to overcome its own fallible nature. We are full of faults and we must constantly work to combat them. That’s what impressed me the most about Desmond. “ As the Venice Film Festival kicked off the Oscar season and the prediction game that goes with it, everyone wondered if the Academy would be ready to forgive Gibson for his past escapades. In view of the exceptional quality of You will not kill, it is difficult to see how a certain number of major nominations could escape him. It will then remain to be seen whether he will regain the favor of the public, history to contradict Fitzgerald, who said that in America, there is no second chance.
Video: Mel Gibson filmmaker in three essential scenes
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Mel Gibson: “The hardest part in life is overcoming your own nature”