MOTW: Mel Gibson: A Life in Words

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
February 7th, 2013

MOTW: Mel Gibson: A Life in Words

Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson was born on Jan. 3, 1956, in Peekskill, New York, though he is known as an Australian actor by many. This is because his father Hutton, a brakeman on a railroad, injured himself on the job and won a big settlement from the company he worked for. Hutton packed up wife Ann and their children and moved to Sydney, Australia, where the family would settle when Gibson was twelve years old.

After moving to Sydney, Gibson would attend St. Leo's Catholic College during his high school years. His parents, who were very religious, insisted that he attend a Catholic school and get a good education. They probably wouldn't guess that attending St. Leo's would lead Gibson to show an interest in acting. He became so interested, in fact, that upon graduation, he enrolled at the National Institute of Dramatic Art, where one of his classmates was Judy Davis, with whom would go on to have a very successful career in both Australia and abroad.

After studying acting there, he began to fine-tune his craft on the stage in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" alongside Davis in 1976. He would go on to perform in several more stage plays, some of which were also Shakespeare adaptations. Years later in 1990, he would show his command of the Bard's tales by starring in a screen version of "Hamlet" that would become one of the most famous adaptations of the legendary tale to ever be produced. By then, he was such a bankable international movie star that it helped introduce the tale of the tragic Danish prince to a whole new audience.

Gibson initially took the leap from stage to movies by starring in some locally produced films, including "Mad Max" in 1979. The futuristic action thriller would introduce him to a wider audience and make him a household name in Australia. He followed it up with a few television guest appearances and smaller films, which led up to "The Road Warrior" in 1981. This sequel to "Mad Max" was an international hit that restarted Gibson's somewhat stalled career. While all this was happening, Gibson quietly married his girlfriend Robyn Moore in 1980. The two met while they were both tenants in a home in Adelaide as they tried to launch their respective careers. By the time "The Road Warrior" was released, the couple already had their first child, a daughter named Hannah.

The Gibsons would go on to have five more children in the next ten years as Mel's career continued to soar. In 1982, he starred in "The Year of Living Dangerously," followed by "The River" two years later. The third film in the Mad Max trilogy, "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" costarring Tina Turner, was released the same year. In 1987, "Lethal Weapon" would make Gibson a household name across the globe because of its successful buddy cop comedy formula that mixed action and laughs in equal measure. To this day, it is considered groundbreaking because it was the first film of its kind to combine comedy and action and still be successful. It was such a hit that it spawned three sequels that were also big box office performers.

"Lethal Weapon" not only strengthened Gibson's already flourishing career, but it also gave him clout that allowed him to make several films that may not have otherwise gotten made. One of those films was "Hamlet," "The Man Without a Face," and "Forever Young." Gibson wanted to make these films because he felt the need to prove that he could take on dramatic roles, something he hadn't been offered in quite some time. The success of the "Lethal Weapon" films was a double-edged sword in some ways, because it ensured that he would only get offered more action roles. Since he could make nearly any film he wanted, he chose drama to prove his range as an actor.

Later in life, some of Gibson's accomplishments as an actor would become tarnished by personal troubles that become very public. In December 1991, he made comments to a Spanish newspaper that were deemed homophobic, which he wouldn't show remorse for until several years later. His star was barely tarnished by the incident, but his reputation took a further battering in 2004 when some saw his controversial film "The Passion of the Christ" as being anti-Semitic. Not long after, he would separate from wife Robyn, though their divorce was not finalized until 2011.

In 2006, Gibson was pulled over for erratic driving in Los Angeles, an incident that would later become infamous. He was recorded making racial and ethnic slurs, which he later apologized for. He would enter rehab and try to make amends, but the damage was done. Since then, he has also been recorded making more racial comments to his ex-girlfriend on her voicemail. The man who could once get nearly any movie made suddenly found himself with few people wanting to cast him in films. Luckily, he did make some very close friends in the industry, including Jodie Foster, who would cast in "The Beaver" in 2011. Since then, the roles have been few and far between, but he has made a few very public appearances that may just help him regain some of his past status as a movie superstar.