Following an absence that didn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder, Mel Gibson returns to movie theaters January 29 with his first major film role in seven years — but only after an ugly dustup over a 2006 outburst of antisemitism.
In a January 19 interview with Los Angeles TV station KTLA, the tarnished “Lethal Weapon” star turned nasty with reporter Sam Rubin, who suggested that some moviegoers might be reluctant to welcome back the actor. “Why?” Gibson responded, suddenly wide-eyed and leaning forward in his chair.
When Rubin mentioned “remarks that were attributed to you” — Gibson’s 2006 declaration during a drunken-driving arrest that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” — the actor responded testily, “I gather you have a dog in this fight.”
Gibson also appeared to deny the 2006 comments, for which he publicly apologized at the time, describing them as “remarks that I didn’t necessarily make.”
The interview provided the touchiest moment in Gibson’s ongoing efforts to resurrect his acting career, nearly dormant since his last leading role in 2003’s “The Singing Detective.” The actor earned a fortune — but also became a lightning rod for criticism — with his 2004 directorial effort, “The Passion of the Christ,” which opponents said revived church accusations of deicide against Jews.
Gibson’s box-office viability will be put to the test by “Edge of Darkness,” a new film that revisits themes from several of the actor’s biggest hits. A revenge drama that stars Gibson as a cop who is hunting his daughter’s killer, the film features a low-wattage supporting cast, but was co-written by William Monahan, an Oscar winner for 2006’s “The Departed.” Martin Campbell, who helmed two James Bond movies, is the director.
Acknowledging his new film’s uncertain fate at the box office, Gibson sounded a defiant note in his interview with Rubin. “Well, I’m back, and I hope it works out,” he told the reporter pointedly, “and I hope people will graciously accept me back.”