Nationality: American. Born: Peekskill, New York, 3 January 1956. Education: Attended National Institute of Dramatic Art, 1977. Family: Married Robyn Moore, 1980, seven children. Career: Moved to Australia in 1968; member of the State Theatre of New South Wales, Sydney; 1977—film debut in Summer City; 1983—in stage production of Death of a Salesman, Sydney; 1993—directing debut with The Man without a Face. Awards: Best Actor, Australian Film Award, for Tim, 1979, and for Gallipoli, 1981; Best Director Academy Award, Best Picture Academy Award (as co-producer), and Golden Globe for Best Director, for Braveheart, 1995. Agent: Ed Limato, ICM, 8942 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, U.S.A.
Films as Actor:
Summer City (Fraser) (as Scollop)
Tim (Pate) (title role); Mad Max (George Miller) (title role)
Attack Force Z (Burstall) (as Captain Paul G. Kelly)
Gallipoli (Weir) (as Frank Dunne)
The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) (George Miller) (title role); The Year of Living Dangerously (Weir) (as Guy Hamilton)
The Bounty (Donaldson) (as Fletcher Christian); The River (Rydell) (as Tom Garvey); Mrs. Soffel (Dear Hearts) (Gillian Armstrong) (as Ed Biddle)
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Mad Max 3) (George Miller and George Ogilvie) (title role)
Lethal Weapon (Richard Donner) (as Martin Riggs)
Tequila Sunrise (Towne) (as Dale McKussic)
Lethal Weapon 2 (Richard Donner) (as Martin Riggs)
Bird on a Wire (Badham) (as Rick Jarmin); Hamlet (Zeffirelli) (title role); Air America (Spottiswoode) (as Gene Ryack)
Lethal Weapon 3 (Richard Donner) (as Martin Riggs); Forever Young (Miner) (as Daniel)
Earth and the American Dream (Couturie—doc) (as voice)
Maverick (Richard Donner) (title role)
Pocahontas (Gabriel and Goldberg—animation) (as voice of Captain John Smith); Casper (Silberling) (cameo)
Ransom (Ron Howard) (Tom Mullen)
Fairy Tale: A True Story (Sturridge) (as Frances' Father—uncredited); Father's Day (Reitman) (cameo); Conspiracy Theory (Donner) (as Jerry Fletcher)
Lethal Weapon 4 (Donner) (as Martin Riggs)
Forever Hollywood (Glassman and McCarthy) (as himself); Payback (Helgeland) (as Porter); The Million Dollar Hotel (Wenders) (Skinner)
Chicken Run (Lord I/Park) (as Rocky the Rooster); The Patriot (Emmerich) (as Colonel Benjamin "The Ghost" Martin); What Women Want (+ pr)
Films as Actor and Director:
The Man without a Face (as Justin McLeod)
Braveheart (as William Wallace, + co-pr)
Ordinary Decent Criminal (O'Sullivan) (pr); The Three Stooges (Franley) (exec. pr—for TV)
By GIBSON: articles—
Interview with M. Smith, in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), March 1983.
Interview with Lynn Hirschberg, in Rolling Stone (New York), 12 January 1989.
Interview with B. Hadleigh, in Film Monthly (Berkhamsted, England), January 1991.
"Thistle Do Nicely," interview with Graham Fuller, in Interview (New York), May 1995.
Interview with Lawrence Grobel, in Playboy (Chicago), July 1995.
"Mel Bent on Destruction," in Time Out (London), 29 January 1997.
On GIBSON: books—
Ragan, David, Mel Gibson, New York, 1985.
Hanrahan, John, Mel Gibson, St. Peters, New South Wales, 1986.
McKay, Keith, Mel Gibson, Garden City, New York, 1986.
Oram, James, Reluctant Star: The Mel Gibson Story, London, 1991.
Sinyard, Neil, Mel Gibson, New York, 1992.
Clarkson, Wensley, Mel: The Inside Story, London, 1993.
Perry, Roland, Lethal Hero: The Mel Gibson Biography, New York, 1993.
McCarty, John, The Films of Mel Gibson, 1997.
Carrick, Peter, Mel Gibson, Jersey City, 1999.
Noble, Sandy, Mel Gibson, Broomall, 1999.
On GIBSON: articles—
Alberge, D., "Mel Gibson," in Films and Filming (London), June 1983.
Current Biography 1984, New York, 1984.
Abramowitz, R., "Mad Mel," in Premiere (New York), September 1993.
Mills, Bart, "Mel Gibson: Still Growing Up," in Saturday Evening Post, November/December 1993.
Ebert, Roger, "Battle Scenes Stand Out in Gibson's Braveheart," in Denver Post, 21 May 1995.
Elrick, Ted, "Gibson, Radford Talk Shop," in DGA (Los Angeles), May/June 1996.
Radio Times (London), 4 May 1996.
Stars (Mariembourg), vol. 27, 1996.
Williamson, K., "Iconoclasts," in Boxoffice (Chicago), August 1997.
* * *
American-born, Australian-raised, Mel Gibson is a throwback to the chiseled-featured cinema gods of Hollywood's Golden Age. Like Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, and Robert Taylor, he is comfortable time-traveling through any historical period to save the downtrodden, but this hero-for-all-seasons is a more accomplished actor than any of his predecessors.
After crafting an uncluttered performance as a low IQ youth smitten with an older woman in Tim, Gibson reversed sensitivity gears in a series of macho Australian adventures that put him on the international movie public's map (the conventional military rescue mission in Attack Force Z, the antiwar soldier boy ode of Gallipoli, the apocalyptic survival guide of Mad Max). In the Mad Max sequel, The Road Warrior, Gibson finished construction on the earlier blueprint of his persona: the glowering man-of-action ready with a quip or a fist, as need be. But he savvily broadened his range in The Year of Living Dangerously to include a weakness for women and a streak of self-serving practicality. Looking every inch the packaged star whether behind the prow (The Bounty) or behind the plow (The River), Gibson floundered a bit from trying to fit generic heroic molds until he picked up a Lethal Weapon, charged by a newfound affinity for danger which tagged him as not only daring but reckless. When his outlaw restaurateur dreamily wooed Michelle Pfeiffer in atomic-powered charismatic splendor in Tequila Sunrise, audiences cheered a rarity who could be accepted as both action maven and matinee idol. Immensely likable, the quick-witted Gibson aimed his own secret weapon, those baby-blue eyes of his, to melt the defenses of Hollywood's reigning female stars, but the Lethal Weapon movies revealed something more distinctive than his sex appeal. Out Mad-Maxing Mad Max himself, megastar Gibson sailed past being a dependable righter-of-wrongs and became a rash vigilante who had an intuitive grasp of criminal minds. There but for the grace of God went his Martin Riggs, and that element of surprise (contemplating suicide is practically a hobby), lent these flicks a cutting black-comedy edge before the formula grew stale. As a maestro of drawing moviegoers into theaters, Gibson only misjudged his fans' tolerance levels with Air America, a no-brainer comedy about CIA smugglers.
More felicitously, his other crowd-pleasers mesh the character of the brawling loose cannon with the image of poetic connoisseur of women; it is unlikely any of Gibson's contemporaries could have stopped the frozen-in-time romance of Forever Young from becoming cloying. In addition to his smooth-as-velvet turn as a confidence man in Maverick in which he has to match wits with cardsharps James Garner and Jodie Foster while severely straining his imperturbability, Gibson offered irrefutable evidence that he was more than an extremely pretty face with a multidimensional Hamlet that should have won him an Oscar nomination. More than a case of just silencing dumbfounded critics by not tripping over the iambic pentameter, Gibson grasped the Prince of Denmark's moody intransigence fluctuating with angry impatience; Hamlet and Martin Riggs are soulmates.
Acclaimed also as debuting director for his male weepie, The Man without a Face, Gibson demonstrated a shrewdness for adding texture to his established image and a true gift for eliciting performances from his cast—even if the film itself was a case of "Mr. Chips Says Goodbye to the Beauty and the Beast." Even more worrisome than the thick sentimentality is a streak of homophobia which snaked through Man without a Face (and had earlier reared its ugly head in Bird on a Wire, in which Mel tosses off a cruel, dated impersonation of a hairdresser). In his incredibly popular Braveheart, the antigay rumblings get lost amidst the power-to-the-people sloganing. Gibson was applauded for starring in and directing this cloddish spectacular because it allegedly revived the Hollywood Epic, but any second-unit director can give you scope and panorama. Tediously surging with self-importance, Braveheart lets Mel do his double-dare-you dance in kilts, but as the extras' limbs keep getting lopped off, the film registers less as a historical chronicle than as a medieval slasher film. More noteworthy as an affable player than a moviemaker, Gibson should make certain his movie-star savoir faire is rationed in roles that do not reduce his gallantry to the swelled-headed heroics of a star hogging everything including the camera. And isn't it time to stop legitimizing the vanity of actors-turned-directors such as Gibson and Kevin Costner simply for not getting flustered when confronted with casts of thousands?