After 30 years, the fourth instalment of Max Max has wowed audiences and critics alike. But we can’t help feel sad for Mel Gibson who is missing out on all the glory. And he has no one to blame but himself.
Fury Road was due to be made in 2001 but the terrorist attacks in New York and subsequent crash of the US dollar made shooting the film in Australia too costly. When director George Miller returned to the project in 2006, he still had his original leading man in mind. However Mel’s life at this time was what Miller described as “turbulent” and most would call a train-wreck.
Mel was arrested for drink driving – he has struggled with alcohol since age 13 – then abused one of his arresting officers, asking him if he was Jewish and shouting “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world”.
The actor described the incident as an “insane moment”, a climactic symptom of the breakdown of his 26-year marriage to Robyn Gibson. Over the next five years, Mel made headlines not for his talent or philanthropic work but for racism, sexism and anti-Semitism in his film The Passion of the Christ. Then there was the historic $400 million divorce settlement with his ex-wife and romantic entanglement with Russian pianist Oksana Grigorieva, which ended with Mel pleading no contest to a misdemeanour charge of battering his girlfriend. He also revealed during this period he suffers from bipolar disorder.
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By 2011, Mel was considered too old to play Max Rockatansky for the fourth time, and Miller sought out British actor Tom Hardy who by all accounts has done the role justice.
After he was cast in the role, Hardy invited Mel to lunch and the pair “talked about everything other than Mad Max”. “It was a bloody good conversation,” Hardy told Los Angeles Daily News, but he assumed Mel wasn’t so keen on someone taking his signature role. “Then my agent called and said Mel rang up to say that you’re a good egg and that he’s met somebody more crazy than he is”.
Despite his drinking and the difficult decade he’s been through, Mel Gibson has always been known for his professionalism and is well respected in the film industry. He has reached out far and wide asking for forgiveness for his behaviour and served three years probation for the drunk and disorderly charges, plus community service and a year of counselling for the alleged battery.
George Miller told AAP, “Like a lot of people, I feel he is an adorable guy. But, with all that stuff coming out [from 2006], it was hard to watch. Deep down, he is a really good man. The stuff he does — like charity work, anonymously”.
It must have been hard for Mel, at 59, to look into the face of his replacement and let go, but (so far) he has been gracious about the situation, making a surprise appearance at the Hollywood premiere earlier this week. He is is due to start shooting the $45 million World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge at the Gold Coast later this year.
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Do you feel Mel is missing out on the glory that should have been his? Or is he taking a nap in a bed he made for himself?