Remember way back when Mel Gibson was a legit movie star and Oscar winning director? Yeah, it’s been a while since the Australian bred actor was seen in good spirits with Hollywood, but the Oscar nominations announced on Tuesday have completely turned the tide.
For the first time since 1996, Gibson is headed to the Academy Awards as a nominee for directing Hacksaw Ridge. The film is also up for Best Picture among other awards, but the directing nomination officially completes the comeback trail for Gibson. The odds aren’t in Gibson’s favor, but win or lose, it’s a triumph for the 61 year old actor/director.
The road back hasn’t been easy for Gibson. He hasn’t headlined a mainstream film since 2010’s Edge of Darkness, and recently it’s direct to DVD clunkers like Blood Father and bad guy foreplay in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 3. Gibson hasn’t produced a hit since 2002’s Signs, and he’s starred in a handful of films since(The Beaver, Machete Kills, and Get Him To The Gringo among them).
Image and perception are big deals in Hollywood, and Gibson crippled his appeal with a vicious anti-semitic rant after being pulled over by police and an audio recording of him berating his girlfriend. Gibson has come clean and apologized a thousand different ways since then, but it wasn’t enough until he brought the remarkable story of Desmond Doss to movie fans.
Doss’ actions lie at the heart of Hacksaw Ridge; a tale about a soldier who wanted to preserve life instead of take it. The hardships of Doss mirror the struggles of Gibson to break his way back into the filmmaking business. Both had to convince the larger parties that their actions were pure and for a worthy cause. While Gibson didn’t headline the film as an actor, he did lay his signature touches of action bravado behind the camera all over the movie. As he showed in the Oscar winning film Braveheart, it’s all about the details in crafting an action sequence. Gibson placed the viewer in the trenches, but didn’t forget to lay the foundations of Doss’ story first. It’s a compelling and visceral experience.
Here’s what I think about Gibson, Hollywood, and his past. It’s important to judge an artist on their work, and not their personal life. What Gibson engages in or believes in off the screen is of little importance to me. It’s his work on film that I have come to admire and love. That’s the way an actor should be perceived. What can he do on camera? Does he still got what it takes? Hacksaw Ridge proved that Gibson has plenty left in the tank.
He may not win the Best Director Oscar on February 26th, but the nomination seals the deal that he is indeed back in the good graces of Hollywood and can still make a great movie.