Felicitous tidings. Mel Gibson is back – and he’s Australian again! I know. So much to take in. Let’s begin with what we can be sure of, which is that, despite being US-born, Sydney-raised Mel was for many years one of Australia’s six celebrities, all of whom are routinely referred to by their first names only. Nicole, Cate, Hugh, and so on. Back in 2006, however, an incident we shall refer to as The Unpleasantness caused Mel to be cast from this firmament, and be considered wholly American by a country unwilling to be represented in Hollywood by a man who claimed: “Fucking Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Those comments, you’ll recall, were made to an LA cop, who – along with his partner, Officer Sugartits – opted to pull Mel over for erratic driving and subject him to a breathalyser test.
Anyway, that was then. As a tweet from deputy New South Wales premier Troy Grant now puts it: “Welcome back Mel Gibson. New movie Hacksaw Ridge to be filmed in NSW bringing 720 jobs and $26 million.” And an estimated 637 tonnes of unfortunate baggage. Still, a movie! (Incidentally, I don’t know much about Troy – or indeed Australian parliamentary rules on secondary earnings – but hisTwitter profile picture suggests he’s just two teeth-whitening treatments shy of cleaning up as a Walter Palmer lookalike once the Cecil story moves into its ironist phase.)
In all sooth, Mel’s return to the director’s chair was never in doubt, despite all the naifs who declared – in the wake of The Unpleasantness and Mel’s subsequent turn in some vicious voicemail rants and a misdemeanour battery case – that he’d never work again. People’s faith in the movie industry is so touching, if a massively underfunded mental-health time bomb.
Of course, there were those who just refused to move on, but last year Mel usedan interview to declare himself done with them.
“It’s an eight-year-old story,” he said. “It keeps coming up like a rerun.” A phrasing that casts the episode as the same sort of quaint period piece as Mel’s 80s mullet, as opposed to the unguarded thoughts of a well-known religious hardliner whose father is a Holocaust denier.
“All the necessary mea culpas have been made copious times,” reasoned Mel, with the air of a man who’s so over faking epistolary contrition to any number of the aforementioned “fucking Jews”. “So for this question to keep coming up, it’s kind of like … I’m sorry they feel that way, but I’ve done what I need to do.”
Now let that be an end to it.
Instead, let’s hear more about this second world war movie he’s making. Clearly, there are aspects of what we might term the World War II story that would appeal to Mel, but who knew it would be the tale of Seventh-Day Adventist Desmond Doss, the conscientious objector who was eventually awarded the congressional medal of honour by Harry Truman? A misunderstood religious loner who declined to fight Hitler … but no. Let us draw a veil over surmise. Hacksaw Ridge promises to be so much more than yet another thinly veiled Mel Gibson analogue (I have to say my favourite was the Jesus one, which now surely deserves its Second Coming sequel).
Actors signed on for the movie include bonkers libertarian Vince Vaughn (fair enough), fellow Aussie celebrity Sam Worthington (fair dinkum), and our own Andrew Garfield (fairly disappointing). Meanwhile, Mel has been hired as creative adviser on a 3D Chinese epic called The Bombing, also set during the second world war. “Mel is interested in what happened during that period of time, and provided relevant suggestions on how to make the movie,” its director told Variety a couple of weeks ago. “He is very insightful.”
So there you have it. He’s back – if, indeed, he ever really went away. All hail the new Mel Gibson: in demand, indispensable to the New South Wales economy, and impeccably cast as the international movie industry’s leading second world war historian.