It could have been Mel Gibson’s week – well, in a sense it was, but probably not exactly in the way he envisioned.
Gibson had been set for a cameo in “The Hangover 2” until the cast reportedly revolted against his involvement. So the much-ballyhooed Hollywood premiere of the apparent sure-fire hit went off without him Thursday. Meanwhile, Gibson made his first major public appearance in months Tuesday, with a low-key stroll down the red carpet at Cannes, alongside pal Jodie Foster, to tout their movie “The Beaver.”
But any triumph was short-lived: The next day, director Lars von Trier scandalized Cannes with moronic “jokes” calling himself a Nazi and praising Hitler – and then defended himself, in part, by declaring, “I’m not Mel Gibson.”
The media once again invoked sullied star’s sordid saga late last week as Arnold Schwarzenegger put his own entertainment return on hold amid his lovechild scandal.
With Charlie Sheen seemingly exhausting his run as a punchline (even if we got a kick out of Jimmy Fallon’s latest video takeoff), Gibson remains pop culture’s measuring stick for celebrity disgrace and career self-destruction.
Sheen, who briefly threatened to overthrow Gibson as the reigning symbol of celebrity run amok, found himself on the road to a different kind of irrelevancy after being replaced – on “Two and a Half Men” – by Ashton Kutcher. Gibson’s name turned up seemingly everywhere last week – though not, as he might have liked, in conjunction with the word “comeback.”
Let’s be clear: we’re not defending or feeling sorry for Gibson, but rather observing that the context in which he arises these days suggests he’s in a career mire from which he might never escape. Perhaps that speaks to the power of those hateful audio-taped tirades, which stick with us in a way that mere written and second-hand descriptions of appalling behavior don’t.
Despite some good notices, “The Beaver” – a seriocomic film about a middle-aged man’s meltdown – hasn't cracked $600,000 at the box office since it went into limited release May 6. The potential success for “The Hangover 2” is as clear as the Mike Tyson-like tattoo on Ed Helm’s face.
Thanks to von Trier, Gibson couldn’t find refuge from his disgrace even in film-star friendly France, where scandal is scoffed at and pictures showing powerful sex assault suspects in handcuffs offend some sensibilities.
In France, “The Hangover 2” is called “Very Bad Trip 2” – which, even if he doesn’t appear in the film, seems an appropriate title for the ongoing journey facing Gibson, who may never find his way back from the road to Hell he paved for himself.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.