Maybe it was the fact that my twin girls O and Ro woke up chattering and partying at 5 a.m. (The entire fam fell back asleep by 6:30–I did not. But the bath tub’s clean due to my insomnia. Score?!) Or maybe it was the fact that as a celeb blogger I feel some major remorse for covering his personal woes of the past year. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve been a huge fan of his work for as long as I can remember. Regardless, I was moved to tears (for longer than I care to admit) over a news story that’s been running today on Mel Gibson and his friend Robert Downey, Jr.
Last night in Los Angeles, Downey, Jr. received the American Cinematheque Award amidst his peers. He requested that his friend and colleague Gibson be the one to present him with the award. It would seem that Downey, Jr. not only has a white hot career, but also a soft spot for a fellow actor/addict.
Both actors have quite publicly struggled with substance abuse. In case you were wondering how Downey, Jr. got a second chance when no one was hiring him as he was uninsurable a la Lindsay Lohan, it was in fact Oscar-winning actor/director Gibson who gave him that opportunity, paying his insurance to appear in the film “The Singing Detective,” a Gibson-directed project. Incidentally, the role had been developed for Gibson himself, but he chose to give it Downey, Jr. instead. And so we have the second act of the “Iron Man” actor’s career.
According to Entertainment Weekly, on stage at the ceremony, Gibson said of his decision to work with Downey, Jr. when everyone else had written him off, “You are my friend. When I saw you all those years ago and got all those warnings, I just thought, ‘There’s nothing so much wrong with him. You’re a good dude with a good heart.’”
Here’s the part that’s got me all mushy: Downey, Jr. is now paying it back around to his blacklisted friend. Upon receiving his award from the mastermind behind “Braveheart” and “Passion of the Christ,” Downey, Jr. said, “When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.”
The result is plain to see; Downey, Jr. is once again beloved by both Hollywood industry types and the audiences who pay to see all of his well-received films. He added at the ceremony, “I did and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume at the time he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight. So anyway on this special occasion and in light of the recent holidays including Columbus Day, I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong f—ing industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.”
Love that–”hugging a cactus.” And I’ve wondered about Gibson so much over the last several months, especially after watching him in the Jodie Foster-directed “The Beaver,” a hauntingly touching film about a husband, father, and successful toy executive dealing with severe depression. Parallels abound throughout the film. Yes, I have found–and still find–his anti-Semitic rants disgusting. Yes, he did rough up his girlfriend (to what degree, who knows?), but I’m challenged by the idea of forgiving him–as if I know him personally. In the court of public opinion, which all celebrities enter into, Gibson has been tried and found guilty many times over, a fallen and broken man.
The truth is, I miss his work. I really do. I’m grossed out by some of his public behavior, but I wonder where his career would be today had he not “messed up” so hugely. But shame on me for judging Gibson so harshly. I shudder to think what people would think of me should the spotlight fall directly on my vat of shortcomings and missteps (especially should I struggle with addiction). The way I can hurt people. The thoughts I can have. I am so, SO far from perfect.
What I’m confessing now is that I really, really, really want Mel back. Is it too soon? Does it mean there’s something irrevocably wrong with me for “forgiving” him his racist rants, for being willing to pay to see his work again? I mean, Tracy Morgan made some super off-color homosexual comments right here in my hometown of Nashville (at the Ryman!), and I’m still tuning in to “30 Rock”–anyone else?
I doubt Gibson needs my forgiveness to get on with his life, but I wonder what it says about me if I can’t give it to him. I talk about faith and redemption and how I desperately need them both. Just because I’ll never meet Gibson doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be willing to offer them to him.
What do you think? Should Gibson get a second chance? Would you pay to see his work again? Or am I simply a sleep-deprived mother of twin toddlers? I’d honestly like to know what you think.
Photo: Entertainment Weekly