Mel Gibson on Hollywood, Independent Filmmaking, Sharks, Vikings and Gary Oldman

Mel Gibson was at the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival Friday to receive the Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema. He also went on stage before an open-air screening of “Mad Max,” attended by more than 3,000 screaming fans. (Watch his cell-phone video clip from the night, above). Variety spoke to him there about Hollywood, independent filmmaking, sharks, Vikings… and Gary Oldman.

Do you find it more challenging nowadays in the public eye with everyone having a camera or something that can record?

Of course. It’s not like it used to be. You have to presume that everything you say and do is recorded, and I do.

What piece of advice would you give young filmmakers and actors starting out in Karlovy Vary that would allow them to have not just a long career, but also a satisfying one?

A lot of people used to try… this happens with actors and directors… They come to Los Angeles, and they believe it to be this kind of Mecca of filmmaking, and I think it used to be, but I don’t think it is anymore.

I think it’s wherever the inspiration is. It’s wherever it’s going to… it’s a homegrown thing. You got a better chance of making a world-breaking phenomenal story here in Karlovy if you are local and you understand it than you will have travelling to the West Coast of America. Nothing much is happening there now.

You’ve just made “Blood Father” by the French director Jean-Francois Richet, produced by Paris-based company Why Not Productions, and backed by French film company Wild Bunch? Is it refreshing to work outside the Hollywood system with international companies and filmmakers?

It’s fun. I like it and their enthusiasm. And they are very frugal because they have to be, because they haven’t got that Hollywood backing; they don’t have that support. So they have to be able to go in like robber’s dogs and extract a piece of gold somehow with minimal effort… not minimal effort, believe me there’s a lot of hard work involved, but they have to be able to do it quick, is what I’m saying, and I like that. And of course I’ve worked like that before anyway on big productions which I’ve financed myself like “The Passion” and “Apocalypto.” These are independent productions. So it is kind of fun to have that sort of freedom.

You have a stake in the production company Icon Productions. Do you still like to invest in other people’s films?

It’s not like it was. It’s scaled down a bit. We used to have branches everywhere… in Europe and… It’s downsized a great deal so it’s not as prolific as it once was but it’s not dead either. I’ve still got Icon, and if I see something that is really cool and worthwhile doing, and cost effective…

Like the other independents, I’m not in there to get burned. But it’s becoming more difficult, put it that way, for everybody.

What is it that makes it difficult for you?

It’s just the way things are. There’s been a big shift in the way things used to be. I mean, there aren’t as many films being done at the studios, and they tend to gravitate toward the big blockbustery things with pyrotechnics and stuff like that, which is valid. They are entertaining.

I think stories of more substance are not as sought-after or fostered as much. And of course those things are left largely to the independent filmmakers. For the independent filmmakers, traditionally, it’s been more difficult to get distribution, and to get back what you put in. It’s just more difficult. And there are a lot of gatekeepers along the way.

It’s like anything. There are a lot more hurdles to overcome. You are going to get robbed and raped and beaten. It’s just part of the game. There are a lot of sharks in the water. But even something that you finance yourself, and it’s independent, and you go out and you make deals with the distributor, or you are the distributor and you make deals with the exhibitor, and all this kind of stuff. Even then, at the end of the day, you feel like “The Old Man and the Sea” with Ernest Hemingway, where he catches a big fish and by the time he gets it into shore it’s just a head, because all the sharks were in there biting the hell out of it.

It’s the way it is, man. And you’re lucky if you can make a living at it.

I read that you were interested in making a film set in the Viking era. I went to the Viking exhibition in London recently, so it caught my eye. Are you still interested in doing something?

I love that era. I love it. I love it. I love it. And Vikings are historically not very sympathetic characters. I mean, they are really just a bunch of brigands. You’re probably from that stock too.

Yes, you can trace your genes… they’ve done those tests…

Yeah, you can, and I’ve done that too. I’m definitely from that area, so I had some great ancestor named Bjorn who was probably coming to your town and making a monster of himself.

So it is interesting to me, but it is also interesting to me where they went, and why aren’t they there anymore? I mean the Scandinavians are really peaceful, pretty mellow folks, nowadays, and what happened to that? And there is a definite thing that happened to that. And to focus on that I think is pretty interesting.

They got all the way down to Ukraine, it’s a huge distance…

Oh yeah. They went to North Africa. They got everywhere. They were all through Russia, all through Finland…

Going back to the issue of being in the public eye, do you have any sympathy for Gary Oldman, and the predicament he was in recently?

What was that? How did that come about?

It started with an interview in Playboy, certain sentences were pulled out, and he apologized…

These things happen. As we all know… I have nothing much to say. The guy was probably just… He’s a good guy.

He’s a great actor. I’ve not met him…

He’s fantastic. I know him. He’s a good dude… I didn’t even look too hard.

Have you had a good time in Karlovy Vary?

It’s great, so far. I mean it is very hot-house, I mean it’s a green-house. I have hardly been out of this hotel. But the town looks nice from the window.

It’s worth exploring.

I can never see a place the way you can, but it leaves a lot to my imagination, which is sometimes better.

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  1. I like this article! Also, check out my RedSnow site here:

  2. timparker999 says:

    Ernest Hemingway wasn’t in ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. He wrote it. The character of the Old Man was named Santiago. Come on Mel. . .

  3. OB says:

    I worked with Mel on three films (years back) and he was an extremely funny and generous guy…. He certainly lost his shit in recent years, but he’s also (admittedly) an alcoholic and, unfortunately for him, lost it in the public eye.

    He’s also right about L.A. having lost it’s status as the film “mecca.”

  4. savant says:

    It is amazing when we elevate these talking heads that make a living dressing up in costumes and play make believe, into great commentators of life, the human condition and current events. Good back to doing what you do best, making pretend you are some fictitious character that perhaps makes me laugh or cry. The rest is just noise.

    • Anton Bursch says:

      I agree when it comes to politics or economics or foreign policy. Actors don’t know anymore than anyone else does, including you and me. So, their opinions should be taken no more serious than our opinions. However, when it comes to speaking about social issues, I think that serious actors DO have something to say worth listening to. Like all story tellers, their job is to try to understand people and their relationships and their experiences. I think anyone who spends that much time exploring what it means to be other people are worth listening to.

  5. Rosita Asano says:

    Mel Gibson and Gary Oldman are just two of the greatest actors, I’ll never stop watching their movies. They are just great people. Some of the so called “box office draw” actors are not really or maybe for just one specific character they played in the movies like Matt Damon, in Bourne. I don’t think Brad Pitt is a very good actor either, I rate him a “B”. I think he is overrated because of his looks. And then there’s Ben Affleck, I think Ben should’ve done something else other than acting. He is really really bad as an actor. There are “B” rated actors who are more exciting to watch than him. The only American actors that are still drawing big crowds nowadays are Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, and Mark Wahlberg. And I wouldn’t mind seeing more Stalone in Rambo and The Expendables.

    • savant says:

      “Just great people”, right and you’ve met them for tea right? Get back to reality. They are artists who entertain you by doing make believe. You are confused with real human beings. Enjoy the movie then go out into the sunlight and read a newspaper to learn about things that might actually affect your life.

  6. Count Yob says:

    I’ve enjoyed a lot of Mel Gibson’s movies. Hopefully, he can conquer his problems with alcohol and make more good movies.

  7. Mel Gibson is a once in a century artistic talent.Hollywood moguls have been cruel , unjust and foolish.

  8. JakeJ413 says:

    Actually, domestic ticket sales in 2013 are pretty much the same as in 2008 (1.342 mil to 1.341). Ticket sales peaked in 2002 (1.568 mil) and went down considerably through 2008 so by your logic, it’s GW’s fault. I guess after an initial movie high after 9/11, we came all back down to reality.

    In keeping it Presidential, in Clinton’s time they went from 1.099 mil in 1992 to 1.393 mil so I guess he was great for Hollywood.

    Outside of 2005 and 2011, grosses continue to go up of course.

    Of course you and I know that connecting ticket sales to who is the President is all bs, but nice try in blaming Obama.

  9. Chas says:

    Putting his nuttiness aside, he made some great movies. We need more film makers like him, not less.

  10. RoyIsNaive says:

    Hey Roy, they were said in Anger. You’ve never been angry?

  11. Roy Munson says:

    I love how so many of you say “He’s just a regular guy. Everyone says the same thing. Most people have said worse …”
    He screams and tells the mother of his child she deserves to get RAPED by a bunch of N!ggers on this call.
    I don’t know anyone who talks like that and I hope I never do

    • JoelR says:

      And so do the Fox crazies. The old right-wing double-standard loons who scream about “freedom” but will fight to make sure that people don’t have any.

    • RoyIsNaive says:

      Roy, you JUST SAID those very words YOURSELF!! Pot Kettle Black.

  12. ursusindomitus says:

    Most Scandinavians were ALWAYS basically peaceful people. Not all Norsemen were Vikings. Actually viking is something some of them DID, not what they were. As in, To go a’viking”.

  13. joe says:

    “nary a peep” Good line!

  14. ursusindomitus says:

    Roger THAT.

  15. ursusindomitus says:

    Why do idiots ask for interviews if they’re just going to kvetch about what is said? Might as well just give interviewers baseball cliches.

  16. Roy Munson says:

    Yes …He’s done worse than most people. I urge you to listen to those tapes again of what he said to the mother of his child

  17. JoelR says:

    The system is so solidified, with the same-old, same-old. Why aren’t we seeing new,big films from people like Paul Verhoeven, Joe Dante, etc. etc. who have repeatedly proved themselves…but we get Peyton Reed doing ANY-MAN? ^sigh^

  18. MEL RULES !!!!!!!!!!! We all must suffer for the power that rests in the hands of only a few.

  19. Bob Schoenle says:

    You are a moron who has zero knowledge of history. It would be a waste of my time to rebut your stupid comments since your illogical and irrational hatred towards Jewish people is obviously locked in. I often wonder how people like you come to be?

  20. jack says:

    I was hoping that mel would work on the Macabees from the Old Testament in the Bible. He stated that he had many of the costumes from the Passion movie. I think he got scared off from doing it. I would like to see more good, well made biblical stories–and not that sad Russell Crowe version of Noah.

  21. Cool Cat says:

    I have lived in and worked in Hollywood for the past 25 years, and it’s so slow out here I had to find a job outside the business, as everyone I know is being forced to do if they want to pay rent. And it was nothing like this even 10 years ago.
    Mel seems to really know what’s happening out here, shown by his line, “It’s the way it is, man. And you’re lucky if you can make a living at it.”

  22. b. Mclane says:

    Good grief! You read into Gibson’s statement what you wanted it to mean. He said nothing remotely connected to your rant. He was saying from step A to step B ,even if you develope Independently, there are various companies along the way that you need to get your film from the can to in front of an audience. From the finished edit to a theater everyone gets a cut, REGARDLESS their heritage or religion its how that company makes a living. Stop hiding behind others and if you are Anti Semitic have the stones to come out and say it.
    Anti-Semitic – Wikipedia Antisemitism is prejudice, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews as a national, ethnic, religious or racial group.

  23. DanielShays says:

    The two Himmler wannabes agree.How unusual.

  24. Tallara says:

    I’d actually pay money to see a MG film.

  25. Diane says:

    Opinion and Alcohol usually produce offensive words,I’m guilty of it and anyone who ever has had to much to drink probably is too.
    I will always Love Braveheart, the Passion of the Christ, I don’t judge a person because of a event over a fight with a girlfriend either. He’s a good Man and if he made a film I definitely would go and see it, because he’s a excellent Filmaker who knows how to relate a story.
    My prayers are with you Mel, God doesn’t demand your blood and neither do I.

  26. GKN says:

    I’m not sure how a couple of drunken furious outbursts got enshrined as his ‘true private beliefs’. And it is the height of hypocrisy and ignorance to say so, unless you know the person well enough to really know this. Grow up, folks. And as your JC said several times, turn those searchlights on yourselves first.

    • b. Mclane says:

      Your first line is EXACTLY what Gary Oldman was saying! He went wrong by actually using 4 letter words one might use in a private convo but not in a reported interview. That was what he apologized for not for saying we all say dumb stuff sometimes.

      • HKGuy says:

        When you call a teenager at a party (Winona Ryder) who is Jewish that she’s an “oven dodger,” I’d say you’ve crossed a line.

  27. Roy Munson says:

    Does anyone believe for a second he had no idea what the Gary Oldman stuff was about?

    • Roy Munson says:

      That’s an idiotic comment. Mel got RIPPED for saying sexist and racist things to his then-girlfriend on those tapes. By your dopy logic, that must mean women and blacks run Hollywood.
      May want to rethink that

    • b. Mclane says:

      Golly Corpse, we get it. ENOUGH already. You hate the entire Jewish race. EVERY last one of them including …..Billy Crystal, Adam Sandler, Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Isaac Stern, Arthur Rubinstein, Irvin Berlin, George Gershwin,Benny Goodman, Neil Diamond,

      Albert Einstein — One of the most famous and influential scientists since Isaac Newton
      Carl Sagan — astronomer and popular science author; made book and TV series ‘Cosmos’
      Niels Bohr — Nobel prize-winning Physicist: atomic structure
      Roald Hoffmann — Nobel prize winner in Chemistry: field of electronic structures
      Fritz Haber — winner of the Nobel Prize of Chemistry in 1918, for the synthesis of ammonia from its elements
      Edward Teller — Physicist, father of the hydrogen bomb
      Leo Szilard — Physicist, proved the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction in 1933.
      Jonas Salk — Developed the first polio vaccine.
      Gustav Mahler– composer
      Sigmund Freud—-mommy made me do it head guy
      Abraham,Moses,and Jesus — religious dudes

      You have this in common with the former Nazi movement and the current Islamic Fundamentalists Terrorist movement which is threatening the world. Congrats.

      • Kathryn says:

        Anyone heard of “Freedom of Speech” Another good movie of Gibson “We Were Soldiers” I will always love your talent, just don’t drink and drive!

  28. Michael Fitzpatrick says:

    Interesting interview – nice work.

    • Fred says:

      We love the Jewish people and
      pray for Israel. Did you forget that your God was a Jewish man? Also you have the Salk
      Polio Vaccine in your body. Salk was a Jewish doctor. If you still dislike Jewish people please
      do not listen or sing White Christmas, Easter Parade and the patriotic song God Bless America as they
      were written by Irving Berlin a Jewish composer. Also How Great Thou Art was written by a Jewish man
      Stuart Keene Hine who later on converted. How can some people worship Jesus who was a Jewish Rabbi
      and dislike his people. Go figure!

      Mel all of your HATE is showing on your wrinkled up face. Shame. Again how can you worship a Jewish RABBI and hate his people?

  29. Paramount Employee says:

    Yep. I love Mel too. Hell of an actor and hell of a filmmaker. I’d watch anything he makes.

  30. bsbarnes says:

    I don’t care: I love Mel.

  31. Issak Mendelsohn says:

    As far as Im concerned Mr Gibson should take residence in the Czech Republic. Almost nobody will miss him the states.

    • Jim Hilton says:

      Mel Gibson is a wonderful actor with many good films, as we all know. If we start dismissing people because of privately held views with which we disagree, we would not have many left to watch. Judge them by their work, and not by their sometimes stupid private remarks.

      • Issak Mendelsohn says:

        They are not privately held, he’s quite vocal about it. Wonderful actor? mediocre at best.

  32. rfk says:

    Why are we still giving this racist old has-been our attention?

  33. JoelR says:

    C’mon Hollywood hypocrites…enough is enough! Will somebody PLEASE invest in Mel’s Viking film. Been waiting to see it for years. Some of us want more, and not just SPIDER-MAN 4 or an Edgar Wright-less ANT-MAN

  34. Keith Diggs says:

    HEY MONSIEUR DUMBAZZZ, the DailyRASH is like the ONION, you unbelievable fokking IDIOT. It’s SATIRE. TYRA BANKS DOES NOT DO INTERVIEWS FOR 60 MINUTES, that should have been a CLUE that you were being had, but as you are so STUPID, it just went right over your pointy head! Dumbazz.

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