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Playback: Mel Gibson on ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ and Being Defined by Dark Chapters

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

On today’s episode Jenelle Riley and I take stock of “Moonlight’s” big box office weekend in limited release. The film grossed $414,740 on four screens for a per-screen average of $103,675. We also turn over some ideas for Oscars host, as the Academy takes its time in putting together the creative team for the upcoming 89th annual Academy Awards.

Later on (19:20) I’m talking to “Hacksaw Ridge” director Mel Gibson about his return to the director’s chair after 10 years, the changing landscape of the film business in that time and his desire to close dark chapters in his life and not allow them define him and his work.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

I talked to actor Andrew Garfield about Gibson’s new film last week. It’s the story of conscientious objector Desmond Doss, a medic who refused to carry a weapon in World War II but saved countless lives all the same.

“You try to keep the rust off,” Gibson says about being away from directing while taking on a few roles in the meantime. “Although I kind of had to blow the cylinders out on this one. But it was great to get back in the chair, and it’s like riding a bike. Except now, 10 years later, the budgetary limitations and the time limitations, the challenges are greater in that regard. So you have to go in and be far more judicious about how you shoot and what you shoot. But it’s not the same industry it was. If you’re not making a superhero movie about someone in spandex, nobody gives you a budget.”

Gibson’s last film as director was “Apocalypto” in 2006. In July of that year, he was arrested in Malibu for drunk driving and was recorded spouting anti-Semitic remarks that have left many inside the industry and out feeling that they can’t support him or his films. It recalls the oft-considered notion of separating the art from the artist, which is something “The Birth of a Nation” director Nate Parker is weathering this year as well.

So how does Gibson process that, knowing there are people who feel so strongly that they can’t watch his movies?

“Ten years have gone by,” Gibson says, noting that he hasn’t discussed the incident and its fallout to this extent before. “I’m feeling good. I’m sober, all of that kind of stuff, and for me it’s a dim thing in the past. But others bring it up, which kind of I find annoying, because I don’t understand why after 10 years it’s any kind of issue. Surely if I was really what they say I was, some kind of hater, there’d be evidence of actions somewhere. There never has been. I’ve never discriminated against anyone or done anything that sort of supports that reputation. And for one episode in the back of a police car on eight double tequilas to sort of dictate all the work, life’s work and beliefs and everything else that I have and maintain for my life is really unfair.”

We also talk about fonder memories, like the 1996 Academy Awards where Gibson’s film “Braveheart” won five Oscars including best picture and best director. And is there hope for one last ride in the “Lethal Weapon” role of Martin Riggs that really lit the spark for Gibson’s career 30 years ago?

Find out the answer to that and a whole lot more in the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” at iTunes.

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