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Real Name: Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson
Birthday: January 3, 1956
Place of Birth: Peekskill, NY
Education: National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney, Australia

 

Introduced to American movie goers as Australian, the remarkably gorgeous, blue-eyed Mel Gibson actually came from Peekskill, New York.  After a season onstage with Sydney's South Australian Theatre Company where he played both Oedipus and Henry IV, he made his introduction as the post-apocalyptic action star of George Miller's "Mad Max" (1979) and in the very unique "Tim" (1979), for which he picked up his first of two Australian Film Institute Awards as Best Actor, portraying the role of a retarded handyman in love with Piper Laurie. 

"The Year of Living Dangerously" (1982), a film about the political unrest of 1960s Indonesia, gave the actor his first romantic lead opposite Sigourney Weaver and launched him as a sex symbol.

He returned to Australia to finish up the "Mad Max" series with "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" (1985), an awkward spoof with less action, a bigger budget, and Tina Turner and Max looking like a wandering mystic. He then took two years off to focus on his family, returning to the movie screen in "Lethal Weapon" (1987), where he created his most admired character, Martin Riggs, an hotheaded homicide cop teamed with the co-star Danny Glover. The film generated three sequels and allowed him to fit in his instinctive good humor as part of a depiction of a modern action hero. 

He then appeared in "Tequila Sunrise" with Michelle Pfieffer (1988) and then "Bird on a Wire" with Goldie Hawn (1990). He next had a role in the sequel and smash hit "Lethal Weapon 2" (1989), but his trademarked magnetism could not save the comedy dud "Air America" (1990) from the poor writing and slow script. Next, in a surprising career move, Mel chose to take a role in Franco Zeffirelli's "Hamlet" starring Glenn Close (1990). While the film had problems, the actor turned in a skillfully played role of the illustrious prince in the first project produced by his Icon Productions company. 

Gibson continued in a more sappy role with "Forever Young" starring Jamie Lee Curtis  (1992), then scored another gigantic hit with "Lethal Weapon 3" featuring Rene Russo (1993), then made his directorial debut with "The Man Without a Face" opposite a young Nick Stahl (1993), a drama where he hid his good looks behind the heavy makeup of a burn victim. After this sad and touching role, he returned with "Maverick" with Jodie Foster (1994), working for a fourth time with "Lethal Weapon" director Richard Donner for a 1990's version of the 1960's television Western series. 

The rising star returned to the director's chair for "Braveheart" (1995), a project bigger than any he had been involved to date. Dressed in a kilt, wearing blue war paint and wielding a huge sword, he starred as Sir William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish nobleman victimized for his efforts to free Scotland from English rule. The Academy Awards felt it worthy, voting it five awards including Best Picture and honoring the director with a Best Director statue. That same year, in addition to providing the voice for John Smith in Disney's animated comedy "Pocahontas” with Christian Bale (1995), he made his screen singing introduction. His work with Ron Howard in "Ransom" with Rene Russo (1996), another box-office hit that earned $45 million its first week, paved the way for "Conspiracy Theory" (1997), his fifth film with Donner, and then directed and starred in "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998). 

Gibson next starred as a deadly crook determined on getting his "Payback" (1999), a variation of the same Donald Westlake story that had moved John Boorman's 1967 thriller "Point Blank". Playing to the actors strong points, the Western strayed from dark and unsettling to comic and funny, but still managed a respectable box office draw. He then joined  Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich for the  Revolutionary War drama "The Patriot" starring Heath Ledger (2000). For the most part a western, "The Patriot" cast him in the role of a retired cowboy still afraid of his memories of the French and Indian War who hangs on to his pacifism until his son falls into enemy hands, beginning his course of revenge. After voicing Rocky the Rooster in the animated "Chicken Run" (2000),  a comedy with a hint of passion set on a evil chicken farm in 1950's England, he ended the busy year as star of Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy "What Women Want" (2000).

In 2002, Mel was hired and cast in "We Were Soldiers," directed by Randall Wallace. Next was the mystery thriller "Signs," the much anticipated M. Night Shyamalan film about crop circles. He was almost unrecognizable behind a wig of thinning hair and giant prosthetics in the 2003 film adaptation of Dennis Potter's much-admired "The Singing Detective" featuring Katie Holmes.  

He next ignited a controversy with his third directorial effort "The Passion of the Christ" (2004), a hard hitting, bloody portrayal of the Gospels in which Gibson, a devout Catholic who was inspired to make the film after struggling with his own personal demons, wanted to show the cruel misery and selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Studios were slow to support the film, not because of its overt religious views, but because he wanted to film in the original Aramaic language spoken at the time of Christ, forcing the director to raise $20 million of his own money to finance the film. 

Long before it was released, “The Passion of the Christ” came under tremendous examination from a variety religious groups, and was condemned early on for suggestions of anti-Semitism in the way Jews were shown to contribute to Jesus' death, an element that was not helped by some reckless and opinionated comments made by his father, Hutton, who had said publicly that the Holocaust did not happen. Critics were stunned by the film, many mentioning the violence and blood as unnecessary, while others praised Gibson's relentless portrayal. With interest in the controversial film at a high when in opened, "The Passion" debuted to box office blockbuster income, thanks to the millions of true believers who boarded church busses and ran to theaters in hordes.

“The Passion of the Christ” became a runaway sensation, and perhaps the most profitable independent film of all time, taking in over $370 million in domestic box office and putting Mel into the position of being able to make anything he wanted for his next project. Some hoped that he would return to “Braveheart” style movies, but he instead chose to direct “Apocalypto” (2006), a film set in the ancient Maya civilization that focused on a young man’s hazardous journey into a world ruled by fear and cruelty where a traumatic end awaits him. 

Details about the story remained under tight wraps, though it became known that Gibson shot the entire film in the unheard of Mayan language, again jeopardizing the success by using subtitles. He also shot the film with unknown actors, adding further problems to an already challenging release for Disney. 

On July 28, 2006, the actor was pulled over on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California for going 85 mph in a 40 mph speed zone. The police conducted a roadside sobriety test, including a breathalyzer that showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.12, well over the 0.08 limit. Arrested and thrown in jail for drunk driving, he became abusive to the arresting officers, one of whom he believed was Jewish, yelling anti-Semitic insults and blaming the Jews for “all the wars in the world.” While in jail, he continued his bigoted tirades while trying to urinate in his cell and debasing a female officer by calling her “sugar tits - all while trying to get them to drop the DUI charges.” 

Released on $5000 bond, he was chastised from all corners in the media world once word leaked of the incident on the Internet. He blamed his problem on a relapse back into alcoholism, that he publicly admitted problems with in the past. He later released a statement that said: “I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable.” 

Many, particularly folks in Hollywood, felt his comments were hypocritical, though Disney’s President of Production accepted his apology. Meanwhile, the troubled actor and director was sent to rehab, and after three months of sobriety, gave his first interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, who asked him about what happened that evening. Though he never admitted to being a racist, he did acknowledge that his remarks were anti-Semitic. 

Attempting to crawl his way back into the hearts of movie goers, Mel appeared in three projects during the 2008-2009 movie season. First, the crime drama "Under And Alone" (2008) set in Southern California, where an ATF agent infiltrates the notorious Mongols motorcycle gang. Next was the dramatic "Sam And George" (2008), about two old friends who reunite after one of them is released from prison after serving twenty years for a crime he didn't commit. And finally, the drama "Edge Of Darkness" (2009) about a police officer who investigates the death of his activist daughter.

 

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