(October 6, 2006) — Mel Gibson’s redemption tour is heading to TV. The embattled 50-year-old actor-director, whose high-profile drunken-driving arrest and subsequent anti-Semitic tirade made international headlines over the summer, is set to appear on “Good Morning America” next week.
This follows other efforts by Gibson to mend his personal and professional life, including participating in a recovery program, attending court-ordered alcohol-rehabilitation classes and meeting privately with Jewish leaders to understand the source of his “vicious words,” as he described them.
These steps will be followed by the Dec. 8 Disney release of Gibson’s new film, “Apocalypto.”
Gibson spoke with Diane Sawyer somewhere in Southern California recently for a two-part TV interview scheduled to air on Disney-owned ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Oct. 12 and 13. This is the first time he has talked to the media since his arrest.
The interview “will be a segment in the show,” said ABC news spokeswoman Bridgette Maney. “It’s not going to be the entire `Good Morning America’.”
As for what to expect during the discussion, Gibson’s publicist, Alan Nierob, would only say, “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Gibson has made few public appearances since his July 28 arrest in Malibu, when he told the arresting officer: “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” and asked him, “Are you a Jew?” He also made sexist comments to a female deputy. Gibson later apologized for what he called “vitriolic and harmful words.”
Media outlets have clamored for access to the “Lethal Weapon” actor since his arrest. Maney would not address the significance to the show of the interview or how it was secured. Sawyer interviewed Gibson in 2004 about his controversial movie “The Passion of the Christ.”
Gibson quietly stepped back into the public eye late last month. He attended two screenings of his new movie in Oklahoma on Sept. 21 and 22. He arrived at the first wearing a mask and wig. He did not speak to reporters.
The actor-director also appeared at a film festival in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 22 where he showed footage from “Apocalypto.” He answered questions from fans, who did not ask about his arrest or recovery.
Disney spokesman Dennis Rice would not offer specifics about Gibson’s or the studio’s plans to market the movie, which chronicles the decline of the Mayan civilization. The subtitled film features a cast of unknown stars speaking in an ancient Mayan language.
“We look at each movie on its own merits and devise a plan from the ground up,” he said. “Hopefully it is the best plan that will maximize the opportunity of each picture, and `Apocalypto’ is no different.”
Some have criticized Gibson, who issued two apologies for his conduct following his arrest, for not doing more outreach toward the Jewish community especially in light of his recent promotional appearances.
“You would think that he would also find time to say that he wants to address his terrible statements,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, told The Associated Press this week. “His remarks were so anti-Semitic and so hurtful to Jews. You can’t make amends for that by talking on the phone to 12 Jews you know from Hollywood.”
Nierob said Gibson has met privately with several Jewish leaders, who have been “welcoming and supportive.”
Veteran Hollywood publicist David Brokaw said that if Gibson is “really convincing and engaging” during the Sawyer interview, “he could turn it around.”
“Mel Gibson, in some form or another, will always be a big star,” Brokaw said. “The question is how prophylactic he can or should be about what’s happened.”
Gibson pleaded no contest to charges of drunken driving on Aug. 17 under a deal in which he’ll serve three years’ probation, pay a fine and attend alcohol rehabilitation classes. He also volunteered to make a public-service announcement about the hazards of drinking and driving.
He is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 17 for a progress report.