LOS ANGELES (October 12, 2006) — Mel Gibson called his DUI arrest “a blessing” and also told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an interview Thursday that he needed “public humiliation on a global scale” to get sober.
But Jewish leaders, addiction experts and media-crisis managers say he must do more to repair his reputation following the torrent of expletives and anti-Semitic remarks he unleashed during his arrest.
Beads of sweat collected on Gibson’s upper lip as he denied being an anti-Semite and claimed that alcohol makes people “act, feel and behave in a way that is not you.”
The 50-year-old actor-director made international headlines and sparked a Hollywood scandal with his unsavory behavior when he was stopped by police in Malibu in late July. Gibson’s two-part taped interview with Sawyer, which continues Friday, is the first time he has publicly discussed the incident, which he said he now sees “as kind of a blessing.”
“Sometimes you need a cold bucket of water in the face to sort of snap to, because you’re dealing with a sort of malady of the soul, an obsession of the mind and a physical allergy.”
He added that “the risk of everything — life, limb, family — it’s not enough to keep you from it. That’s the hell of it. You are indefensible against it if your nature is one of alcoholism.”
Gibson said he has apologized “more than anyone I know.”
“It’s getting old,” he said.
But experts say he hasn’t done enough and that Gibson has to accept accountability for his behavior.
“Today was a double, not a home run,” said veteran publicist Michael Levine, who has represented Michael Jackson and Charlton Heston, among others. “He did not reach out as he could have.”
Part of the problem, Levine said, is that most people believe alcohol is a “truth serum.”
“Even in their most drunken moments, they don’t utter something that has never crossed their minds,” he said.
Richard Rogg, founder of the Promises Treatment Center in Malibu, agreed.
“Our jails are filled with people who did things when they were loaded and they’re still responsible for doing them,” he said. “Alcohol can make people say things that they don’t think consciously but I don’t think it can make you say something that somehow isn’t in your psyche.”
Rogg, who is not involved with Gibson’s treatment, said the actor likely “picked up” the anti-Semitic views of his father, Hutton Gibson, who has said the Holocaust was mostly “fiction.”
Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, said the issue is one of responsibility.
“The blame was cast on the drinking and not really what he thinks and feels,” Diamond said. “I think he has a long way to go in accepting responsibility and confronting the disease of alcoholism.”
Rogg said he feels that Gibson’s interview with Sawyer is not part of the actor’s rehabilitation, but a “well-strategized” career move.
“I don’t think it’s beneficial toward his recovery,” Rogg said. “It’s a PR thing.”
“Apocalypto,” a film Gibson co-wrote, directed and finanaced, will be released by Disney on Dec. 8.
Gibson told Sawyer he has “been angry all my life.”
“I try not to have it manifest itself,” he said.
He also admitted caring about his appearance in his police mugshot: “The first thing that went through my mind was Nick Nolte’s photograph. Vanity won out.”