Behind the Screens

Interview: Mel Gibson Returns in Edge of Darkness

January 24, 2010

Fandango Film Commentator

By: Elisa Osegueda
Fandango Film Commentator

Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson

Academy Award winner Mel Gibson returns to the big screen in his first starring role in seven years in Edge of Darkness, an emotionally charged thriller set in the intersection of corporate cover-ups, government collusion and murder.

Thomas Craven (Gibson) is a man driven by grief, and in search for truths after his only child, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), is gunned down on the front steps of his home. Shattered by her death, the veteran homicide detective for the Boston Police Department looks for answers, unafraid to take down anyone that stands in his path.

Here, Mel Gibson candidly talks about returning to his first love, and his future starring roles in The Beaver and How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

Q: You've been away for a significant amount of time from the big screen. What made you come back to acting?

Mel Gibson: I got the acting bug back because I felt like all of a sudden maybe after all these years maybe I might have something to offer again. I walked away from it after Signs because I just felt I was a bit stale and it wasn't ringing my bells, so I focused on directing, writing and producing. So, I thought it was time to come back. [Acting] was my first love. I used to love doing it. When it's time to come back, you come back.

It coincided with a very good piece of material. It's a compelling story with good elements attached. I dug it, and it gave me a chance to work with Martin [Campbell], Ray [Winstone], Graham [King] and Bill Monahan. Good stuff. If it wasn't this, it would have been something else, but this was the best thing that I saw. Mel Gibson in Edge of Darkness.

Q: I'm sure acting comes naturally for you, but after being gone for so long, did you feel a bit rusty?

Gibson: Well, a little bit. I remember Martin had to tell me to tone it down a couple times because you forget levels and stuff. It's like dialing in levels…After that, it was pretty natural. You don't do something for 30 years and forget it. It felt alright. It felt better actually.

There was something a wise, old, well not so wise and old guy, told me once, "go away, dig a hole, do something else, come back, and it magically rejuvenates your creative impulses." He's right, I think. And I cannot qualify how exactly, but I know that something happened. [There is] nothing better than a vacation sometimes.

Q: You had a few actions scenes in this movie, how do you stay in shape?

Gibson: I ordered a chiropractor for the day after [those scenes]. I knew I was going to wake up like road kill and I did. You don't bounce back as quick as you used to. It's not a pleasant experience. Things don't pop back they way they used to, but it's OK, so long as it still looks good. [Laughs]. Mel Gibson in Edge of Darkness.
I don't work out much. I try and eat right and exercise a little. That sounds horrible. I quit smoking so that's something in the right direction. There's no more fun things left, you know. [Laughs] I just don't do anything fun anymore. But, that's dying, isn't it? I mean, you die in stages, right? You let things go in pieces. You're not quite there yet.

Q: How did you quit smoking?

Gibson: How did I quit smoking? It was torture. I'm on day nine now so it's almost over, but the first three days I was like an axe murderer. Day four, I'd come at you with a bat. Day five, I was dangerous with a lawnmower. But now it's okay. But it is a hellish habit to break. Your neurons are involved. My mother smoked I think when I was in her womb. I'm not sure. When I first had one when I was nine years old, I thought "Oh my God! Yes, I missed this. I knew I missed it." And 45 years later, after every single artistic decision, every decision I've ever made was done with a cigarette…to not have that, that's pretty hectic.

Q: You have an extensive history as an actor and director. How did those experiences help shape you?

Gibson: What does not kill you makes you stronger. Life's experiences, whether they be pleasant or unpleasant, torturous or excruciatingly wonderful and blissful, you know, season you somehow and you learn from them. Hopefully, we learn. All I'm trying to do now is put some information on a chip that I can leave to my prodigy and maybe they can do a better job than I can in this crazy spinning piece of dirt in the future.

Every time you go out there to do something, you wonder if you can do it. There's no assured success. There's no secret recipe for success. Every time you go out there, you go out there with the possibility of great failure. The whole business of putting your wares on display, whether you're a chef or an opera director or a painter or an actor or a filmmaker or whatever you happen to be, you're throwing your stuff out there for other people and it's going to be judged and you're either going to be excoriated or praised or somewhere in between, or both sometimes. It's all a challenge. The whole gig is a challenge.

Q: Did you watch the original TV miniseries 'Edge of Darkness'?

Gibson: I watched it back in the 80s avidly and it was some of the best TV I'd ever seen and British television at that time was great. We've all talked about that. But I made a point to not watch it [this time] because I didn't want it to be a part of that, but [I just wanted to] try to be truthful. But hey, if you're saying that my performance was anything like what Bob Peck did, I'm flattered because I think he was amazing.

On the set of Edge of Darkness.Q: How did you learn to direct, and after directing for so long, how do you step back and allow someone else to take control?

Gibson: How do you learn to direct? You hang around the hub and watch what's going on and ask a bunch of questions. You're there for the inception of an idea. You're there to see it executed. You're there to doubt it. You're there to see if they pull it off or not. And you're there to share the fruits of victory or failure...It's like a big science experiment…And, if you're working with really good people, that's just great.

Let go of it? I don't think you can ever totally let go of it. You can pull back on it and not be too forceful. I hope I wasn't too hard on Martin. I don't think I was, but occasionally I'd say, "Look, why don't we…" and I'd get an idea or something. And you know what? A good director, if it's a good idea, and I've noticed this, people come to my table when I'm directing and they have good ideas and I say, "That's a goddamned good idea. Can I steal that?" and they say, "Yes, please." And you say, "Okay, I'll take it." And [Martin] actually did swipe one of my ideas. That's the earmark of a good director when he sees a good idea and he takes it.

Q: What haven't you done yet that you're itching to make into a reality?

Gibson: The very first idea I ever had about making a film and my first thought ever about being a filmmaker was when I was 16 years old and I wanted to make a Viking movie. I wanted to make it in Old Norse which I was studying at the time. It's odd because at that age you're like "Well, that's a stupidly ridiculous idea. How will I ever be a filmmaker? And that's a dumb idea. It's just some romantic pipe dream." But that was the first big, epic, wacky idea I ever had was to show Vikings for real.

I think it's going to be in the English that would have been spoken back then, and Old Norse, whatever the 9th century had to offer. I'm going to give it to you real. I want to see somebody who I've never seen before speaking low guttural German who scares the living sh*t out of [you]. I love history and I like to imagine what it was like, especially if we don't have a clear picture on what it was like. Maybe romanticize it and make it compelling for film, maybe push it over the top. It's just a question of choices.

Q: Tell us about your character Walter Black in The Beaver?

Gibson: It's about a man who is clinically depressed, and the way that he finds himself is with a ratty beaver hand puppet on his arm. He can't even kill himself properly but he ends up with a beaver puppet. He manages to save himself, his life and family by expressing himself with a hand puppet because that is all he can do. He's too broken. It's a sad and bizarre [story] but she's [Director Jodi Foster] a ballsy girl. She was going for real.

Q: You have another project on the works–How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

Gibson: That's something that I wrote…with the First and the Second Assistant Director on Apocalypto. We sat down and wrote this story, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, about a gringo in a Mexican prison.

Q: Speaking of new projects, you worked with George Miller back in the 80s. Have you talked with him since and will you be a part of his new Mad Max film?

Gibson: Oh yeah. I've talked to George. Yeah, we've had a good chin wag about it. We talk all the time anyway, George and I. So I'm abreast of that. I know he's been trying to do this for years [Mad Max 4: Fury Road]. At one point, I was involved, then it fell to bits and then this and that. So now, it's…gone through a lot of changes. I can't wait to see it because everything he does I think is magic. There's a touch of genius, more than a touch of genius about George. Probably most of any good tricks I've ever learned, I've learned off that guy and Peter Weir.

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