For Mel Gibson, a New Movie and More Notoriety

By ALLISON HOPE WEINER
The New York Times
Published: September 26, 2006

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 25 -- Mel Gibson's eccentric promotional foray to the heartland with his new movie "APOCALYPTO" may have helped introduce the film to a vast potential audience. But it also left the beleaguered star with a lot more explaining to do.

Corrado Giambalvo/Associated Press
Mel Gibson is holding early screenings of his Mayan drama, "Apocalypto."

The filmmaker and actor, fiercely criticized for his anti-Semitic outburst when he was arrested for drunk driving last July, showed the as-yet unfinished movie on Friday, first at a casino and at Cameron University in Oklahoma, where he arrived in wig and disguise, according to The Associated Press. Then he moved on to the Fantastic Fest film festival in Austin, Tex., where he compared the American troop deployment in Iraq to the kind of human sacrifice depicted in his film, about ancient Mayans, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

A spokesman for Mr. Gibson said he had begun reaching out to Jewish leaders, but noted that it was a private process.

In Hollywood, meanwhile, industry observers were beginning to confront a new problem: If Mr. Gibson’s film proves to be of awards quality, should those who bestow the honors, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives the Oscars, overlook his behavior in favor of his art?
An early look at the movie — which is scheduled for release by Disney on Dec. 8 — shows it to have at least some of the earmarks of an Oscar picture, including epic sweep and considerable ambition. The movie, shot entirely in an ancient Indian dialect, tells the story of a peaceful Mayan village that is violently conquered one morning by another Mayan tribe. Many of the inhabitants are brutally killed, and others are taken captive.
The story focuses on one villager, a man named Jaguar Paw, played by an American Indian newcomer named Rudy Youngblood, who survives the attack and struggles to escape captivity and save his wife and child.
In the course of the adventure, Mr. Gibson’s film portrays life in a huge Mayan city, constant warfare, slave culture and chilling scenes of human sacrifice.

Even if that story connects with the audience, Oscar voters may find it hard to reward someone who has been effectively banished from a large segment of Hollywood.

“Historically, there have been events and situations where Hollywood individually and collectively has had a short memory,” said Steve Tisch, a producer and a member of the academy. “Often I think of personal behavior and judgment errors as being superficial wounds. These wounds are much deeper, and I don’t think Hollywood academy members are going to overlook how deeply some of his comments hurt.”

William Mechanic, another producer and academy member, said he did not believe Mr. Gibson or his representatives could in any way court votes. “I don’t think you can mount a campaign — that would be a mistake,” Mr. Mechanic said. “If you’re looking to curry favor with the academy, that would be a mistake.”

Yet another producer and academy member, Marykay Powell, noted that academy voters have historically focused on art, not the artist. “I’m able to distinguish art,” Ms. Powell said. “I certainly would take a look at the work.”

Mr. Gibson’s ace-in-the-hole when it comes the prize season may be his celebrity, or even notoriety, which might help some awards shows draw viewers. Philip Berk, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which gives out the Golden Globes, said he did not believe any of Mr. Gibson’s remarks would hurt with his group. “The award is based on the evaluation of the film, not on remarks that may have offended some people,” he said.

Joey Berlin, president of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, similarly said his group would be happy to consider “Apocalypto.”

“I can’t imagine this would be a serious stumbling block for him,” said Mr. Berlin, whose group sponsors a televised awards show.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/26/mo...es&oref=slogin