The distinctive voice on the other end of the line sounds a grande latte short of being fully awake.
"You got me at the wrong time. I'm probably a bit surly in the morning," Mel Gibson says. "I'm surly early."
Though as mornings go, Thursday cast a soft light on a man more accustomed to glare: Gibson's Apocalypto
had just gotten a Golden Globe nomination for foreign-language film and was riding the week out as box office champ.
"Ah yes, the Golden Globs, it's nice, flattering," says Gibson, tweaking the awards' name.
He added that he's not concerned by his film's modest $15 million take. "I knew it wouldn't be like Passion
(of the Christ
, which earned $610 million worldwide), so this will just take a little more time to make its money back," he says. "I think it's lucky it got to No. 1. It was a soft weekend."
If Gibson sounds vaguely humble, don't be fooled. The director leaves no doubt about his feelings for those who assail his movies or his actions. When it's suggested that perhaps he move away from Hollywood, Gibson doesn't hesitate: "They
Gibson and Tinseltown have been locked in an awkward dance since his double-Oscar triumph for 1995's Braveheart
. First came his controversial take on Jesus' final hours and, more recently, a drunken-driving incident in which he railed that Jews were the cause of all wars. Now, with Apocalypto
, come charges of excessive violence.
"I don't understand all the heat," says Gibson. "It's less violent than Braveheart
, and yet they're calling it blood porn. To make it personal against me, that's a low blow."
Gibson concedes that his pre-Columbian chase scene-***-love story does have nasty turns, as when a man gets his face chewed off by a jaguar, "but it's appropriate to the subject matter."
He dismisses charges that the film doesn't linger long enough on the cultural contributions of Mayan civilization. "That's on the History Channel, right?" Beat. "Seriously, I show you glyphs and temples and incredible architecture. It's there if you look. In the end, though, the main objective is to tell that story."
's current success, Gibson's own Hollywood story remains on track, despite calls from the likes of super-agent Ari Emanuel for him to be shunned.
"This place isn't like a club where you're in or you're out," says Gibson. "It's a sprawling place that you make of what you will. It's not a glee club, that's for sure."
He says he feels some empathy for Michael Richards, whose recent comedy club tirade against blacks finds him in the entertainment community's cross hairs. "He snapped, what are you going to do. … You don't always have to be picked to be off the hook."
Gibson says his next project is unknown ("It'll germinate"), and though he'd consider acting, "I'm not really anxious to jump up there again. … Maybe I'll just go get a dartboard tattoo on my chest."
The non- sequitur is revealing; Gibson's thoughts often return to the shake he's getting in his field.
"I'm doing well," he says. "But how many people do you know get a DUI and are kicked around for six months? It's out of proportion. I'm not saying I wasn't at fault. Hey, we're not perfect, we're all human, get over it. I've apologized, done the right thing, now get the hell over it. I'm a work in progress."