Edge of Darkness - Mel Gibson interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
MEL Gibson talks about his return to acting after eight years, why the original Edge of Darkness still rates as some of the best TV he’s ever seen and why he enjoys the physical challenge of movies, as well as the odd practical joke…
Q: Are you pleased with Edge of Darkness?
Mel Gibson: Yeah, it works. On face value I think you could just say it looks like ‘oh here we go, another revenge movie’ and stuff but it’s actually rather more than that. It investigates grief and loss, in a good way.
Q: Presumably you had seen the original BBC series?
Mel Gibson: Oh yeah and it really blew my mind. I saw the original series in the 1980s and it really blew my mind. I watched it and I was like: “Wow!” I was left with my mouth hanging open. Bob [Peck] is dead now and he was amazing in that. I think it was the best TV I saw in that decade and it’s a tall order when your task is to make an updated version of it within the time frame of two hours. I mean, even the music in the original series was amazing… music by Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen. How cool is that? But I felt good about it because Martin [Campbell] was doing it again and it was the same team sort of having another look at it. I think it holds its own, which is good.
Q: You obviously had to make the story contemporary. Was the corporate conspiracy aspect of the story one of the things that appealed to you?
Mel Gibson: Yeah that sort of thing and you know, who knows? It’s kind of a stab in the dark but hey, you don’t have to stab too far in the dark before you hit something these days. I mean there’s a lot of stuff going on that’s, I think to anybody with a brain, looks around and says: “That ain’t right.” So, I don’t know if we’ve hit anything on the head or not, but it’s feasible. And it’s illustrated… it’s not sketched out too heavily, but just enough.
Q: You’ve acted in a couple of smaller roles but Edge of Darkness is your first major role for a few years. Was it a conscious decision to step back from acting and concentrate on directing?
Mel Gibson: I guess seven or eight years back there was just this kind of decision that I felt like I was getting stale in the arena that I occupied, so I thought I’d just step out of it for awhile and just change hats and then go for some other different kinds of things. And I don’t know, I just felt like it was time to come back, because if you spend that long away, I mean you’re going to change – time and maturity and oxidization and all of the little things take a hold of you. You’ll come back and you’ll make different decisions, than what you had seven or eight years earlier. And God willing, if I go on and do the same, just keep moving, because I think once you start to stand still in an area, it’s maybe a little dangerous, so you almost have to impose a penalty on yourself and walk away for a little while, because you can walk into that groove where you just think: “Well, keep going..” It doesn’t mean anything after a while, except a pay cheque, which is not really what you’re after.
Q: What was it like coming back into a big role like this?
Mel Gibson: Well, it just seemed pretty matter-of-fact – you’re much more relaxed. It’s pretty much the same as I remembered it, as far as just the mechanics of it. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle, except that you bring more time, more experience, and a fresh voice to the party, that’s it. It was fun to work on it because it was a deceptive little production in that it was a lot of bits that kind of added up, but individually, they didn’t seem to amount to anything on their own, which was, I think I’m able to see, especially having been in the director’s chair myself for a while…
Q: You’ve been directing your own films, so how was it go back and have somebody direct you?
Mel Gibson: Well, I think the main thing you have is empathy for the director. It’s like you look at the guy and you go: “Poor bastard!” [Laughs] Because they run you ragged. And, of course, your job there is to help him achieve what his vision is, so you’re there but the workload seems less and indeed it is, because you’re a component in the process of storytelling whereas with the other gig, you’ve got to be on 24/7.
Q: Was it a hard part physically? Because there are some fight scenes and they look very authentic…
Mel Gibson: You know, I love the way that fight looks, it’s messy looking…
Q: At one point you look winded, it’s very realistic…
Mel Gibson: [Laughs] Dude, I was winded! I’m like trying to catch my breath and hey it’s tough, that kid was strong, and he’s half my age, so it’s like, and he had to let me win [laughs]. You don’t bounce off, you don’t bounce back as quick as normal. I mean I had a couple of sore days after that one. But yeah, you’re knocked around, but it’s fun, I like making the image, it’s worth it for that. As long as you’ve got a good bone man afterwards that can reset you, because you need a chiropractor and somebody to like put your neck back because you get knocked around. I used to do this stuff off the side, 25 years ago, no problem, now it’s like: “Owww! I think I’ll just crawl under the couch!”
Q: Your character in Edge of Darkness is driven by terrible grief because he’s a father who loses his daughter in the most violent way. You’re a father yourself, so presumably you could relate to that?
Mel Gibson: Of course, yeah. I’ve got grandchildren and you’re looking at that, I’m looking at my daughter and my sons kind of step into that place where I’ve been, as responsible adults, and man, they’ve turned out OK and I’m going to have to shuffle off one of these days so this is what I’ve done to hand it on to them. It’s the idea of natural progression and most of us want to hand on those good things to our children, our experiences, to them. And to have that taken away, like the guy in this story does, to lose that natural thing like that, would have to change your perspective on the world and your whole existence. So, that’s what I found very interesting about the script. And that the core of it is kind of pretty emotional, so that it doesn’t turn into a Charlie Bronson revenge movie, but it actually means something.
Q: You’re famous for being a practical joker. Are the jokes and the humour part of bonding on a set?
Mel Gibson: Absolutely. Some cruelty… they have to be a little cruel [laughs] otherwise they’re not funny. I just worked with Jodie Foster [on The Beaver] and what a magnificent woman she is. I love her.
Q: You guys go back a long way…
Mel Gibson: Yeah, she’s just great, she’s so nice, and I don’t think anyone knows who she really is, she’s really like an amazing person. Smart, decisive, cut to the chase. Great.
Q: But was it fun on that set as well?
Mel Gibson: It was, yeah, yeah, it didn’t look too wacky, it was just funny, it was just generally a nice shoot, and I think I’m getting older because I just haven’t got the time to elaborate on setting up too many jokes.
Q: Did you watch a lot of films as a kid?
Mel Gibson: Yeah. We had the black and white TV and mostly I watched films on that. We didn’t go out to the cinema. We didn’t have the money to go out. But occasionally you go out to the drive in, and see something like The Dirty Dozen… I remember seeing that. And those things leave an impression on you, I think when I started really going to the cinema I was in my teen years, and it was during the ‘70s. It was an amazing decade to be watching films. The ‘70s was just cool, it had it all man… really good filmmaking, good acting, good everything.
It was a whole different era of naturalism and I just remember going to the cinema and those films leave a mark on you. They were amazing, and they were varied, and they were really interesting in the way they’d show you things. It was like: “Wow, this is so cool, but very exciting.” And everything from the Sam Peckinpah films to Polanski’s Macbeth, and everything in between, the Godfather movies and the Sidney Lumet films, those ones he was making in the ‘70s was f**king killer. I thought Al Pacino was the best thing I’d ever seen, he was like amazing and he was in a couple of films and so that decade was incredible. It had a lot of richness to it.
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