One of the interesting things about the industry's reaction to Mel Gibson's PR nightmare is that it highlights exactly how far outside Hollywood the actor been gone in recent years, and how comfortable he is being a pariah.
Even before the "The Passion of the Christ" made him a very, very very wealthy man, Gibson had made many millions more for himself as a producer: Rather than take a specific paycheck, Gibson formed Icon Prods., a company that would distribute films he starred in overseas. Gibson often accepted the monies from territories like Italy or Scandinavia in lieu of a fee, gambling that he could do better than by just taking a flat salary.
More often than not, Mel was right. And so, when "The Passion" hit big, Gibson's gains were enormous, because he wasn't just the producer - he owned the film and distributed it.
Which brings us this weekend's events: Normally, when an actor of Gibson's stature gets caught accusing the Jews of starting every war throughout history, he's committed career suicide. Not just because Hollywood finds such bigotry repellent, but because American audiences do, too. Unable to work, he usually goes kind of "Howard Hughes" and spends his final years locked away at home, peeing in milk bottles and not bathing all that much.
But Gibson is a special sort of case. For one thing, he doesn't need Hollywood's money to make movies. He can afford to finance almost any film of his choice, and (at least overseas) distribute it. The studio and network chiefs may find Gibson's views and behavior repugnant, but after the spurning he got in trying to make "The Passion," Gibson hasn't exactly been speed-dialing Paramount's Gail Berman or Stacy Snider looking for work, probably because because both sides aren't interested. Gibson's tired of being a gun-for-hire, and many studio execs think he's an aging actor who's alienated half his audience.
As one studio chief told TMZ, "He'd already been kind of hard to cast [because of 'The Passion,'] because he was so polarizing. But this is off the charts."
More, although I applaud Ari Emanuel's call for a boycott of Gibson, in the end, his comments are mostly rhetorical. They reflect one agent's opinion - not an entire agency's. An Endeavor spokesman put it to me "Ari's blog reflects his personal opinion, not the agency's. It's our clients who determine who they want to work with."
In other words, agents can't boycott Mel Gibson anymore than they can force their clients to work a director or actor they do love.
Amusingly, Arianna Huffington today recommended that Gibson's agent Ed Limato, should "immediately drop him as a client..." Well, he may not need to: Are clients who can't get work from studios really clients?
Says one top talent agent at a rival agency: "I believe his career will be very seriously, negatively impacted. Directors and other actors will be legitimately uneasy about working with this guy. Studios will have to ask, 'At what point does the publicity from the celebrity overwhelm the project?' I mean, Tom Cruise is already having significant problems for his position on certain topics, and that's far less painful [that this incident.]"
The agent stops to add, "Of course, he can continue to make movies by financing them himself. But who's going to star in them?"
Another manager disagrees, predicting that in two months, all will be forgotten.
In the meantime, however, Disney is forced to issue tight-lipped statements about Gibson's new film, "Apocalypto." For now, the studios is only saying that it is being released on December 8th and that it's declining to explicate on what if any role Gibson will play in marketing the picture.
And no wonder: With no bankable stars and shot entirely in a Yucatan dialect, the film desperately needs the luster of a Gibson to attract press. Unfortunately, Gibson's star is decidedly tarnished, leaving Disney without much of a game plan for now.
Calls to ABC about the future of Icon's "Flory" - a TV miniseries about a Dutch Jew hidden from the Nazis by her non-Jewish boyfriend during the Holocaust - were not returned at deadline. But our guess is, anyone expecting to see that hit the airwaves of ABC anytime this year is tilting at windmills.
Despite Mel's "mea culpa," Hollywood seems to be fixated on a different Latin phrase: "In vino veritas."
Or as a talent manager pal of mine put it more succinctly: "The truth comes out when your drunk, not when you're sober, dude."