A friend of mine, Nick Brendon, is an alcoholic. (He played Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
.) About three years ago, a bunch of us held an intervention for him, which resulted in him going to Promises, the well-known rehabilitation center in Malibu. He went, got out, and within a month or so was drinking again. Eventually he checked himself back in, and since then has not touched a drop of alcohol, has quit smoking, and is leading a wonderful life.
Nicky has been remarkeably - and bravely - open about his experiences, so I'm not betraying any confidences in relating this information. The reason I do so is because Nick is a totally different person than he was when he was drinking, and he'd be the first to tell you so. Which brings me to Mel Gibson.
I've heard the expression "A drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts" thrown around in regards to Gibson's heinous anti-Semitic rant of the other night. And that's all well and good, except for the fact that there's a huge
difference between a drunk and an alcoholic, and the people castigating Gibson the most don't seem to understand this. When someone who's not an alcoholic gets drunk, he may say or do things he wouldn't dream of while sober, but ultimately he's still being himself. However, as anyone who knows an alcoholic is painfully aware, when that person drinks, it is very often a Jekyll and Hyde situation.
I'm Jewish, just to get that out there. I saw The Passion of the Christ
on opening day and found it to be a powerful and moving, if flawed, piece of filmmaking. Did I think it was ultimately "anti-Semitic"? I did not. Did I wish Gibson had filmed some scenes differently? Absolutely. I particularly remember the scene in which Roman centurions are shown going up to Jewish houses, knocking on the doors, and giving money to Jews to speak against Jesus. This scene is extra-biblical and does nothing but reinforce the hateful stereotype that Jews will do anything for money. (Although I must say that in discussing the film with Christian friends, that scene seemed to barely register with them.)
Anyone who thinks that the degree of vitriol and loathing emanating from the left against Gibson is not politically motivated is kidding himself. Lest we forget, these are generally the same people who have no problem embracing Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson and the always race-baiting (if entertaining) Al Sharpton. And they're also the same people who love to play the moral equivalence card when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, Israel and Hezbollah, etc. So you'll pardon me if I find their sudden concern for the well-being of the Jews not very convincing. (Not that she'll ever read this, but this means you, Arianna, you morally bankrupt, self-absorbed, self-serving, soulless, sycophantic piece of trash.)
Like my friend Nicky, Mel Gibson has a disease. But his disease is not anti-Semitism, it is alcoholism. Those who know him seem to back up
"I have been with Mel when he has fallen off," says producer Dean Devlin, who had spent the afternoon before the arrest with Gibson, "and he becomes a completely different person. It is pretty horrifying."
And horrified is exactly how Devlin and many of Gibson's friends felt when they heard that the actor-director, in the course of his arrest for drunk driving, made sexist and anti-Semitic remarks, including one that quickly became infamous: "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson has since been charged with two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Devlin and Tom Sherak, a partner at Revolution Studios who once headed distribution at 20th Century Fox, had spent last Thursday afternoon screening Devlin's upcoming film "Flyboys" for Gibson, and Gibson seemed very much himself.
"We were kidding around, talking about our kids, he was very friendly," said Sherak, who met Gibson while working on "Braveheart." Gibson, he added, had a trailer of his new film, "Apocalypto," that he was very excited about. "We talked about the shoot and he was just very upbeat, not stressed out at all."
Said Devlin: "I consider Mel one of my best friends in Hollywood." Devlin met Gibson while co-producing "The Patriot," in which Gibson starred.
"The day this happened, my wife had gotten this long letter from Mel full of congratulations [for the birth of the Devlins' first child] and talking about the joys of being a parent," Devlin said. "She's Jewish. I'm Jewish. If Mel is an anti-Semite, then he spends a lot of time with us, which makes no sense. But he is an alcoholic, and while that makes no excuse for what he said, because there is no excuse, I believe it was the disease speaking, not the man."
His sentiments were shared by longtime Gibson friend Jodie Foster, who, upon hearing the news while on the New York set of her new film, refused to believe it.
"Someone told me what had happened, and I said, 'That is just so not true,' " she said. When it was confirmed, Foster said, she was stricken with deep sadness that a man she considers "one of the nicest, most honest men I have ever met" had taken such a fall. Although she and Gibson speak regularly, Foster had no idea he was drinking again.
"Is he an anti-Semite? Absolutely not," Foster said. "But it's no secret that he has always fought a terrible battle with alcoholism. I just wish I had been there, that I had been able to say, 'Don't do it. Don't take that drink.' "
Like Devlin, she does not believe that drunkenness excuses hurtful remarks, but she bristles at accusations in the media that Gibson is using his alcoholism as a "get out of jail free" card from charges of anti-Semitism.
"It is a horrible disease, and it affects everyone differently," Foster said. "I do not have personal experience with addiction, but I have seen it take many paths in people I know. For some, it is a soft slide off the barstool, and some experience true psychotic episodes."
I submit to you that if Gibson were a true anti-Semite there is no way he could have had a career in Hollywood for over 25 years without anybody with whom he worked or interacted having a clue as to his true nature. And if a drunk man's words truly are a sober man's thoughts, how do we account for the many years that the hard-partying Gibson somehow managed to refrain from blaming all the world's problems on the Jews?
So why did Gibson say the reprehensible things he did? Did the teachings of his father, who actually does appear to be a classic anti-Semite if ever there were one, spew forth unbidden? Did the emotion from the many hits Gibson took over The Passion
manifest itself in an alcoholic haze? Honestly, I have no idea. Which I think is a more honest answer then you'll get from most of the major players in this debate. All I know is that what Devlin and Foster said about Gibson is similarly true of Nick Brendon, so there must be something to it.
I hope my gentile friends will forgive my chutzpah in saying that those who rush to condemn Mad Mel to burn in hell for all eternity seem to me un-Christian to the extreme. (Not that he'll ever read this, but this means you, Andrew Sullivan.)