Here’s a Hollywood doozy for you: Known police aggressor Mel Gibson is set to star in a movie about police brutality called “Dragged Across Concrete.” Classy.
The news hit Wednesday afternoon in a press release announcing the project has secured financing from various production companies. “Dragged Across Concrete” will also feature Vince Vaughn, who starred in last year’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” for which Gibson recently earned a Best Director Oscar nomination. It’s being directed by S. Craig Zahler, who made 2015’s cannibalistic Kurt Russell western “Bone Tomahawk.”
Here’s the plot synopsis, per the press release: “A stolid, old-guard policeman, Ridgeman (Gibson), and his volatile younger partner, Anthony (Vaughn), find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arming tactics become the media’s special du jour. Low on cash and with no other options, these two embittered soldiers descend into the criminal underworld to gain their just due, but instead find far more than they wanted awaiting them in the shadows.”
What people have apparently forgotten is that awaiting Gibson in the shadows is a verifiable history of aggression toward police officers, not to mention an undercurrent of homophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny and racism. According to documents obtained by TMZ, Gibson, who has struggled with alcohol abuse, threatened to take revenge on an officer who arrested him for a DUI in 2006. “I’m going to fuck you,” Gibson yelled. He then called a female officer “sugar tits” and proceeded to ask whether the arresting officer was Jewish. “Fucking Jews,” Gibson said. “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” This was three years after the Anti-Defamation League accused Gibson of depicting Jews as “bloodthirsty” and “evil” in the hyper-violent blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ.”
As these things go for straight white men in Hollywood, Gibson’s PR crisis was relatively short-lived. Sony chief Amy Pascal vowed not to work with him again, and ABC dropped a Holocaust miniseries he was developing. But less than six months after the DUI incident, Disney released Gibson’s next violent directorial effort, “Apocalypto,” which some criticized for depicting the Mayan civilization solely as “bloodthirsty savages.” Even though it wasn’t a runaway hit, “Apocalypto” did all right at the box office. Gibson’s career slowed a bit, but he was still developing movies, including one about Viking warriors that Leonardo DiCaprio exited after RadarOnline published audio of Gibson roaring at his then-girlfriend. In the 2010 tapes, Gibson demanded oral sex, said it would be her fault if she’s “raped by a pack of n****rs” and declared she “fucking deserved” to be smacked.
This was just a more publicized form of the invective Gibson had spewed since the early days of his career. Before saying he “want[ed] to kill” New York Times columnist Frank Rich over a negative “Passion of the Christ” review, Gibson had called a former female business partner a “cunt,” denounced feminism and told Playboy in 1995 that anyone who expected an apology for the homophobic remarks he’d made a few years prior could “fuck off.”
With the RadarOnline evidence, Gibson’s head was again on the PR chopping block. That ended fairly quickly too. Factions of Hollywood reportedly blacklisted him, and Gibson didn’t land the sort of acclaimed roles that a so-called serious actor might pine for, but he nonetheless appeared in more movies, mostly violent ones like “Get the Gringo,” “The Expendables 3” and Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills.”
And now, here we are. In handing Gibson a Best Director nomination for “Hacksaw Ridge,” the Academy has effectively bankrolled his comeback. “I don’t understand why after 10 years it’s any kind of issue,” Gibson told Variety in October, referring to the DUI rant. “Surely if I was really what they say I was, some kind of hater, there’d be evidence of actions somewhere. There never has been. I’ve never discriminated against anyone or done anything that sort of supports that reputation. And for one episode in the back of a police car on eight double tequilas to sort of dictate all the work, life’s work and beliefs and everything else that I have and maintain for my life is really unfair.”
This week alone, we’ve seen reports about Gibson eyeing a roll in “Daddy’s Home 2” and headlining a film about police brutality, one of the most fraught racial topics in America. Meanwhile, women directed only 7 percent of 2016’s highest-grossing movies and comprised a mere 22 percent of the protagonists in 2015’s highest grossers. Cool. Good job, Hollywood.