Authors: Joe Eszterhas
Naomi, Nick, Elizabeth, Kata, and I are sitting there grimly pretending to eat. Mel takes a long, lingering look at us at the table and starts to scream again.
Who wants to eat?! Who the fuck wants to eat! Go have something to eat! Hurray!
I'm trapped in an absurdist surreal drama. This is insane! He's gone completely berserk!
Mel goes running wildly away by the side of the house again, and screams: "Fuck! Fuck! Fucking hate! Fucking cunt cocksucker whore! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"
We've gone now from theater of the absurd to full-blown psychodrama.
* * * *
WE HEAR MEL GETTING INTO A CAR.
We hear Randy and Brad getting into another car to go after him. Mel goes screeching down the rocky hillside.
Naomi, Nick, Elizabeth, and I sit stunned in the dining room. Naomi and Elizabeth have tears in their eyes. Nick keeps glancing at me. I tell them everything will be okay, but the truth is, I'm frightened, too. The location is remote and I know there are no cops in the village below.
At the dining room table, Kata says she has never seen Mel behave this way. But Naomi and I have, that night he screamed at that hapless priest from Nebraska — the night I slept next to Mel's golf club with my rosary in my other hand. I understand at this moment all too well why Oksana "hysterically" grabbed Luci and ran into the darkness on the hill behind the house in Malibu after Mel "slapped" her.
After awhile, we hear Mel's car come back, hear the door slam. Randy and Brad come back a few minutes later. They have somehow missed him.
* * * *
WE ALL CREEP QUIETLY
back to our rooms. We know that Mel is back, but we don't know where he is.
When we get back to our room, as soon as we shut the door, Naomi's composure evaporates. She puts her face in her hands and sobs. Nick and I hug her.
Someone knocks at the door and we are frightened until we hear that it's Kata. When she comes in she says, "Are you guys okay?"
Kata hugs Naomi and says again that she's never seen him act this way. Naomi says, "Oh, but Kata, now he's angry at
!" Mel screamed that we were using him. We have been so careful, renting our own car at his house so many times, bringing him food, even paying for the food at the dinners he hosted.
Kata holds her hands and says, "He's angry at Oksana! I think he still loves her and she's hurting him."
When she turns to leave, Nick jumps up and unlocks the door. Kata says, "Oh my gosh, you're locking the door! I'm so sorry!" She sees now how afraid we are of Mel. It upsets her.
Nick tells us the next morning that he swiped a butcher knife from the kitchen and kept it under his pillow all night.
* * * *
I CALL NICK GUERRA IN THE MORNING.
There is no way I'm going to spend any more time in Mel Gibson's company. I tell him that we want to go back to Cleveland as soon as possible and that we're not going to fly to Malibu with Mel on his plane as planned.
I don't tell Nick Guerra why. Nor do I tell him what happened.
There's a pause and then Nick Guerra, a good and decent man in my experience, says, "I hear you."
There is no need to explain anything to him. Nick Guerra knows. He knows why. He knows everything.
* * * *
THAT MORNING NICK SAYS TO NAOMI,
"I have to tell you something, but I don't want you to get mad and I don't want you to tell Dada."
Naomi says to him, "Please don't tell me anything you don't want me to tell him… it just makes me a conspirator."
Nick says, "Okay, you can tell him, but I think he's going to be upset."
She says, "Please, just tell me."
Nick says, "I taped Mel last night with my iPod."
She says, "You're kidding!"
He says, "No."
She asks, "Why?"
Nick says, "Because I was scared. And because I thought we might need it if Mel hurt anybody.'
The irony of what Nick has done doesn't escape us. Yet another Mel tape. And our teenage son made it.
* * * *
THAT SAME MORNING,
Nick goes over to the main house. He takes the butcher knife back to the kitchen and goes down to sit by the pool. Mel comes down. He's hoarse. He seems embarrassed.
Mel says, "I want to apologize to you."
"You don't have to do that," Nick says.
Mel says, "Yes I do."
Mel adds, "You know, I'm really not like that. That's not me. That's not who I am."
Nick looks at him and doesn't say anything.
Mel asks where his mom and dad are.
Nick tells him we're still over at the guest house.
"Aren't they coming over for breakfast?" Mel asks.
Nick says he doesn't think so.
Mel tells him he really wants to talk to us.
Nick tells him to go on over to the guest house. We're there.
But Mel doesn't. He goes upstairs. He keeps looking over the balcony to see if we've come over. Finally he comes down with a note, hands it to Nick, and asks him to take it to us.
* * * *
MEL'S NOTE TO US READS:
Sorry for my outburst. I have a vast reservoir of rage-filled pus that from time to time spills out. Ultimately, sometimes even on those I love. Please forgive it — it was wrong of me — Mel.
Then he adds
, "Also, since The Devil seems to afflict me through anger and my tongue, I won't say much for awhile. Please don't take this for anything more than me just trying to cope.
The Devil got his tongue?
* * * *
WE DON'T SEE HIM THAT WHOLE DAY
and Mel doesn't join us for dinner that night. We see him the next morning when we're all leaving. Mel to Malibu; us to Cleveland.
He is uncomfortable and stiff and so are we.
I realize that the pane of glass between us has now become a sheet of ice.
* * * *
WE TAKE SEPARATE HELICOPTERS
to San Jose. We land a few hundred feet apart at the airport.
He gets out of his chopper and looks over at ours. He waves. His face is set, unsmiling.
I wave back from inside our chopper, my face set, unsmiling.
That is the last time, the last moment, that I will see Mel Gibson.
* * * *
WE SPEND OUR FINAL NIGHT IN COSTA RICA
at the Hotel Alta, the little hotel we fell in love with.
But before we check in, we take a road trip two hours east, toward Limon. We stop at a place called La Negrita. It is a shrine to commemorate the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, not unlike Guadalupe in Mexico City.
I kneel in front of the Virgin and pray. It is a cleansing experience, and I take joy in the expectation of soon seeing my friend Judah Maccabee again… and bringing him alive on the page.
* * * *
THE WORST PART COMES LAST
, the day after we get home. The Devil is always in the details.
Nick comes to me and says Mel said something to him on the beach that day when they sat on that piece of driftwood and talked. When Mel talked about Oksana and how she never thanked him for anything.
And then Nick says that Mel said this too: "I want to fuck her in the ass and stab her to death while I'm doing it."
I look at my teenage son, my son who falls asleep holding his rosary sometimes, my son who gives me a little wooden cross to put in my pocket when Naomi and I travel.
I see a great sadness in his eyes.
"Why didn't you tell me when it happened?" I ask him.
He shrugs; he avoids my eyes.
"I don't know," he says.
But I know. It is such a vile and heinous thing to say to anyone. But to say it to a fifteen-year-old boy going through puberty, a boy still defining his sexuality, is an abomination. It is a nearly sixty-year-old adult showing a loop from a pornographic snuff film…
to a child.
It is a corrupt and corrupting act.
As I give Nick a hug, I wonder: Does Mel Gibson smear this kind of reeking black sludge over the hearts and souls of his own sons? Or does he just do it to strangers, to boys who admire him?
As I hug him, Nick says, "I'll never be able to watch 'Braveheart' again."
WE PUT THE TWO WOODEN COSTA RICAN CARVINGS
of the Blessed Mother that we bought from Kata up on our mantel… next to the three painted Guatemalan crucifixes that we had bought from Maxfield's in Los Angeles earlier.
It felt so good to be back home — with our children and our pets, especially the puppy we called "Guzman" (named after the Blessed Mother's archenemy in my script "Guadalupe"), and our serpent called Lucifer in his glass house.
I went to a Cavs basketball game with Lukie. We ate brats and popcorn. Lukie ate cotton candy and more brats and more popcorn. We celebrated each other and the Cavs' win.
When I got home I went right upstairs and spent a couple hours talking with Judah and with Eleazar, who had a great sense of humor, and with a sleepy Mattathias. The others were asleep.
I was astounded to see that Rachel, my script's love interest, Judah's woman, had moved in too. Her beauty was heightened, not at all lessened, by the brand which had been so brutally burned into her face.
* * * *
I SPENT NEARLY ALL MY TIME
after we got home from Costa Rica with the Maccabees, overhearing them as they spoke in 160 B.C., watching them with their people. They were in my tunnel with me, telling me what to write in my script. I was a pencil (an old manual typewriter) in the Maccabees' hands.
Judah said to his villagers, "We have no choice. If we stay here, we will die. Our sacred scrolls have been burned, our synagogue has been desecrated. They will come for us the way others came for our forefathers! And they will kill us the way they killed our forefathers!"
Judah, to arriving refugees at a place called the Pit of Sorrows: "The day will come when we will be free! We will be free to pray to our God! We will be free to educate our children! We will never have to bend our knee to anyone but our Lord! The day will come when we will be strong and mighty, strong enough to defeat anyone —
— who wants to wipe us off the face of the earth!"
I saw a scene more clearly in my head now than I'd seen it before. This time Rachel was with Judah.
Judah: "What madness possesses someone to want to wipe an entire people off the face of the earth? Is it such a sin to be a Jew?"
Rachel looked at him and said nothing.
Judah quietly and passionately: "We will end it! Right here!"
She took his hand and held it, then looked at him.
Rachel: "It will never end, Judah."
Judah almost pleading: "It must!"
Rachel sadly: "But it won't."
And I overheard a conversation in Mattathias's tent between Judah and his father.
Judah found his father praying to God: "They give the corpses of your servants to the birds of the sky for food. They give the flesh and bones of your Godly ones to the beasts of the earth. How long, Lord? Why have you rejected us?"
Judah watched as his father prayed and went up behind the old man.
Judah: "Can I pray with you, my father?"
Mattathias: "No. You have not yet earned the right to be angry at God… but you will."
They inspired me. They were alive in my heart and in my mind. I was moved and honored to be in their company.
* * * *
I GOT AN EMAIL FROM RANDY
, our fellow houseguest in Costa Rica.
I want you to know,
that when Mel melted down that evening, I wasn't emotionally impacted by anything he said except the stuff he said about you, and I don't think even that would have bothered me if I hadn't known Nick and Naomi were hearing it… But Nick and Naomi are your family and they love you — so beautifully and tenderly — as only a family could, so I despised for them to be hearing anything that could feel like an assault against you.
And I sent Randy an email response. I said, "I gave Elizabeth a hug on our final day, and whispered this into her ear: 'I always really liked Walter Cronkite.'"
* * * *
WHEN I WASN'T WITH THE MACCABEES,
I was with Naomi or the boys celebrating Advent.
It was one of my favorite times of the year, second only to Easter. My boys and I carried the cross at church several times during the season.
I loved carrying the cross and felt especially blessed when I carried it. Watching my boys carry the cross — I had taught each of them — gave me even more pleasure than carrying it myself.
On Christmas Day, I was so engrossed in Christ's birth that I almost forgot about the six people who were up there on our third floor, bunking in my office. I kept turning the heat up. These desert people weren't used to lake effect snow and cold.
Naomi wondered what Luci was doing this Christmas Day.
* * * *
GOOGLING MEL, I DISCOVERED
during this holiday season that he had threatened to kill other people in the past.
Respected New York Times columnist Frank Rich: "I want to kill him and want his intestines on a stick. I want to kill his dog."
Harvey Levin, the head of TMZ: "I'm going to take you out into the desert and shoot you."
The author of an unauthorized biography: "I want to pray for the guy who wrote it, so I won't kill him. Because the motherfucker hasn't got any balls! He's a pussy and I hope I never meet him, because I'd tear his fucking face right off."
As a means of eradicating unfriendly journalists, Mel advocated a chemical called "1080," a pesticide that caused instant brain hemorrhage.
And he held his fists up to a TV documentarian who had annoyed him. Mel said, "With these hands, I could kill."
* * * *
I DISCOVERED OTHER THINGS
He told this "joke" to Men's Journal: "What was JFK's last thought as the fatal bullet smashed his skull? 'Why is my wife making meatloaf on the back of the car?'"
In that same Men's Journal article by Walter Kirn, Mel described this practical joke: "You sneak up on a married buddy, smear some mayonnaise across his chin, add a freshly-plucked pubic hair or two, and then, when your victim finally wakes up and touches a finger to the sticky mess, you draw his attention to your open fly."