Authors: Joe Eszterhas
I look at him. He is looking at me evenly. The word still rings in my ears:
* * * *
NAOMI AND I FIND A BOOK
that Mel's been reading in one of the sitting rooms. It's entitled, "How to Disappear Without a Trace."
I wonder how Oksana would feel if she knew he was reading this book. I doubt that he'd "disappear without a trace" without Luci.
* * * *
WE'RE GUYS AND WE TALK GUY TALK
, too. He tells me that his relationship with Robyn felt "spiritually dead" for a long time before he met Oksana.
"I guess I just couldn't keep 'Benny the Rat' zipped," Mel says.
I say — "
Benny the Rat
? Oh, man," and we laugh together.
I tell him a story: "I'm on Jon Stewart's show hustling my book, 'American Rhapsody.' The final chapter is called, 'Willard Speaks!' Willard is what Bill Clinton calls his penis."
Mel laughs, "
? No shit!" Mel can't stop laughing.
"Willard," I say. "No shit. Incidentally, did you know that Mitt Romney's real first name is Willard?"
"No! That's not true!"
"It is true.
. Mitt Romney's real first name is what Bill Clinton called his penis. Anyway…"
Mel is laughing. "Anyway, I'm on Jon Stewart and I'm talking about Clinton's penis and Stewart's laughing and he turns to me and says, 'What do you call yours?'"
"I say, '
"And Stewart says, 'Yeah, yours.'"
"And without a beat I say, 'Vlad the Impaler.'"
"Stewart, stunned, says, 'You call yours
Vlad the Impaler
"I say, 'Yes.'"
"And Stewart jumps up, feigning fear, and he runs around the back of his desk, his hands up, to ward off… Vlad the Impaler, I guess…"
Mel laughs. He can't stop laughing. His laughter is infectious. And I can't stop laughing, either.
When we finally stop laughing I say, "Then I met Naomi and my life changed."
And Mel says, sadness in his voice, "Yeah, well, I didn't meet Naomi."
He adds, "I got fucked twice. By my wife and by that fucking cunt."
* * * *
WE TALK ABOUT DRINKING, TOO
I was a functioning alcoholic and I didn't have a drop of alcohol from 2001 to 2009, when my doctor said I could have a couple of glasses of wine a day… if I could hold myself to it.
"Have you?" Mel asks.
I say yeah — my youngest kids range from eleven to sixteen. I have to hold myself to it for them and for Naomi.
"I couldn't do that," Mel says. "Stop, I mean. I could never stop. I drank until I passed out. Sometimes I'd have a half a dozen beers before I even showed up on the set in the morning."
"How is it now?" I ask.
"I haven't had anything to drink in years," he says.
"And how is it?"
"It's a bitch."
Only a former alcoholic can really know how hard it is to stop drinking. I respect his willpower. He hosts an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting at his house that night.
* * * *
EVEN AS WE'RE BEING ASSHOLE BUDDIES
, as they say in Ohio, sharing asshole secrets, both Mel and I are wary.
Behind the laughter, there is always an ever-present pane of glass between us.
We pretend to ignore the pane of glass, but we never forget that it's there.
I wonder why.
I wonder… if he wonders… why.
* * * *
THE DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE IN HIS LAP
, in the middle of talking about "The Maccabees," Mel says, "That fucking cunt." We're back to Oksana.
His eyes are almost glazed. "She says I assaulted her. Bullshit. I slapped her."
He gets up suddenly in his living room and acts it out. He approaches me and raises his hand to my face. "Gently," he says, "lightly." He taps my face. "And the dumb fucking cunt grabs the baby — hysterically — and runs out of the house into the back, down the hill, screaming. It's pitch black out there! She's got Luci! There are fucking animals out there! There are fucking mountain lions out there! And the fucking dumb cunt is running around with Luci!"
He stops and stares at me a long moment, then looks down at the Bible.
And then he looks up at me quietly and says, "I don't know why I'm telling you all this stuff, I really don't. I shouldn't."
"Then don't," I say to him.
He looks at me and then picks his Bible back up.
* * * *
MEL'S WORRIED ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING
to the movie business.
Mel says, "The business has changed. They want to make their tent poles, that's all they want to do. The movies that we loved just aren't being made. Everything is dumbed down. It's all lowest common denominator. The directors all come out of the same cookie cutter: MTV or television. There's no such thing anymore as adult entertainment. That's become a euphemism for porn. All they want to do is to put a Batman costume on me. They're all looking for the man in the cape — the savior. They're all looking for Jesus — they just don't know it."
* * * *
HE TRASHES PEOPLE ALL THE TIME.
Of his co-writer on "The Passion," Benedict Fitzgerald, he says, "He can't write. I wrote that whole script. And then he had the balls to sue me for more money! I'm the best thing that ever happened to him."
Of Randall Wallace, who wrote "Braveheart" and has worked on other films with him: "He's a loser. He's worthless. He wouldn't have a career without me."
Of Brian Helgeland, who wrote and directed "Payback" and wrote "Edge of Darkness": "I got him his first directing job and he turned on me. He's an ingrate. He used me."
Of James Carroll, Catholic author and a columnist for The Boston Globe: "He's a grade-A number one asshole!"
Of Philip Anschutz, the head of Walden Media: "They fucked me in the ass. They ripped me off. He's supposed to be a great Christian."
Of his longtime and loyal publicity manager Alan Nierob: "Don't ever mention his wig to him. It's the ugliest wig anyone has ever seen. He's a fucking pussy. When his sister died, I literally had to hold him in my arms."
The only person I hear him praise is the director Dick Donner, with whom he did five films.
Donner, an underrated director and a nice man, also once said, "I have a bust of Abraham Lincoln in my office. And it's not because of the greatness he did for our country. It's because whenever I look at it, I have to remember that an actor killed him."
* * * *
I NOTICE AS WE SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER
that Mel never asks any questions about me, my life, my career, my wife, my father, my divorce, or my children.
He talks about himself. Obsessively. About Oksana and Robyn. About his problems. About his custody and court issues. But he never asks a question about
There are no newspapers or magazines in his house. The television is never on. And he has trouble going on the Internet; he asks Naomi for help. He watches old movies, often one of his own.
* * * *
WE BUY MEL
a Cleveland Indians baseball cap at Kitson's in Malibu. I have a vast collection of Cleveland Indians ball caps, but I've never seen this one. I really like it.
When we give it to him, he thanks us and puts it up on a peg in the kitchen. Sensational! The Indians Wahoo cap has now become a flag in Mel Gibson's Malibu house.
I remember seeing a photograph of him wearing a ball cap and a fake nose and glasses in a magazine once, and when I give him the Indians cap I say, "Promise me. If you ever need to wear a ball cap as a disguise again, wear this Indians one and please forget the fake nose and glasses."
He grins and says, "Okay, I promise."
* * * *
HE VIEWS HIMSELF AS A HEALER
When Naomi is out of the room Mel says to me, "I've got this enema kit upstairs. It cleans all the poison and shit out of you. It's better than a colonic. I'll hook you up if you want. An hour later you're done. Clean as a whistle."
I thank him. It's very nice of him to offer to hook me up personally to his enema kit.
Thank you, but no thank you!
"You sure?" he says. "You just sit there and you shit and shit and shit and you can't believe what comes out of you! It's like black sludge! And it smells so bad! It reeks!"
Mel smiles and says to me, "Come on, let's go upstairs, I'll hook you up."
* * * *
HE'S TALKING ABOUT THE WORK
he does in Guatemala with doctors, helping a medical team with children.
Naomi says to him, "I'm sure it puts your perspective in order. When you see suffering children, you think, 'Who cares what they write about me?'"
Mel looks wide-eyed and says, "Exactly."
I wonder for a moment if he's trying to emulate Sean Penn in Haiti and Angelina in Bosnia. I wonder if he's aspiring to sainthood to hide his sins, to avoid public disfavor.
But I don't think that's true. I think he means it. He loves children and he's always had a love affair with Mexico and Latin America.
I'm sure that at least
of the teachings of Jesus have rubbed off on him.
* * * *
WE'RE GOING TO DINNER
at Maura and Sean's house in Agoura Hills. Mel is driving his little Smart Car and we're following in our rental. It's dark and the road is winding and precarious. Mel is driving at over 70 miles per hour.
We try to keep up with him, but then we give up. Neither Naomi nor I is suicidal and we have four boys waiting for us at home. So Mel has to stop dead in the darkness on a two-lane road and wait for us.
Maura and Sean work as the caretakers of Mel's church. Hutton lives nearby too with his second wife. The church, only a block or so from their houses, is literally the centerpiece of their lives.
There are religious statues — even one of St. Elizabeth of Hungary — all over Maura and Sean's house.
It is a festive family dinner. Sean and Maura have made a wonderful roast and there are bottles of good red wine, which Mel doesn't drink. Mel sits at the head of the table and is the object of their attention. It is obvious how much his family loves him, how much Maura is devoted to him.
Mel stares at me a moment and then he starts to laugh. He jumps up from his chair and says, "You!
!" He points to me and can't stop laughing. "'Sacred Cows,'" he says, "You wrote 'Sacred Cows'!"
He's right. I did indeed. A long time ago, in 1989, I wrote a script about the president of the United States, a farm boy from Nebraska, who, in a moment of extreme nostalgia, ripped out of his skull on Jack Daniels, commits a sexual indiscretion with a cow.
The script, obviously, was never made. But it became one of the most famous unproduced scripts in Hollywood. Steven Spielberg, of all people, almost directed it, as did Milos Forman, and a long list of others. Stanley Kubrick almost produced it and sent me a note that said, "This is one of the funniest scripts I've ever read, but I don't want to get within a thousand miles of it."
And Ed Limato, Mel's agent, I learn now, sent it to Mel to play the president. But Limato also said, "You've got to read this, it's hilarious, but there's no way I will let you do it."
Mel can't stop laughing and I explain to the others what the script was about, even as I'm thinking: Wouldn't that have been something! Mel Gibson as the president who pops a cow… years before he directs "The Passion of the Christ."
"I still remember that script!" Mel keeps saying. "I still remember it!"
I wonder if Mel's thinking: Here's the guy who wrote a script about the president of the United States having sex with a cow … talking to me about writing a biblical epic about the Maccabees.
After dinner, Maura says to Naomi, "I pray every day that Mel and Joe make it to the end of this journey — two such strong personalities."
Naomi says, "I pray too."
* * * *
WE HEAD BACK TO OHIO
, where I will continue to do the reading and research that I think is so necessary if I am going to write about the Maccabees accurately and with feeling. Mel will meanwhile continue to fight his many battles: For custody of Luci. To effect his divorce from Robyn. To free himself of charges stemming from the alleged assault against Oksana.
Over the next nine months, Naomi and I go back and forth from Ohio to Malibu. For the next nine months, I won't receive a penny for working on this project, although Mel will begin to pay our travel expenses.
He has sworn me to absolute secrecy. I don't tell my manager or agents what I'm doing or that I'm in town, or even that I know Mel Gibson.
* * * *
MEL AND I TALK ON THE PHONE
and Bjorn Pork sends me emails. I realize that things aren't going well for either Mel or Bjorn Pork.
"I HAVE MY LITTLE LUCI THIS WEEKEND AND IT'S AN AGONY TO SEND HER BACK TO SATAN (OKSANA)."
"SHE (OKSANA) WILL SETTLE FOR MONEY AND BE LOCKED OFF. THEN SHE CAN VANISH INTO THE BAD MEMORY CATEGORY FOR ME. SHE HAS TO REMAIN WITH HERSELF. GOD HAS THANKFULLY REMOVED ME FROM HER WILES. AND KARMIC RETRIBUTION (TEMPORAL PUNISHMENT) WILL BE AN AGONY FOR HER. MAY GOD SPARE THE CHILD."
"IT'S BEYOND MY TOLERANCE. I CAN EAT NO MORE SHIT."
"IT'S HARD TO SETTLE DOWN WHEN SOMEONE IS CONSTANTLY TRYING TO KILL YOU."
"I CAN'T TALK WHEN I'M BEING RAPED."
"HAPPY EASTER. THERE WERE TOO MANY WITNESSES. JESUS IS COMING BACK — BUT THIS TIME — HE'LL BE PISSED!"
* * * *
MEL SENDS US A PHOTOGRAPH
of Luci wearing the Cleveland Indians ball cap that we bought him. Luci looks joyous to be wearing her Tribe hat. Luci goes right up on our refrigerator, right next to our grandchildren.
* * * *
WE'RE BACK IN HIS LIVING ROOM
with our Douay-Rheims Bibles in our laps, talking about the Maccabees script.
Mel, I've learned, thinks completely in graphic, often violent, visual images.
For an introductory sequence, he visually describes the actions of David and Moses. For the villain's death, he describes in great detail the crows that will peck his eyes out, as the crows pecked the thief's eyes out in "The Passion."