Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mel Gibson as TIM

I blogged about this movie way back when Mel Gibson was burning up the tabloids and entertainment news headlines with his verbally abusive, abrasive and just plain bone-headed behavior.  He got so out of control that he was even lampooned on TV's South Park.  Full disclosure:  Mel Gibson was one of my favorite guests on my old VH1 talk show.  He was polite, playful and honest.  He graciously posed for photos and gave autographs in the studio.  He was promoting his new 1988 movie, Tequila Sunrise, at the time.  The second time I interviewed him, he was an established movie superstar thanks to the Lethal Weapon franchise plus his Best Director and Best Picture Oscar victories for 1995's Braveheart, which he starred in and produced.  He'd changed.  He was rude.  And not just to me.  He was promoting 1997's Conspiracy Theory then and appeared to be visibly bored with interviews that were not for network news programs or syndicated shows like Entertainment Tonight.  I was with the local Fox station, WNYW, in New York city.  When I agreed to fly out from New York City to L.A. to be a part of the Lethal Weapon 4 junket, I was secretly hoping he would not be available for interviews.  I'd began to feel about Mel Gibson the way some press people and Hollywood insiders felt about Norman Maine in A Star Is Born -- specifically the 1954 version with James Mason and Judy Garland.

Mel Gibson was available for Lethal Weapon 4 interviews.  I just did my work for Fox 5's Good Day New York.  But I was not thrilled about giving up my weekend to fly 3000 miles and talk to him about that dog of a 1998 sequel.  Dean Richards of Chicago's WGN and Steve Kmetko, formerly of E!, are two entertainment reporters and class acts in the field of entertainment journalists on TV.  They know how I felt.  They've also had their rude moments with Mel.

I was a major Mel Gibson fan.  I paid to see his new summertime action movie releases just like millions of others did back in the late 80s and early 90s.  Then...maybe he got too intoxicated on stardom and power.  But you cannot deny that he was born with movie star charisma.  Just look at his early work like Mad Max and Gallipoli.  When Hollywood cast him in Lethal Weapon, his movie star quality was able to blaze with excellent box office results.

One of the 1990s Mel Gibson comments that irked people -- mostly gay people -- was a statement to foreign press that no one would ever mistake a guy with his looks for being a gay man.  Apparently, Gibson felt he looked way too butch.

Before Mad Max was released, Australian TV viewers saw young Mel Gibson as Tim.  This, from what I was told, was a big hit 1979 TV movie "down under" that's now considered somewhat of a classic.  It was written by Colleen McCullough.  Her novel, The Thorn Birds, would be wildly successful and become a ratings champion ABC TV mini-series in 1983 starring Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward and the amazing Barbara Stanwyck.

Mel Gibson played Tim, a sweet young man with below-average intellectual abilities.  He does manual labor but, unfortunately, some of his co-workers take advantage of him because he's simple-minded and good-hearted.
The camera falls in love with wide-eyed Mel Gibson in this Australian feature.

Kindness and concern come in the form of a middle-aged single woman played wonderfully by  Piper Laurie.  She wants to help Tim and establish a proper friendship.

Of course, local tongues start wagging about the new friendship of the unmarried older man and the young man who helps her with gardening chores.

The two become very good friends and we, the viewers, wonder if the friendship will advance to some serious lip action one night.  Tim is a babe.

Here's the thing about that ignorant Mel Gibson comment to the foreign press.  You absolutely must see  him in the first 15 minutes of Tim.  If The Village People had adopted a baby boy and that child grew into young manhood, their son would look just like Mel Gibson as Tim.

The soulful Bambi eyes, the sleeveless work shirts, the swimwear....

Tim may be described as "simple-minded," but there's something very sophisticated and smart about his entire wardrobe which he obviously purchased on a handyman's budget.  Did Mel Gibson just forget about this movie?  In the first 15 minutes of the feature, there's a scene of Tim mowing Mary's grass in the backyard.  That's not a euphemism.  Piper Laurie's character hires Tim to do some yard work.  Watch him as he cuts the grass.  He's wearing a tank top, blue jean cut-offs -- cut very short -- and work boots that complement the tank top.

For an actor who'd later say that no one would ever mistake him for being a gay man, he's pushing a lawn mower while dressed like a bartender in a West Hollywood gay club during happy hour.

Australia's beloved Tim is not widely known to American audiences.  You can see it this coming Friday night, May 2nd, on cable's TCM (Turner Classic Movies).  Tim, starring Mel Gibson and Piper Laurie, airs at midnight Eastern time -- 9p Pacific time.

Let me know what you think of Mel's fashion statements in the movie.  Would you call them haute hetero?

To go back to Mel's friendly days in the late 1980s, here's a clip of him on my VH1 talk show telling me what famous movie character he could have played.

On Friday night, May 2nd, Tim will be seen in between TCM airings of Gallipoli and Mad Max, also starring early Mel Gibson.

He's a talented actor and director.  Sadly, his off-camera lack of discipline and his bad manners blemished his movie star image and box office appeal to such an extent that his 2012 big action movie, Get the Gringo, did not open wide.  It pretty much went straight to DirecTV.  What a humiliating change from his Lethal Weapon days.  It was exactly the same kind of thing that would've happened to Norman Maine.

What movie did open worldwide in 2012 to huge box office business and rave reviews?  Skyfall -- starring Daniel Craig...as James Bond.

Next year, we'll see a new version of Mad Max.  The ballsy and brilliant British actor Tom Hardy, seen here on the current cover of Esquire magazine, takes on the title role.

Let's see if Gibson eventually can change and repair his film career.  You never know.  I could be offered an opportunity to interview him again.


  1. Thanks for the notice about TIM. I have not seen it and I will try to catch it on TCM on Friday night. Your article reminds me of a 1994 movie that another Australian actor, Russell Crowe, appeared in called THE SUM OF US. This film was an Australian feature just like TIM, and like TIM, THE SUM OF US featured its Australian star early on in his career, before he became popular with American audiences. In THE SUM OF US, Crowe's dressing-style was that of a gay man, but in this film, he actually played a gay character struggling to find love. Anyhow, I couldn't help thinking of that movie when reading your article.

    1. Russell Crowe was already a top Australian actor by the time he got around to doing THE SUM OF US. I've been a Crowe fan since the early 1990s thanks to a part time job I had in a video rental store. I loved that job and the store had a great foreign film section. Years later, I rushed to the critics' screening of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL specifically to see Crowe and hoped that it would be the movie that really made him click with Hollywood. He won the Australian Oscar for 1992's ROMPER STOMPER. It was his third nomination. I'm positive ROMPER STOMPER had a big influence on AMERICAN HISTORY X. Crowe, after sympathetic roles, was blazingly good as the skinhead Aussie racist who hates Asians.

      Jack Thompson played the gay rugby player's dad in THE SUM OF US. Thompson had an all-too-brief role in DiCaprio's THE GREAT GATSBY. Jack Thompson starred in 1975's SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY. That very popular film really put Australian movies on the map. In 1980, he did BREAKER MORANT. A big historical hit movie. If Thompson had been asked to do an American accent, I think he'd have been a better Gatsby that Robert Redford was. He had the movie star great looks combined with that definite touch of something rough and potentially dangerous. Russell Crowe did the movie version of the play, THE SUM OF US, with one of Australia's biggest movie & TV stars.

      By the way, Crowe got his first Aussie Oscar nomination for a 1990 movie. He's definitely a veteran in the acting game and had a solid body of work before American audiences discovered him.

  2. Frankly there's a difference between a celebrity just being a rude, arrogant, pompous SOB, and a celebrity who is clearly mentally ill and desperately needing help. Gibson is very much the latter. Look at his crazy father. Mel obviously came by it honest.


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