A year with Mel sounds like hell
BY RICHARD ROEPER email@example.com June 12, 2012 7:52PM
Updated: July 14, 2012 6:38AM
Either Joe Eszterhas is a pathological liar, or Mel Gibson is even crazier, sadder and scarier than we already thought.
Doesn’t seem to be much of an in-between. Not after you read the new e-book from Eszterhas, the veteran screenwriter (“Showgirls,” “Flashdance,” “Jagged Edge”) who agreed to work with Gibson on the script for a religious epic, for a year, for free, despite Gibson’s already well-publicized meltdowns — a decision Eszterhas now admits was bat-bleep crazy in its own right.
In Heaven and Mel, a Kindle Single ($2.99 on Amazon), Eszterhas reminds us of his own journey, which includes controversies over the controversial scripts for movies such as “Basic Instinct;” moving his family to Ohio so his kids wouldn’t grow up addicted to surfing and waiting to be old enough to go the Viper Room; decades of smoking and drinking causing cancer of the larynx; and becoming a devout Christian who attends mass three times a week, lives in a house “filled with crosses and crucifixes” and watches Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” with his wife every Friday.
And then he plunges us into Mad Mel’s world — a world filled with vivid images of a gray-complexioned Gibson in his somewhat tattered office, chain-smoking while lamenting how business has changed. A world in which Gibson can summon the charm one moment, and fly into a thundering rage the next. A world in which Gibson somehow reconciles his supposedly deep religious convictions with expressions of unconscionable hatred.
By the time a mutual associate of Eszterhas and Gibson suggested Gibson as the director of an Eszterhas script about Our Lady of Guadalupe, the tapes of Gibson’s chilling rants against Oksana Grigorieva were already out there. Previous diatribes about Jews and gays were well known as well. But according to the mutual friend, Gibson would be the perfect choice, because it would be the perfect penance for him.
Eszterhas met with Gibson, who eventually passed on the Our Lady of Guadalupe screenplay but asked Eszterhas to take a pass at writing a script about the Maccabees, “a father and five sons who led a rebellion of Jews against the Selucid Empire . . . in 160 B.C.,” as Eszterhas writes.
“I see it as a Jewish ‘Braveheart’,” Gibson tells Eszterhas.
Thus began Joe Eszterhas’ descent into what he describes as Mel Gibson’s hell.
The Mel Gibson in Eszterhas’ story has a gray pallor from years of chain-smoking and is obsessed over his fading looks. He uses the email alias of “Bjorn Pork,” which a friend of Eszterhas interprets as “Bjorn Pork, Born Pork, pork — anathema to Jews.”
Eszterhas and his wife, Naomi, stay at Gibson’s house in Malibu. One night after a dinner party, Gibson allegedly flies into a rage against two priests who were staying at his house, screaming at one of them: “F--- you! Get out of my house! You m-----------! F--- you! F--- you!”
And the hits just keep on coming. Gibson claims Pope John Paul II “was the Antichrist. He was the devil.” He calls “Braveheart” co-writer Randall Wallace a “loser,” says his loyal publicity manager is a “f----- p----” and goes off on rants about Oksana, telling Eszterhas, “I’m going to have her killed.” He claims the Torah tells of the Jews making “Christian human sacrifices . . . babies and infants.”
Yet after all that, Eszterhas still agrees to take his wife and his 15-year-old son Nick to Gibson’s compound in Costa Rica.
One day a John Lennon song comes on the radio. According to Eszterhas, Gibson says, “I hate John Lennon. He deserved to be shot. He was f----- messianic! I’m glad he’s dead.”
Gibson throws his cell phone against a wall after seeing an unflattering photo of himself on the phone. He flies into a rage at Ezsterhas about the unfinished script. (Some of the rants were captured by Nick on his iPod.) He tells Nick he wants to rape and kill Oksana.
By the time Eszterhas gets his family out of there, you half-expect to hear of Gibson at the typewriter, writing “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY” over and over.
If even half of Heaven and Mel is true, you wonder why anyone would ever want to work with Gibson again.