Blue-eyed o

In Forever Young, Mel Gibson leaves the blazing guns behind in favour of an old-fashioned weepie. Stephanie Billen meets one of the sexiest men on screen.

‘Who is this man‘.” I remember wondering as I sat cross-legged in a student commonroom. The dark- haired young star of Peter Weir's Gallipoli had just transfixed me on video as much as he had transfixed critics when the film first came out in Australia. With the blindness of the besotted. I hadn’t even recognised him from his altogether less sensitive Mad Max incarnation.

Now, with his latest film a romantic weepie about a heartbroken 1939 pilot who gets frozen in time it’s as if he‘s come full circle. Like the film, he seems forever young in a part that allows him to be a matinee idol again. But the American-bom star. looking immaculate if slightly smaller than you feel he should, remains resolutely down-to-earth, determined to keep things frothy. not soppy. Forever Young, he says lightly, is ‘a very simple story, reminiscent of the films of the 30s and 40s . . . those were great films; anyone with a ticker behind the rib cage can‘t help but respond to them.’

‘l’ve done a couple of things for the brass, but I’ve also enjoyed them. And I’ve done things for love that I’ve hated. You do buy yourself more chances that way.’

If we thought we might wring a little moistness from those sharp blue eyes, we haven‘t succeeded yet. Maybe if we get him talking about the most romantic thing he's ever done? ‘Gee . . . when I was sixteen. I sang outside a window.‘ Hmm, he's referring to the scene in the film, right? Wrong. ‘That happens in the film, doesn‘t it? But I did do that. Outside a girl‘s school. Man, I was half smashed at the time. I was down there serenading my heart out. and all the girls started to pop their heads out of the windows, and I thought “Wow, it‘s working". But it all came to a crashing end because the matron on duty called the cops they didn‘t get me. I was too quick for them.‘

This, of course, is Mel‘s Mad Max side the daredevil bucking authority even when, as in the Lethal Weapon series, he's the police. Detective Martin Riggs, he admits. could yet be back for more. ‘I‘m sure there are plans for Lethal Weapon 4; I don’t


Mel Gibson: ‘an actor still judged in some circles by the number of bare bottom shots he has in a picture’

know whether or not I’ll do it . . . I don't know ifyou can get away with something like that four times. Lethal Weapon 3 was hard; it was nice to do the

: smoke and mirrors show again. But how many times 3 can you do the same script, for Pete's sake?‘

His qualms, it seems, are nothing to do with the

' film's violence. Steering clear of Hollywood‘s

current anti-violence bandwagon, he challenges: ‘I

i don't think I've ever overstepped the mark. I think

film is much maligned. Nothing breeds violence

' quicker in the community than poor management in 3 government. The media likes to blame films.‘

Strong-minded and unpretentious about his career, he‘s quite happy to admit that it‘s a business and he’s played it as shrewdly as he can. ‘Let‘s be truthful here,‘ he cautions himself, grinning. ‘I’ve done a couple of things for the brass, but I‘ve also enjoyed them. And I‘ve done things for love that I‘ve hated. You do buy yourself more chances that way. You've got to be bankable to entitle yourself to perhaps fire a blank.‘

No stranger to risk taking, Gibson branched out to play Hamlet for Zeffirelli. He was reasonably well received in the role, but says now: ‘I came to the conclusion with Hamlet that it’s best left on the stage. There‘s just this world of territory that you’ll never finish exploring with that particular character. You can't really freeze it on celluloid. You want to see it keep evolving on the stage some place.’

Gibson‘s latest metamorphosis is as first time feature film director of The Man Without A Face, in which he also stars. Again, being ‘bankable' helped the unusual project get off the ground. ‘It was pretty easy for me to get the directing job . . . I really love it. I‘ve taken the opportunity to improve myself while I can and it's good to have a couple of strings to your bow. As it sounds, it‘s about a man without a face, or half a face. He‘s been pretty badly disfigured. a recluse. You get to find out about him as you go.‘

Interesting stuff for an actor still judged in some circles by the number of bare bottom shots he has in


a picture (just one in Forever Young). Shouldn‘t the 37-year-old Australian be angry about being dismissed as beefcake? Shouldn‘t the thespian be courting a more serious critical response?

The Iaidback Gibson has no such anxieties. Dream on, he seems to suggest. ‘Sometimes I think if people notice the performance too much . . . why labour people with over-analysis? If they want tojUst go into a darkened room and switch off for a couple of hours ifl can be the vehicle for that. then I’d call

that a great performance.‘

Forever Young, he admits, has ‘huge plausibility

gaps. But that's not the point. It’sjust a romantic

fairytale. For me, it‘s an antidote to 90s cynicism.‘

Forever Young opens in Scotland on Friday 26 March.


Mad Max (1919)

Tim (1980)

Attack Force 2 (1980)

Bailipoll (1981)

the Road Warrior: Mad Max 2 (1982) ‘l’be Year oi Living liangerously (1983) ‘l’he Bounty (1984)

The iiiver (1984)

Mrs Softel (1984)

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1986) lethal Weapon (1981)

tequila Sunrise (1987)

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Bird on a Wire (1990)

Air America (1990)

Hamlet (1990)

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

Forever Young (1992)

the Man Without A Face (1998)

The List 26 March—8 April I993 13