the filming of the final instalment of the Mad Max trilogy. which had become a lucrative franchise. his co-star Tina Turner sent a picture of Gibson looking less-than-appetising to his trailer with a note scrawled on the back saying: ‘Don’t fuck this up’.

Gibson has since said that this was the point when he acknowledged it might be time to think of growing up before he did irreparable damage to his wife and family. After seeking help for his alcohol problem. he is now one of Hollywood’s most high-profile tee-totallers. ‘When Tina sent that picture she wasn’t the first one to say that stuff.’ Gibson told Premiere magazine. ‘and you think. maybe I should start acting like an adult.’

Reports from every production he has worked on in recent years suggest that Gibson’s mischief-making is now confined to practical jokes and a constant goofing around between takes. When Julia Roberts arrived on set to begin shooting on Gibson’s next movie. the thriller C ()Itspiruc'__\‘ Theory. he gave her a present of a gift-wrapped and freeze-dried rat. Having recently turned 40. this is evidently his idea of acting like an adult.

Gibson must be doing something right in his private life. though. His marriage. which has produced six children. is now in its seventeenth year in an industry where serial divorce is an occupational hazard. ‘I realised that I had used alcohol as a prop.’ Gibson has said of his rekindling of home fires. ‘l’d missed out on the joys of being a parent.’

Ransom is a classic tale of one man’s fight against the forces ofchaos which turn his family life upside down. The relaxed and in-control businessman is turned into a primitive survivalist when his family is threatened; at first bellowing with frustration at his inability to take charge of the situation. and then finding ammunition from his own world to fight back against the kidnappers. It requires Gibson to act tough in response to this threat rather than the simply macho posturing of Lethal Weapon.

There is little that is truly original about Ransom. but it is still a sophisticated and literate action-thriller which finds a fresh way of retelling a familiar story. Like any suspense movie involving a kidnap. the mechanics of the handover occupy a lot of screen time and there is a lot of techno-nonsense involving laptops and mobile phones. But what has almost certainly projected this particular movie into the blockbuster premiere league is the family-tmder-threat theme. and the 90s incarnation of Gibson as Family Man.

‘People seem to think that I work all the time, but after Brave/tear! it was a year and half before Ransom came out. so I had a lot of time off.’ he says. ‘I was looking at other projects. but I do get to spend time at home with my wife and the kids. That’s very important to me - you have to get the balance right in your life.’

Gibson was shooting Ransom in New York at the beginning of last year when the Oscar nominations were announced; Brave/rear! was pitted against director Howard’s previous film Apollo I3. which starred Tom Hanks. The two movies garnered nineteen nominations between them but it turned out to be Gibson’s night. with Brave/rear! scooping the double with awards for Best Picture and Best Director. ‘It was certainly a kick to get it.’ he said after collecting a suitcase of statues although he recently admitted he has tnislaid them. ‘But I was dying

‘I realised that I had used alcohol as a prop. I’d missed out on the joys of being a parent.’

to get back to work. I mean. otherwise. what do you do? You dust off the mantel.’

The Oscars have confirmed what Hollywood producers already knew; Gibson is among a small handful of stars who can be guaranteed to open a movie. The fact that the filming of a blockbuster on our doorstep was confused with a reawakening of national pride. turning this Australian-American into a local hero in the process. was entirely to do with a quirk of the Scottish psyche. Everywhere else. Brave/tear! was seen for what it was a hugely entertaining adventure story with big swords and no underwear. Its success was at least as much to do with Mel Gibson. movie star. as William Wallace. freedom fighter.

While Gibson now commands Schwarzenegger-sized fees. he has always chosen movies which mix intelligence with the battle scenes and car chases. Unlike the sci-fi vehicles that have made Arnie and Sly their millions. he has never been in a film where the actors are subservient to special effects.

This perception of cinematic intelligence was enhanced by Gibson’s move into directing with 1993’s The Man Without A Face. 21 rather sentimental story about a boy who seeks out a facially disfigured teacher and coaxes him back into the world from which he was hiding.

The fact that Gibson cast himself in role of an ‘ugly’ man. coupled with an earlier outing as the Danish prince in Franco Zeffirelli’s Ham/er. was a blatant signal that he wanted to be taken seriously as an actor. and not just a vote-winner in any number of most-fancied men polls. ‘He’s a better actor and takes it more seriously.’ according to Thom Mount. who produced Gibson’s I988 thriller Tequila Sunrise. ‘He’s grown up a lot.’

Ransom goes on general release on Fri 7 Feb.

.fi“*s.-R’ 5‘ a .‘iia‘gm gin s. '7


Family values: Mel Gibson and Rene Russo as a couple tlghtlng the forces of chaos


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Braveheart: the nae pants and loadsa guts role that made Gibson 3 national hero

The List 7-20 Feb 1997 7