Mel Gibson ouster about more than morals


It's about the money, honey.

When WME dropped Mel Gibson as a client last week, sources at the agency cited the star's misconduct as the reason. Its revulsion may be genuine, but WME's decision also was based on the bottom line, a calculation that Gibson no longer has real monetary value to the agency.

"There's nothing to do for Mel Gibson at the moment," a WME source said. "No one will touch him with a 10-foot pole. He'll make his own movies, but you don't commission those anyway."

Hollywood has routinely overlooked reprehensible, even illegal behavior when there's money to be made. And observers -- including a studio chief and an insider at WME -- said the industry might even have gotten past Gibson's alleged assault on his girlfriend. (Consider Charlie Sheen.) But the repeated allegations of bigoted comments have left his relationship with the public in tatters, and that's a deal-breaker.

With tapes surfacing in which Gibson apparently used unforgivable language when referring to African-Americans and Latinos, he has antagonized two groups that are disproportionately represented in movie audiences. And fans who were willing to forgive Gibson's previous transgressions as drunken utterances might find it hard to make excuses for him this time around.

And that's what counts to Hollywood. Despite hints in the past that Gibson was a Holocaust denier, and despite his sexist and anti-Semitic outburst after his 2006 arrest, few industry execs publicly denounced him. (The exceptions included Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal and agent Ari Emanuel, then at Endeavor. And Emanuel wound up accepting Gibson as a client after Endeavor merged with WMA last year.)

Now the tough job is finding anyone to speak on Gibson's behalf. "I wouldn't make a movie with him if he were the last actor on the planet," the studio chief said. "There were five minutes when we were saying, 'Maybe we should give this guy a break,' and that's gone. No one will touch him."

A veteran producer believes Gibson will still make his own films -- and this observer said he can succeed if he stays behind the camera. "I've thought for a while that he was over as an actor no matter what because of his age," he said. "But if he were to make 'The Passion of the Christ' today, it wouldn't do a dime less business."

But it's hard to assess Gibson's potential as a filmmaker because the star appears to be spiraling downward -- and not just professionally. In January, when Warners released "Edge of Darkness," his behavior during media appearances was erratic. Around that time, a veteran publicist remarked that Gibson did not appear healthy. Gibson's spokesman, Alan Nierob, responded that Gibson was "healthy for a guy who's an alcoholic who's smoked for 40 years," adding that his client was "trying to be healthier."

With the current state of affairs, Summit -- which is dealing with the next project featuring Gibson in a starring role -- must be glad it's still counting its "Twilight" money. The challenges of opening the $20 million-plus "The Beaver," now in postproduction, are obvious. Directed by and co-starring Jodie Foster, the movie is a dark comedy about a troubled man who feels compelled to communicate through a beaver hand puppet.

The script generated positive buzz, but the film -- which does not have a release date -- sounds like a tough sell even without a troubled star. Summit execs said they are happy with "The Beaver," and one noted that Gibson turned in "an amazing performance." Summit split the film's cost with other investors.

The fate of other Gibson-related projects remains unclear. His company recently finished filming "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," an action drama, in Mexico. Gibson also has a project that would pair him with Leonardo DiCaprio. Producer Graham King did not respond to inquiries about that film's status.
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