Mel Gibson Has Busy Film Slate Despite Renewed Anti-Semitism Claims

Michael Tran/FilmMagic
Mel Gibson

The actor-director has at least three new projects in the works, including 'Wild Bunch' at Warner Bros.

When Mel Gibson began trending on Twitter at the same time as Chicken Run on June 23, many assumed the two were linked. But news that Brit animation powerhouse Aardman was teaming with Netflix on the sequel to its family-friendly 2000 hit — in which Gibson voiced the heroic rooster Rocky — arrived just as decidedly un-family friendly comments the actor allegedly made to Winona Ryder began circulating.

In a fresh interview with the U.K.'s Sunday Times, Ryder claimed that Gibson had asked if she was an “oven dodger” at a party in the mid-'90s. Such a charge of anti-Semitism — which Gibson’s reps denied and said was “100 percent untrue” — would usually result in public pressure on those working with the accused. Ryder’s story wasn't new (she made the same accusation in 2010), and Gibson has already emerged from a Hollywood cancellation following an anti-Semitic rant during a drunk-driving arrest in 2006.

Also, outside the US, even though his onscreen star status has waned since the days of Braveheart, Mad Max and Lethal Weapon, Gibson movies keep doing decent business.

“He’s still definitely got currency,” says Phil Hunt of Brit banner Head Gear Films, which has helped with the financing of Gibson projects. "He made really bad comments. But we’ve known about them for a very long time. He still has value."

Just last year, three Gibson titles were introduced at the Cannes marche: R-rated Christmas action-comedy Fatman (Gibson plays an “unorthodox” Santa) is now in post-production, while Lionsgate released action-thriller Force of Nature earlier this week on VOD; Rothchild, about New York’s super-rich, with Gibson playing a “sinister grandfather,” has fallen apart, with sellers Hanway confirming that it’s “no longer happening.” At the time, the film title and subject matter sparked outrage, with Gibson forced to deny that “Rothchild” had anything to do with the wealthy “Rothschild” Jewish banking dynasty.

Elsewhere, there are still a number of Gibson projects in the works. Alongside Last Looks, which was shot in summer 2019 and is now in post, he's also due to star alongside Frank Grillo in Joe Carnahan’s action-thriller Leo From Toledo, reuniting the trio after sci-fi action-thriller Boss Level. 

That said, there are also a number of projects where the actor is no longer attached. THR has learned that Gibson isn't starring in Millennium's still-in-development War Pigs, announced in 2018, in which he was to play a vengeance-seeking ex-special forces soldier. Nor is he lining up as a medic alongside Tye Sheridan in the New York thriller Black Flies, which was announced in early 2019 by Mad River Pictures, with Jean-Stephane Sauvaire (A Prayer Before Dawn) due to direct. However, there's not an indication that these two dropouts had anything to do with Gibson's offscreen transgressions.

Likewise, the Chicken Run sequel won't be requiring Gibson's services, with Aardman confirming that it will recast the voice of Rocky. However, THR understands that this decision was made long before the recent headlines.

And, while complete, Boss Level — which was given a special screening in February — has lost its domestic theatrical partner. Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios had picked up the $45 million film — about a special forces vet stuck in a Groundhog Day-style timeloop — in early 2018, promising a wide release in late 2019. A spokesperson now tells THR that it has "passed on the picture," but stated that this decision had nothing to do with Gibson.

On the directorial side, Gibson has proved himself to be a box office draw. 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge took $180 million globally, including $67 million in North America. Upcoming projects include The Wild Bunch remake from Jerry Bruckheimer and Warner Bros., also rumored to be starring Michael Fassbender, and Gibson’s long-in-development sequel to biblical blockbuster The Passion of the Christ, which took north of $620 million in 2004. Warner Bros. has yet to respond to THR about the status of The Wild Bunch.

Hunt says he had the opportunity to join the financing on Hacksaw Ridge, but chose not to “because I thought there could be a Mel Gibson problem, and I was wrong. There wasn’t a problem. And people made good money.”