By Alison Hope Weiner
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(Entertainment Weekly) -- His skin is less pasty. His blue eyes shine a little brighter.
Today, on a breezy afternoon in late November, Mel Gibson is looking a lot more like his old megastar self than he did six weeks earlier, when he went on the air with Diane Sawyer to apologize for the most disastrous performance of his career -- the one involving a DUI bust and some anti-Semitic ramblings on a highway near his home in Malibu.
"Well, you know," he notes of that puffy-looking appearance on ABC's Good Morning America, as he swivels in an office chair at his company, Icon Productions, in Santa Monica, "the camera does add 10 pounds."
Gibson has a few more pounds yet to shed -- the one or two tons weighing on his shoulders, to be specific. He's still explaining himself to friends and colleagues, and still hoping that his slurs (such as the one about Jews starting all wars) won't cause too much havoc at the box office when his new movie, "Apocalypto," opens on December 8.
Unlike his last film, "The Passion of the Christ," the 2004 Crucifixion saga that set off a storm of protests from Jewish leaders (and ended up grossing $370 million domestically), this one wasn't supposed to be controversial. Apart from the fact that the cast is entirely unknown and the dialogue is in the Mayan dialect of Yucatec, "Apocalypto" is a return to form for Gibson -- an action movie filled with over-the-top stunts and breathtaking violence.
Early on, a peaceful Mayan village is brutally razed by a band of warriors looking for victims to sacrifice to the sun god. A young father named Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) manages to hide his pregnant wife and son before being enslaved. After an escape the gods themselves seem to have engineered, Jaguar hurtles back through the forest in a darkly thrilling race to save his family. All the while, he's pursued by the most ferocious of his enemies.
How "Apocalypto" fares at the box office will be seen as a measure of how much damage Gibson has done to his career, though, in fairness, the subtitles could scare more people off than anything the director said during his run-in with the police. In the following pages, EW asks the 50-year-old movie star-turned-director-turned-headline magnet about everything from anti-Semitism to the end of the world as we know it. Below are excerpts; to read the entire interview, click here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Of all the subjects to make a movie about, why the Mayans?
MEL GIBSON: If I went to the cinema, what would I want to see? That's where I always start. You're always looking to do something you have a thirst to see in your own heart and mind. And there has always been this shroud of mystery about the Mayan civilization.
I went down to the Mirador Basin and saw the pyramids and they're so enormous you can't get your head around it. One of them is the biggest pyramid in the world, bigger than the ones in Egypt. They're 3,000 years old and they've got jungle stuff growing out of them, but they're intact. They're just there. The Mayans just left -- but why? That's a massive question mark.
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EW: How is your relationship with Hollywood these days? Do you feel you've done enough apologizing for your anti-Semitic remarks?
GIBSON: Those were the ravings of an inebriated, angry person. I don't know. I think publicly I have done enough. The process continues. The people I know in this town come up to me and say, "What the f--- is wrong with you?" I go, "Sorry." They get it. It's not a big thing. It's like, "Okay, so when are we going to work together again?" The people who don't know me, if I've offended them, I'm sorry.
EW: People won't really refuse to work with you?
GIBSON: No, people aren't like that. Those are just headlines: Mel Ostracized by Hollywood! Hollywood is what you make it. There is no great pooh-bah up there saying, "Go! You are condemned!"
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EW: It's not like you've disappeared from public view as a director. You've never been under more scrutiny.
GIBSON: You're a caged animal all the time. Wherever you go, there are photographers. Everyone's got a phone. It's a nightmare. You're getting the valet ticket and -- bang -- it's flash, flash, flash. And it registers immediately in the animal part of your brain -- it's an instant fight-or-flight thing. You feel in danger and threatened. You could end up striking or injuring someone. They'll also use very offensive language when you're walking down the line at premieres: "Who's that stupid slut on your arm? Couldn't you find a slag better than that?" And it's your wife. They're not nice people.
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EW: Any worries that your remarks may hurt "Apocalypto's" box office? Who's going to see the movie? Are all those people who lined up for The Passion going to line up for this one?
GIBSON: If they like good stories they will. It's primarily entertainment. An 18-year-old college guy, out with his buddies, he's going to get into the chase. The movie will stand on its own, regardless of any unfortunate experience I may have stumbled upon.
To read the entire interview, click here.
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Mel Gibson has been dealing with fallout from his July DUI arrest and drunken tirade.
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