Lesson 36

There’s this film scheduled to be released around the world soon.
It’s called Hacksaw Ridge.
If you wanna watch a trailer, go right ahead.

I want to be clear – I have not seen this film.
This post is not actually about the film itself.
I have no issue with any of the actors in the film (a number of whom I know and/or share mutual friends with – as this film was made in Australia).
The film is not an issue.

The thing is…
This film is directed by Mel Gibson.
You may have heard of him.
He’s an award-winning actor and director.
He’s also known for anti-Semitic and misogynistic rants.

Whether or not you care about what happened a number of years ago between a very drunk man and the police officer who pulled him over, or whether you’re concerned about an alleged woman-beater continuing to work in Hollywood, that’s your prerogative.
But the existence of this film, and the subsequent promotion of it, have led me to thinkings…
Yes, I said thinkings.
No, it’s not a real word.
Yes, you know exactly what I mean.

For a start, the publicity machine is running on full steam to promote this film and to portray Gibson as a victim of a Hollywood run by unforgiving people who refuse to move on from “a couple of mistakes” he made 10 years ago.
A quick Google of Mel Gibson Anti Semitic leads to countless articles published in the last week – my favourite heading being Mel Gibson: “It’s annoying” people won’t let anti-Semitic rants go.
He’s so right.
I hate it when people won’t let that sh*t go!

You see, one big thing that got my thinkings started, was that Hacksaw Ridge stars Andrew Garfield.
Garfield is a Jewish actor.
When accepting this role, he must have known that every interview he undertook to promote it was going to include questions about his hesitations (if any) in working with Gibson.
And so now, he’s probably going to have to spend time justifying his behaviour in any Jewish publications he speaks to.
Or his faith.
Or religion.
Or culture.
Or whatever.

And so, as an actor myself, and a Jewish one at that, I wondered what I’d do in his position.

Lesson 36

As actors, we all like to think that we’re strong, principled people.
We do work that interests us.
We do work that is meaningful.
We do work that we feel a connection to.
The nature of our industry though, sometimes means that – Sometimes? Ha! Often means that – we aren’t in the privileged position of being able to make decisions based on principles.
We need to make decisions based on work.
And getting it.
And taking whatever we’re offered.
We need to be paid for our craft.
We need to eat.

The times I have heard or read stories of actors who were reduced to living in their cars because they “kept turning down projects, knowing that something better would come to them” I have felt the same kind of rage that I have felt from interviews with/about actors who are hailed as “overnight sensations” or who claim that they would “never work on a soap opera”.
All of these claims are wonderful soundbites.
They’re great stories to tell on talk shows.
But I call BULLSHIT on all of them.
I have been an out-of-work actor more than an in-work actor.
I have struggled for money.
I have not had to live in a car, thankfully, because I understand that I need to find other modes of employment from which I can pay my rent.
I am not an overnight sensation, nor will I ever be – even if my career takes a turn and I’m suddenly recognised in a way that I have never been before.
It may be an overnight revelation to Joe Public that I exist, but it’ll be due to a lifetime’s work.
And if a soap opera wanted to employ me – I would take the job.
It’s not my ideal, but it’s work.
It’s valid.
And it’s a great learning place.

Garfield has not – as far as I have seen/read – made any outlandish comments about his decision to work on this film, in one way or another.
He has skilfully navigated the question, admitting his religion and commending “Mel” as a person he interacted with.
I’d hope that if I did accept a role working with someone who’d publicly abused my whole tribe, that he’d go above and beyond to show me that he didn’t mean it.
But I still wonder if there was ever a hesitation for Garfield in agreeing to come on board with the project.

I’d like to think, if I were in his shoes, that I would not take it.
How dare you?
Work with Mel Gibson?
Do you know what he said about Jews?
And how he treats women?
Because I don’t know either.
I know what I’ve read.
But I don’t actually know.
I know what I’ve read and seen and heard of his fatherwho has made outlandish comments about a number of things over the years, including being a Holocaust denier – but Mel Gibson ain’t Hutton Gibson.

I have pondered on the famed “Jews who control Hollywood” – if we do run the place, then why did Mel ever get his career back?
I have pondered on who let Mel think he’d ever get to direct a Maccabee movie!
I have pondered on how and why any actors/directors/writers/producers who so publicly shame/harass/abuse other people get to continue their work without a black mark against their name.
I have thought about all this in the context of the wider world.
I have thought about an election that will be drawing to a close within the next week and the things that some candidates have been forgiven for.

Everyone should have a chance to move forward from a mistake they’ve made.
I truly believe that.
I do.
And I realise that Gibson may well have cleaned up his act and just wishes to get on with the work he is good at.
I get that.
What I realised, as I remained angry about the whole situation, is this:
The man does not seem to have claimed any kind of real responsibility for what he did and said years ago.
The man does not seem to have offered any kind of apology or made any kind of effort to redeem himself.

He was drunk.
I understand.
I have encountered many drunk people in my life.
I’m of the opinion that, when drunk, people don’t spout bigoted, hate-filled accusations toward people unless these are beliefs they hold even when sober.
If he has seen the error of his ways, or if he no longer holds those beliefs to be true, or even if he has just realised that he needs to keep mum about his personal beliefs in the future, that’s all fine, but perhaps instead of “being sick of people going on about his anti-Semitic rants of 10 years ago”, he should just apologise so that we can all move on.
I think that would help.
To start.

This is a complicated issue.
Again, I can only speak from my opinion and my perspective at this time.
At this moment.
At this hour.
Maybe one day I’ll find myself in a conundrum of principles vs need to work and surprise myself…
But for now, I guess the lesson is that we should all think about the weight of things we do and say – not just for ourselves, but for others.
And use this empathetic awareness as often as we can.
And perhaps, this testing of principles is actually what Hacksaw Ridge is all about anyway.

Did I just promote Mel Gibson’s film unintentionally..?




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