October 2011 – The American Cinematheque Award, an award bestowed annually to a particular artist in the entertainment industry for their significant contribution to the art of motion pictures, selected to bestow the prestigious honor to the actor Robert Downey Jr. Other recipients of this distinguishment have included: Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, Al Pacino, Samuel L. Jackson, and several other household names. .
On this particular event, Downey made the request that his award be presented to him by another former recipient of that award, his close friend, Mel Gibson. After Gibson’s introduction, Downey surprised the audience by not talking about himself, but rather publicly explaining why he chose Gibson to accompany him on-stage. Gibson who was, at the time, going through his own personal and professional hardships, had also been one of Downey’s strongest allies through his time of need. Downey then told the audience: “I humbly ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin, and in which case you picked the wrong fucking industry, in forgiving my friend of his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate that you have me and allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame.” After the speech, the two friends hugged onstage to overwhelming applause.
Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson, born January 3rd, 1956, is an American actor, producer, writer, and director. Most well-known for his roles in the Lethal Weapon and Mad Max film series’, Gibson has experienced a career that has seen both opposites of the success spectrum. Once named by People magazine as the “Sexiest Man Alive”, and listed by Forbes magazine in 2004 as the “world’s most powerful celebrity”, Gibson has long been lauded as one of his generation’s greatest actors and entertainers. But on one fateful night in 2006, Gibson’s personal demons were finally ready to catch up with him. On July 28, 2006, Gibson was arrested on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu for driving under the influence of alcohol after deputies stopped the actor for speeding. Deputies had clocked him going 87mph in a 45mph zone. A breathalyzer indicated that Gibson had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent. The legal limit in California is 0.08 percent. The actor’s DUI only became inflamed in the public-eye after it became record that Gibson had exploded into an angry tirade with the arresting officer, climaxing with a heated anti-Semitic rant.
Gibson went on to apologize for the 2006 incident, but this wasn’t the first time that alcohol played a troubling role in his life. According to Gibson, he first began drinking at the age of 13. In 1984, he was temporarily banned from driving in Ontario, Canada after rear-ending a car in Toronto while under the influence of alcohol. He retreated to his farm in Australia for over a year to recover, but he continued to struggle with drinking. Despite this problem, Gibson had also gained a reputation in Hollywood for his professionalism and punctuality, such to the point that Lethal Weapon 2 director Richard Donner was shocked when Gibson confided that he was drinking five pints of beer for breakfast. In one startling admission, Gibson had claimed that despair in his mid-30s had led him to contemplate suicide. On August 17, 2006, Gibson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge and was sentenced to three years probation. He was also ordered to attend self-help meetings five times a week for four and a half months and three times a week for the remainder of the first year of his probation. He was also ordered to attend a First Offenders Program, was fined $1,300, and his license was restricted for 90 days. At a May 2007 progress hearing, Gibson was praised for his compliance with the terms of his probation and his extensive participation in a self-help program beyond what was required.
According to a 2011 interview with his younger brother, Chris Gibson, Chris made it a point to mention that the Braveheart star “hasn’t touched a drink for nearly four-and-a-half years.” Whether or not Mel stays true to his sobriety still to this day isn’t really known to the public – and to be honest, is his personal business. But perhaps Mel said it best back in 1992 when he provided financial support to Hollywood’s Recovery Center, saying, “Alcoholism is something that runs in my family. It’s something that’s close to me. People do come back from it, and it’s a miracle.”