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It's Hell being Mel
on 5 June 2012
Joe Eszterhas is hired to write a script for a "Jewish Braveheart" movie which Mel Gibson will direct called "The Maccabees" - except when the script was written, the studio Warner Bros. didn't want to make the picture and Mel didn't respond to Joe at all. The picture was dead in the water and Joe felt Mel had led him on, that Mel never intended to make the movie at all, it was all just PR to help his image. So Joe got his own back on Mel, writing this tell-all book about his time with Mel Gibson and it's pretty revealing.
The book is great fun to read, confirming what most people already think about Mel Gibson - that he is losing his mind. There are moments in the book where he flat out starts screaming and raging for no real reason, one time flying off the handle because he sees a picture of himself looking old and balding! We get to peek behind the curtain at the privileged life of Mel's, his luxury Malibu home, his church, his mansion in the Costa Rican mountainside - it's really an amazing life which makes his unhappiness all the more palpable.
As for the content about Mel, the crazy stuff was already written about in the 9 page letter from Joe which preceded this book, though there are some other revelations about Mel such as his hair implants and the nickname for his penis - "Benny the Rat". The book sets the scene for the crazed rants well and shows a man who has it all behaving like a spoilt brat. It's a refreshing look at a movie star from the kind of softball interviews we tend to see on TV and junkets.
While Mel comes across as a sociopath and a man on his way to a breakdown or heart attack, Joe comes across as a bit sanctimonious and above it all, like a lot of fervent religious people. To Joe, God is always giving him signs to guide him in his life, at times literally speaking to Joe, who wears Christian medallions to protect himself from the demons assaulting him as he writes about the Maccabees. He even goes so far as to burn a painting his teenage son did of Mephistopheles (with his son's consent but still). And while he is highly principled, the heart he writes about as guiding him through his life seems to be missing when it's revealed to him that his father participated in pro-Nazi literature in the 30s and 40s, something he never forgave his father for, cutting him out of his life entirely, even forsaking him on his deathbed.
So this is a book about two odd men though Mel comes across far the worse and yes I do believe it to be an accurate depiction of the actor. There's too much evidence to believe otherwise, and if you want to hear the tape Joe's son Nick made of Mel blowing up in Costa Rica during dinner, it's on Youtube, have a listen.
It's a compelling read and a sad portrait of a man once admired by many who clearly has some deep personality problems that have starting coming out more and more in the last 8 years. Joe intimates that there are stories of Mel's behaviour going back to the 80s so Mel's lucky he got away with it for so long before others found out he was a disturbed and disturbing individual.
Joe says he wrote this mostly because he wanted to protect himself and Mel's former wife, Oksana, whom Mel makes several threatening remarks about in Joe's presence, along the lines that he's going to have her killed. If he puts this out there, anything that happens to him or Oksana is likely to lead back to Mel and so put him off from following through with his threats. Mostly, I think it's good that a bully like Mel is being exposed for who he really is and that he's finally being punished for his shocking behaviour.
For less than the price of a Starbucks coffee, "Heaven and Mel" is a delicious piece of Hollywood gossip from a gifted writer about one of the (former) biggest stars in the world. Anyone interested in the Mel Gibson downfall will find plenty here to enjoy.