Mel Gibson is no stranger to movies with revenge themes. In 1979, he starred as the title character in “Mad Max” where he sought vengeance against a gang of bikers who murder his family. In 1995’s “Braveheart,” he led his Scottish countrymen into a war with England after an English sheriff kills his wife. In 1999’s “Payback,” Gibson went after his former partner-in-crime and ex-wife after they shoot him and leave him for dead.
In his new film, “Edge of Darkness,” based on a 1985 British TV series of the same name, Gibson, 54, stars as Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective who is searching his daughter’s killer and gets caught up in a web of political corruption.
Before “Darkness,” Gibson focused his talents behind the camera. In 2004 he released “The Passion of the Christ,” which earned him critical acclaim and kick-started controversy about his religious views. Two years later, Gibson introduced audiences to Mesoamerica in the underappreciated film “Apocalypto.”
During a phone conference with me, Gibson talked about why he chose “Edge of Darkness” as his next acting role, how he handles controversy centered on him and joked about what would actually push him to the edge of darkness.
Why did you decide that “Edge of Darkness” would be the film you would return to as an actor after eight years?
It affected me when I read [the script]. One always looks at [the] story first. Is it a compelling story? Can I understand it? Can I bring something to it? I’ve got three more projects lined up at the moment. This one in my opinion is one that was worthy to go to work on It was a story that I liked.
How did your real-life role as a father affect your role in the film?
I think parenthood informs so many things about us. Once you have a child, you’re never quite the same again. You begin to see your own mortality and you begin to have hope for the next generation. You have to be able to pass along something to the next bunch that has value so they can keep propagating the race and the species of humanity. It makes you aware on certain levels and affects what you do on screen, especially if you’re dealing with the loss of an offspring, which is one of the worst nightmares I can imagine.
Martin Campbell directed the film and the original series, which you are a fan of. Was there more pressure on you to get the essence of his vision right since he is so close to this story?
I think the essence of his vision is essentially the same. It’s a very human story involving heightened circumstances. As for the rest of it, it has to change according to the times. I think he adapted it very well. It reminded me of why I liked [the original series] in the first place.
Was it difficult to get back into acting mode and let go of Mel Gibson the filmmaker?
It’s all part of the same engine that drives something. One has to know when to bite one’s tongue and stay out of someone else’s business and vision and give them that creative space. The great thing is [that] having done all those other aspects of the business provides you [with] a great deal of empathy for all of the parties involved. I actually felt bad for [Campbell] some days. That’s pretty hard to do.
As someone who is no stranger to controversy, would you rather people focus on the work you produce rather than all the other things off the set that might overshadow it?
People can focus on whatever they want to focus on. It’s not really a function I have any control over anyway. It’s a pretty pointless want. I just get out there and I work. People can take it for what it’s worth. That’s their prerogative. I’ll just go about working and trying to make art. It’s just the way things are.
What would personally drive you to the edge of darkness?
Press conferences and when someone borrows your dental floss. Nuclear winter’s another good one. That would put you in a pretty dark spot.
Tell us a bit about the Viking movie you’re going to do with Leonardo DiCaprio.
I don’t think anyone has done the Viking movie right yet. I’ve seen a lot of Viking movies, but they really don’t do it for me. I’m gonna put the V back in Viking. I’m gonna blow your fucking mind. It’ll be the biggest punch in the balls you’ll ever get.