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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Mel Gibson Before the Controversy

Aired July 16, 2010 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the real Mel Gibson. We'll take an in-depth look at the Oscar winner's career.

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KING: What is it like? Is it what you thought it would be?

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR: No.

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KING: What makes him tick --

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GIBSON: The broads.

KING: Not that easy or they are that easy?

GIBSON: They're not throwing themselves out of buildings on me.

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KING: How he rose to the top --

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GIBSON: You have to adapt to your life being a bit crazy.

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KING: What he told me when we sat down together.

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GIBSON: I hate the tabloids. In many ways, they're pretty reprehensible.

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KING: Mel Gibson -- next on LARRY KING LIVE.

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KING: Mel Gibson has been at the top of his profession for decades, despite the apparent personal problems that have been reported on in the past week. He has an incredibly successful track record as an actor, director and producer. I spoke to him in 1997. We were talking about the film "Conspiracy Theory."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: A little history of this film -- how did this unusual script come to you?

GIBSON: It was sent to me by the writer via the director. He said he had written it for me. I had my doubts. They usually like to flatter you on these matters.

KING: They lie?

GIBSON: No. Yes, OK, they lie.

KING: When he said he had you in mind, it sure looks like he did from the film.

GIBSON: Anyway, this lying bastard sent me the script. And before I knew it, I kind of liked it. I found it really intriguing, very well-written. And he's a very clever guy so much that I'm actually --

KING: Doing another movie.

GIBSON: -- I'm doing a picture with him. But he wrote, now, he's going to direct. I think he's good.

KING: And one of the unusual things about this movie is that you don't know what to expect as you -- I had no idea what to expect because of that, because it wasn't a book, right? It's an original screenplay.

GIBSON: That's it.

KING: Do you think it will surprise people?

GIBSON: I hope so. I think that's the effect -- that's the effect we're looking for, is to not have them expect certain things and for those things to happen or not happen.

KING: Can you briefly explain your incredible character? You can't say you ever played anyone like Jerry Fletcher.

GIBSON: No. He is something of an enigma.

KING: Not "Braveheart".

GIBSON: No. Not that straight forward -- with many good intentions. But -- I suppose he's a hybrid of like a bag person in New York and James Bond, you know?

KING: He's resourceful.

GIBSON: Yes. He thinks he's James Bond. In fact, I love the soundtrack on it because it's got this kind of really cheesy kind of James Bond score. You're sure that's the theme music that's going on in his, kind of, warped mind. He seems insane. He seems almost dangerous.

KING: And he semi is.

GIBSON: Yes, there is something --

KING: What, he's a conspiracy nut?

GIBSON: Yes.

KING: The first third of the movie, he's laughing.

GIBSON: Yes.

KING: I mean, you think it's an all-the-way comedy.

GIBSON: Oh, absolutely, because he undermines himself. He says -- he says things that sound plausible and then he'll completely rip the rug out from under himself and sound like a complete wacko. You know, he'll start talking about Martian invasions or black helicopters or --

KING: And who designed his apartment? Easily the most unusual apartment ever on film.

GIBSON: Yes, the writer had a good deal to do with that, because it has to be a place that can self-combust and not hurt anyone else.

KING: In the building?

GIBSON: Yes, sure. So, it has to be fortified.

KING: Finding a character like this, and we'll talk about working with Julia Roberts. Obviously, this is difficult on that, how can we relate to this person. So, what do you do?

GIBSON: Do -- relate to what person?

KING: The person you're playing.

GIBSON: Oh!

KING: You're not a -- you know, whacko.

GIBSON: Yes. Well, you find it. It's very difficult to do anything that you have no experience of, that's not a part of yourself in some way. Now, this can be very recessive in you. It's maybe just you're imagining that you have but your imagining so that it's a -- he was an unusual character and difficult to get at, tricky because he is someone who -- someone had the vault of his mind open at some stage and removed some files. You see?

KING: Very well put.

GIBSON: So, now, he has to -- he kind of knows instinctively that something is very wrong, and he's mostly clutching at straws, really trying to find out who the hell he is. I mean, his memory has been erased. He's been manipulated, you know, "Manchurian Candidate"- style by all sorts of evil people.

KING: Deeply programmed.

GIBSON: Yes.

KING: You wanted to know more about him, we want to know what he was like before they programmed him.

GIBSON: Yes yeah. Well, they had things like in the torture sequence.

KING: He goes back and he visualizes?

GIBSON: Yes. Well, I had things coming out like marine chants, you know?

KING: Right.

GIBSON: When they'd be marching alone, this is my rifle, this is my gun, you know, that sort of stuff.

KING: That cartoon characters, too.

GIBSON: Oh, that kind of stuff. Oh, I had that actually. I like that cartoon.

KING: I do, too.

GIBSON: I like those Warner Brothers' "Chuck Jones" cartoons. They're very cool. And I thought that was a real good parallel for what was happening to him, you know, between the dog and the cat with Patrick Stewart and Jerry, you know?

KING: Were you cast before Julia Roberts?

GIBSON: I was. Yes.

KING: Did you have a hand in asking for her?

GIBSON: Yes, I did. I asked for her hand.

KING: Not bad. I would take the rest, too.

GIBSON: We took the whole piece. Yes, it was -- I tried to work with her years ago, and for one reason or another, that whole deal just fell apart and, you know, for the millions of reasons that they can in this town. And it was just a delight to work with her and get the opportunity and have it go relatively smoothly. KING: This will give her two big hits this summer.

GIBSON: Hey, let's hope so.

KING: Oh, this is going to be a hit. "My Best Friend's Wedding," she's going to -- she's on a roll. What's it like working with her?

GIBSON: She's terrific. I mean, I think she's the queen of subtext I'd say.

KING: Why?

GIBSON: Well, she can convey a lot of things. She doesn't necessarily need dialogue. But if she has dialogue, she can convey something totally different. And I found -- you don't realize how good she is until you're watching her really close.

She completely cleans up any residue of anything that underpins what she's done. And she's fairly immaculate like that. And she's very spontaneous, intelligent, funny, and just bounces off with a new -- if you throw her a twist, she'll go with it. I mean, it's -- that's very rare. And she's very talented.

KING: Driving in the car with you when she now doesn't like you, and thinks you've harmed her family. She's great in that scene.

GIBSON: Yes.

KING: That's three emotions going on at once.

GIBSON: Oh, absolutely. She can do that. She can speak volumes with her eyeballs, you know?

KING: Getting New York City to cooperate. This is some of the wildest shots in New York, I mean, the street scenes. How did you do that?

GIBSON: Well, they were very good to us, you know? Mayor Giuliani, he was -- he was -- he was very helpful.

KING: Wild latitude streets and cabs rolling across them.

GIBSON: Absolutely. We do a lot of work on Sundays.

KING: Sunday nights, too?

GIBSON: Sunday nights, Sunday days, you know, to make a -- you know, because it's a lot clearer then. You disrupt things as little as possible.

But even apart from that, they were very gracious to let us use the 59th Street bridge and block traffic and stuff like that. I mean, you're talking about a major artery in and out of one of the boroughs, you know?

KING: You feel guilty?

GIBSON: Not at all.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: (INAUDIBLE) everybody up.

GIBSON: Well, I don't feel guilty because, see, it wasn't my doing that that happened. But, you see, as far as the press goes, it is my fault. So, I don't feel guilty.

KING: Mel Gibson gets the wrap.

GIBSON: Yes. I feel like I took my stripes, you know.

KING: And casting Patrick Stewart. Was that your input, too?

GIBSON: I think he's a great.

KING: Great villain -- never seen him as a villain.

GIBSON: No, he's a -- there's a very funny story with him. He's being shoved under the water with a mop, and all kinds of things are going on. And, you know, one of the grips, one of the lighting guys, Andy from the Deep South, and he says, hey, your Billy Shakespeare didn't teach you this stuff, did he? Where is your Billy Shakespeare now? But he still has that delivery, you know?

KING: That's funny.

GIBSON: We're going to have to torture you, Jerry.

KING: We'll be right back with Mel Gibson, the director, actor, director, actor, director -- who will find out what it's like to -- when you -- when you win awards for directing, what is it like when you're acting. I'll get to it. Don't go away.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, AUGUST 9, 1997)

KING: We're back with Mel Gibson.

All right. What's it like to have directed, getting the highest award a director can get, and then acting for another director?

GIBSON: It's a relief, you know? It's a lessening of responsibility. I mean, I trust Dick Donner. I mean, he's a veteran. I mean, I wouldn't ever, ever presume to have a better way than he has. I mean, it's a different way, I'm sure. And at times --

KING: You never want to say I do it this way?

GIBSON: But we do. I mean, it's that kind of relationship. We can go up and say, hey, Dick, what if -- and he'll go, yes, good idea, kid. That's what makes him good because he's just like wide open. He always says, I'm just a traffic cop here, you know?

And I've learned from that. I think that's your function as a director, to take everyone else's talent and try to use the best of it and draw it all together.

KING: Jodie Foster said she likes directing better in that it's easier. You're in charge, the ball of wax is yours, you're the signoff, you're it.

GIBSON: Yes.

KING: Acting is more difficult.

GIBSON: In a way, because you have to trust more. When you're -- when you're the ringmaster there, there is -- it's pretty comfortable. I liked it. It's basically just storytelling. And if you can tell a good story and use those tools to do it, and have a lot of talented people to come and assist you do it, and if they all follow orders, it's great, you know?

KING: Do you like directing yourself? She didn't.

GIBSON: No, I don't. And you know, I'd have days where I wouldn't be in front of the camera, and I'd be very cheerful. I'd almost be high on the whole job, you know, the army sort of marching and all this. But when I have to get in front of the camera myself, I would become very cranky. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't like the experience.

KING: Also, she said, you don't give that different kind of twitch you might give to something as an actor when you're directing yourself. You take less risks.

GIBSON: Yes -- I don't know if that's true. I found -- I found myself to be very -- I wasn't as indulgent as I was. I was far less indulgent than I would normally be, because I was some socialistic form of direction where you'll say, I will only give myself three takes. And why should I have more takes than anyone else? And I did that. So -- because of that, because I was less indulgent, had it in three, and knew the story pretty well and I felt relaxed.

KING: Something you want to do again?

GIBSON: Oh, absolutely. Yes, I'm going to. And this time, I won't get in front of the camera.

KING: Just direct it?

GIBSON: Yes. Just get some other poor slave to get out there.

KING: Something in mind?

GIBSON: Yes, I'm going to do "Fahrenheit 451."

KING: Oh, that's a great book, great movie. That was a good movie.

GIBSON: It was OK.

KING: This German guy.

GIBSON: Oscar Werner was the guy. And Truffaut directed it. And Truffaut was a great director, but that was not one of his great films.

KING: A picture missed (ph), but it was so interesting. I mean, it was a great failure.

GIBSON: The premise is like fantastic. I mean, the whole kind of, you know, jackboot on flower sort of society, you know?

KING: Burning books.

GIBSON: Oh, yes. Burning books or computers or whatever we have now. I mean, you got to go into the future here. So -- and it was a great book by Bradbury, almost for what wasn't in it. I mean, he painted this picture and didn't explain certain things and it was even scarier.

KING: Why were they doing it?

GIBSON: Yes.

KING: You never knew why they were banning books, only that they were banning books.

GIBSON: Yes.

KING: It was bad for the people.

GIBSON: Absolutely.

KING: The -- who are you going to cast?

GIBSON: Wow, it's wide open. I probably won't get into it until '98, you know, actually. Cameras won't roll until then. So, somebody good, Larry.

(CROSSTALK)

GIBSON: Help me.

KING: Yourself?

GIBSON: No. No, no.

KING: The stories, Harrison Ford said all he did is ask "The Conspiracy Theory" people to not open the same weekend as his film because it would be stupid, and they agreed. There was no threats. They agreed it would stupid to have two blockbusters, agree?

GIBSON: Yes. Well, we would cut each other's throats or maybe he cut ours or we, you know, you don't know. It's -- nobody ever knows. And it's a -- it's a brutal -- you know, it's a bloodbath this summer.

KING: It's a crazy business you're in.

GIBSON: Yes, I've never seen a summer like it.

KING: Because?

GIBSON: It's just -- the market is just glutted and there's a lot of stuff coming in. There are so many millions being spent on marketing. It's just being shoved at people like mad. And I don't know, I think the industry can start to cannibalize itself, you know?

KING: But people go to the movies.

GIBSON: They do. They do. But not enough to -- you know --

KING: Isn't this a record-breaking summer?

GIBSON: I think so. But it's also like more films than have ever been put out in the last 10 years all happening in three months.

KING: Ninety million dollars. How can you make it back?

GIBSON: It's a riddle. There must be a way. I'm still trying to figure that one out. I think the whole idea is: buy low, sell high. You just have to find a way to do it for less.

KING: Do you get very involved in your openings? What did it take in? Are you nervous? Do you check on Saturday?

GIBSON: Well, that's an indication of, you know, whether it got out there, you know?

KING: Yes.

GIBSON: And it's an indication also of, you know, whether you'll ever work again.

KING: Oh, such security in this business. You may not work again if this one doesn't go.

GIBSON: You usually get three strikes. But it's a good thing.

KING: Mel Gibson is our guest. He stars in a terrific movie, "Conspiracy Theory."

We'll be right back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CONSPIRACY THEORY")

GIBSON (acting): Look, I need to tell you.

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS (acting): Jerry, Jerry, look at me.

GIBSON: (INAUDIBLE) and I was in the belly of a whale.

ROBERTS: OK, just calm down.

GIBSON: No, they were in a whale --

ROBERTS: OK, look at me. I want you to put the gun down, please.

GIBSON: No, it was -- I did -- there wasn't any gravy and I --

ROBERTS: Jerry -- just put the gun down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Welcome back. We're replaying our interview with Mel Gibson from 1997. He spoke about his career as craft and being one of Hollywood's most famous leading men.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, AUGUST 9, 1997)

KING: In the past, we have not seen Mel Gibson take stands on issues. He surely has feelings as any person who watches the show know, he thinks about things. But you've taken a stand recently with full-page ads everywhere, and you're up front about conspiracy.

Someone said, is that a plug for the movie? Or is this your heart?

GIBSON: It's true. I mean, I was looking at these things. And I mean, why wouldn't your heart go out to a community that has been sort of poisoned, you know?

KING: Yes, so explained what this -- this is (INAUDIBLE) conspiracy in the ads.

GIBSON: Well, they're getting the residue of some, you know, factory, some big business like they're getting some poisonous residue in the community that's affecting people's health. I mean, so, that's a good thing to get behind.

KING: So, they asked you?

GIBSON: They asked me. And, you know, one hand shakes, scratches the other.

KING: They said you make (ph) it a conspiracy.

GIBSON: I didn't say that, but I think they suggested that.

KING: Didn't hurt you? Didn't hurt them?

GIBSON: Doesn't hurt anything. KING: The only thing that throws you more going to the movie since it has nothing to do with the town.

GIBSON: No, nothing to do with it. And maybe that's -- I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing for the town. But I think it's a good thing.

KING: Did you ever think twice about I don't want to get involved in issues?

GIBSON: One always thinks that, you know, when issues come flying into your face, you know? You have to be very careful especially you have to be sure that you do it responsibly, you know, that you just like don't come out with an opinion before you really think it through, you know?

KING: You're not a joiner by nature, right? We don't see your name on the mastheads of 1,500 charities.

GIBSON: No, I've never been a club member really. The only club that I belong to is a cigar club in --

KING: Are you therefore not clubby out here?

GIBSON: Not particularly, no.

KING: You're not at the parties in Morton's Monday night is not your scene?

GIBSON: No. I don't -- you know, I'll do it -- and it's fun when you do do it. But I -- it's certainly not a habitual thing.

KING: What's it like being a star? What's it like being a movie star? Is it what you thought it would be?

GIBSON: No. But then, you know --

KING: Nothing is. Well, what is most different?

GIBSON: I'm sorry?

KING: What's the most different thing?

GIBSON: The most different thing?

KING: Yes. About what you thought and about what is.

GIBSON: Oh, I see. The broads.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Not that easy or they are that easy?

GIBSON: No, they're not. They're not throwing themselves out of buildings on me.

KING: All right. What's the biggest detriment? What's the deficit? There's a deficit to everything. What's the deficit?

GIBSON: The deficit is, I think, loss of personal freedoms.

KING: And no privacy?

GIBSON: None. Not much. So you have to adapt to your life so that it -- you know, so you don't go crazy. You have to find different ways to do things, which can be kind of interesting. But nothing replaces that loss of, you know, anonymity.

KING: Do you ever wear beards or something because you want to do something normal people do?

GIBSON: Well, I do the hat and glasses. I mean, you know, getting into a beard, it's pretty heavy-duty. I mean, it's uncomfortable.

KING: What about the tabloids? Is that a part of it?

GIBSON: I hate the tabloids. I mean, show me anyone who's ever been a victim of theirs who does not. You know, they're, in many ways, they're pretty reprehensible the way they'll go about doing things.

KING: Nothing -- the end justifies the means?

GIBSON: Absolutely.

KING: Have you ever sued?

GIBSON: I never have. I've never done it because --

KING: Some have successfully.

GIBSON: I know. And I've thought about it, you know, and I thought oh, jeez, you know, the time wasted, you know -- actually devoting your time on their account is to me really like, I mean, really negative. It's a very -- you know, time consuming. And then, you know, they'll always drag it up and use it again. I mean, anything is good for them.

KING: Yes, that's right.

GIBSON: Even the refuse.

KING: It don't matter what it is, let's bring it up.

GIBSON: Oh, yes.

KING: When you read -- I recently got something written about me that was a total lie. It's not even a half truth. How do you deal with that? Like -- that's totally wrong, you weren't even there?

GIBSON: Yes, it used to bother me a lot. I used to think, those bastards, I'll get even with them. You know, I wanted to go into the, you know, whatever it was, paper, with a machine gun and start, you know, this is your imagination getting out of hand, of course. But now, I think, I just -- I just have to go, oh, and just toss it over the back because -- I was talking to Rupert Murdoch about that very thing. I mean --

KING: And he owns a few of them.

GIBSON: Yes. Well, he said to me, he said -- today's newspapers are tomorrow's fish and chips wrappers, you know? And he's right. Of course, it's here today, gone tomorrow.

KING: People don't remember what it said.

GIBSON: No. I mean, it's -- we're into information overload these days and, you know, who cares? I mean, really, who cares? Because you feel personally about it doesn't mean that anyone else does. It's just a bit of nothing really. It's fluff.

KING: Mel Gibson is the guest. "Conspiracy Theory" is the film. It's a hoot.

We'll be right back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LETHAL WEAPON 3)

POLICE OFFICER: You know how to read one of these in?

POLICE OFFICER: I can't read it. It's printed so little without my glasses.

POLICE OFFICER: You're no help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you speed this up please? You may have nothing to do. I have things to do today.

POLICE OFFICER: No, we can't. So will you shut up!

POLICE OFFICER: License.

POLICE OFFICER: Yes, jaywalking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have it on me, OK? I wasn't driving, OK? I was walking. What do I need, a walking license now?

POLICE OFFICER: Let's just shoot him.

Get out of the way! I'm going to do it. We can make it look like suicide. We can make it look like suicide.

POLICE OFFICER: No, no, no. He's got a video camera.

POLICE OFFICER: I don't care. Get out of the way!

POLICE OFFICER: Get out of here (INAUDIBLE).

POLICE OFFICER: Not that way, no that way. This way!

POLICE OFFICER: This way!

POLICE OFFICER: Over there, go. Now!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: My guest is Mel Gibson. He stars in Warner Brother's "Conspiracy Theory." This could be one of the big ones.

What was your -- the turning point in the Mel Gibson career of all the films? What was it that we all said, now we know you?

GIBSON: I'm not sure. But I think -- I think perhaps maybe when I started making American kind of action films like the "Lethal Weapon" thing. This is about 11, 12 years ago.

KING: Before that, you made what, "Mad Max"?

GIBSON: Oh, I did those early on.

KING: So, you were kind of a cult person then, right?

GIBSON: Yes, big in Asia.

KING: Yes, that's what I mean. You were known, but not box office America.

GIBSON: Yes, no. Not necessarily.

KING: How did "Lethal Weapon" come about?

GIBSON: Well, it was Donner, I think, was sitting around, who will we get to play this guy? And they send me the script. Now, I don't know what went on before that. But I certainly got the pages and I liked it. And I had taken about a year off and decided to, you know, put on a hair shirt and wrap barbed wire around my chest and sort of go out and manage the cattle.

KING: Yes, you are a rancher -- a gentleman rancher.

GIBSON: Yes, right. Absolutely. And I thought, well, I've suffered for a year. I might as well go back and see if I can do this right this time. So, I went back to -- came back to Los Angeles and I had a really good experience. It was terrific. And I have worked with Donner five times now. Going into six soon. KING: So, that helped a lot, having that director. You and -- you and Glover had -- just have to say this, the rapport and chemistry you have with Julia Roberts, you also have with Danny Glover.

GIBSON: Yes, but in a different sense.

KING: Did that work right away?

GIBSON: Yes, absolutely. I think -- and the reason is, I think, because and Donner attracts people who are basically, creatively, very generous. And they both are.

KING: Yes. Explain that term. Everyone is interested in film now, and we hear it said a lot -- generous means.

GIBSON: Generous means that they try their utmost to make you look good. And in return, I mean, that's the kind of a just a filial love kind of thing.

KING: So, if Danny Glover gives to you, he gets back from you.

GIBSON: Oh, man, yes. But it's not conditional, I mean --

KING: There are giving actors who don't get back.

GIBSON: That's right. But Danny would always be like that, whether he got it back or not. But I really appreciate that. And it makes a really nice atmosphere on the set. Because there is love of the craft, love of the art involved there. And you're always just trying to make each other look good.

KING: Do you have to like each other?

GIBSON: No, you don't. You don't have to like each other. But you do have to love one another.

KING: -- Broadway theater about people not speaking, that get on stage and magic.

GIBSON: Absolutely. You can do that.

KING: You've had that?

GIBSON: Well, you cannot like somebody, but love them at a certain level.

KING: The level of the part they're playing?

GIBSON: Whatever. Or the level of what they do, their endeavor, whatever it is. You can like their table manners.

KING: When you were director, was that -- did you have to be generous there? Were you a generous director?

GIBSON: I think so, yeah.

KING: But you probably were an actor's director.

GIBSON: I gave them all a lot of -- a wide range of things to let them explore things and talk about stuff, was there like as an ear if anybody wanted to talk.

KING: All the action and comedy you do, do you prefer movies that are like moving? You know, there is high tension?

GIBSON: I do.

KING: As opposed to the light romantic comedy?

GIBSON: Yeah, I like something a little more kinetic, because I think, you know, on the fly that way you can affect a lot more. I like the physicality and the speed of something. I don't know why.

KING: Yet you also did "Hamlet." We'll talk about that in a moment. Our guest is Mel Gibson. He stars in "Conspiracy Theory" with Julia Roberts and Patrick Stewart. It's a Dick Donner film. We'll be right back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come. Here, as before, never, so help you mercy, how strange an art I may bear myself, as I perchance shall think of meat to put a disposition on. Never to note that know ore to me. This do swear.

(CROSS TALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Mel Gibson's made a lot of headlines this week. We thought tonight would be a good chance to hear from Mel in his own words. Here is more from our 1997 interview with him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: "Hamlet." a major departure.

GIBSON: Yeah.

KING: What made you take that on? Outstandingingly surprising reviews. Every review is saying this is good.

GIBSON: Oh, not every one.

KING: There are some who didn't like it?

GIBSON: Can't win them all.

KING: The ones that I read were good.

GIBSON: I think it's that -- it's supposed to be the actor's acid test, isn't it? And it is. Because you can't really come to any kind of final conclusion on that character. It's impossible. Shakespeare made it like that, impossible on purpose. With a genius, he did that. KING: Charlton Heston has said Hamlet, you can play Hamlet any one of 40 ways and be right.

GIBSON: And be wrong.

KING: And be wrong. You can play him gay. You can play him macho.

GIBSON: Yes. It doesn't matter. There is a million -- a million different ways to go at it. And every time you think you got a bead on it, you might find some kind of entry. He is a very elusive creature, Hamlet. He'll get away from you.

KING: You wanted to do him for that challenge?

GIBSON: Well, I didn't even know what the challenge was. You could see it on paper.

KING: You've not done theater, right?

GIBSON: Oh, I've done theater, right. I started off there.

KING: Have you done Shakespeare?

GIBSON: Oh yes, I've done Shakespeare, but I've never done that. In fact, I always figured myself a little not ready for that, the headiness of it. It wasn't until I read an essay -- and I forgot who wrote this essay, but it was brilliant what he wrote, that you weren't meant to come to any final conclusion with Hamlet, that Shakespeare, at that time in his life, was sort of pondering on the questions of life and the unponderable, you know, the mystery of what is after life and all this kind of stuff.

There were so many questions that he couldn't answer. He simply wanted to ask the questions without coming to a conclusion because he was going through some kind of cathartic experience in his own life, mid 30s or something.

KING: What did you enjoy the most about doing it?

GIBSON: What did I enjoy the most?

KING: It must be wonderful to say wonderful words.

GIBSON: For sure. And to go through them again and again and again, to try to extract something each time. And you would. You'd get something different every time. Unfortunately, once they slap it all together, there is only one way that you sort of interpret it for that take. And I don't know. "Hamlet" doesn't seem something should be on film. Of if it should be on film, you should do it again and again, and put out a different film.

KING: Would you like to try it in theater?

GIBSON: I would. I would. I don't know if have I the energy for it. But, golly, four hours -- KING: Would you like to try theater again?

GIBSON: Absolutely, I would.

KING: Someone could lure you to Broadway with the right script?

GIBSON: Yeah.

KING: You couldn't make as much.

GIBSON: I know. But it's the most fun you can have standing up.

KING: Touching other bases. You never had a big accent, did you? But you had an accent.

GIBSON: Well, it changes all the time.

KING: Australian or what?

GIBSON: I was born here, and I went down there. And I started --

KING: You were there what years of your life?

GIBSON: Oh, from the age of 13 through till my early mid-20s. And then back and forth all the time.

KING: You picked up some of it, certainly.

GIBSON: Absolutely. You had to to survive. And some just gets in your head, the rhythms and the way of expressing yourself, because, you know, one wants to communicate with the locals. And one -- in fact, I counted myself very much one of them.

KING: You were called an Australian actor, weren't you?

GIBSON: Yeah, that's when I started my career, indigenous kinds of films. And they required that accent. So I did it. Yet your muscularity actually adapts after a while.

KING: That was an accent you're doing. This is your voice.

GIBSON: Pretty much. This is the way I sounded.

KING: And in this picture, you really are a New York kind of cab driver, without overdoing the New York.

GIBSON: Yes.

KING: He is from New York.

GIBSON: That's right.

KING: Jerry is not from Indianapolis.

GIBSON: No. KING: He is definitely not from Indianapolis.

GIBSON: I wouldn't know how to do that.

KING: Did you like him a lot, Jerry?

GIBSON: I did.

KING: Do you have to like your character?

GIBSON: I think you do. I think you have to like him, even if he is like the most evil creature. See, you can't make those kind of judgments on him. I mean, unless the character specifically knows that he is evil, you know revels in it.

KING: I think Alec Guinness said Hitler didn't look in the mirror and say I'm a bad person.

GIBSON: No, he didn't.

KING: -- stereotype.

GIBSON: No. Even a really bad, distasteful, disgusting character on the screen, if you can find some bridge that goes out there to the audience to create some sort of understanding for that creature, well, then you've done your job well.

KING: Our guest is Mel Gibson. He star now in "Conspiracy Theory." We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: How might I do it. He is praying. And now I'll do it, so he goes to heaven. And so am I revenged? That would be scant. A villain kills my father, and for that I soul sunder the same villain to heaven. Would he is fit and seasoned for his passage. Why, this is higher than salary, not revenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, wretched state. Oh!

GIBSON: No. When he is drunk, asleep or in his rage, or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed, then trip him that his heels kick at heaven and that his soul may be as damned and black as hell and to it goes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: What will you do without freedom? Will you fight? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fight against that? No! We will run. And we will live.

GIBSON: Fight and you may die. Run and you'll live, at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Mel Gibson. He stars in "Conspiracy Theory." Did you ever turn down a role you later regretted?

GIBSON: No, I didn't.

KING: Unusual.

GIBSON: I've turned down roles that other people took and did wonderful things with them. And I've gone wow.

KING: But you didn't regret because it wasn't for you?

GIBSON: No, it wasn't for me. They did a better job. It was terrific.

KING: The biggest mistake you made.

GIBSON: The biggest mistake I made?

KING: There was a movie that was -- I shouldn't have done this?

GIBSON: I was going to say grinding meat in the nude. But --

KING: Lucky they weren't around.

GIBSON: Yes. I'm glad they weren't there. I'm glad it wasn't documented.

KING: Like explaining "they" in "Conspiracy Theory," they and them.

GIBSON: Those. I forgot where were we.

KING: Any movie you're unhappy about?

GIBSON: Am I unhappy about. Some don't turn out as well as you would have liked. And that's for a lot of different reasons, you know. Sometimes it's your fault. I think early on, sometimes, I wasn't quite, you know, in the right channel to be able to understand stories I am now. So I always feel like I'm on my game now.

KING: When you say you love the craft, you like the whole business? You like the studio, you like the stage hands, you like the feeling of making a movie? GIBSON: That is great, you know. I really do enjoy that. That's a very pleasurable experience for me to go to work. And that's good.

KING: The waiting around doesn't bother you?

GIBSON: Not too bad, if you can occupy your time with other things. And there is plenty, especially because I have a production company now. There is always some kind of thing you have to be reading or thinking about or developing.

KING: Or getting a call. Something is going on.

GIBSON: Yeah.

KING: Was this a tough shoot?

GIBSON: This was kind of average.

KING: Really? With all the New York scenes?

GIBSON: Yes, this was average. I've been on tougher shoots. It wasn't an easy shoot. But it was -- the good thing is that I think if you're with a mob of people that you love working with, then even the tough stuff can be fun.

KING: Any accidents in the New York car scenes?

GIBSON: Any accidents, not a one.

KING: None with the cab going across four lanes, up on the sidewalk?

GIBSON: Nobody was hurt. But I'm sure we'll get a lot of lawsuits.

KING: It was funny. That's a great scene.

GIBSON: Yes. Which one?

KING: The love scene. The guy in the cab who is not in love.

GIBSON: Oh, that's right.

KING: You forgot this movie, didn't you?

GIBSON: I totally did. Thank you.

KING: What are you into now? What is on the -- "Point Blank," a remake of "Point Blank," one of my favorite film noirs.

GIBSON: It is a wonderful old film, but we're not out to remake it. What we did was we got the book and we went to that. This is a great story. We're not going to remake the film. We're just going to tell a story from that book. The fact that it's been done before -- no, I'm not going to. KING: You're going to star in it. The role -- there is nobody nice in that movie.

GIBSON: No, it's heartless. That's what I love about it.

KING: It's totally heartless.

GIBSON: It's -- the purity and it's heartless. Everyone is really venal and selfish. It's like -- I like the tone of it. It's really gritty and dark.

KING: What is the kick about being someone else? What is the kick about being Jerry Fletcher?

GIBSON: All right. It's -- and I'm not quite sure how to relate this, but it's the same kick as it always was. And I remember the first time it ever happened to me. I was involved in a situation where I had all the foundation and research down, and then I was put on my mettle by a series of questions fired at me, and I had to just be something else and give another impression. It gets you high.

KING: Really?

GIBSON: Yeah. It's very hedonistic.

KING: High, no matter what the character is?

GIBSON: Yes. I think if it's cooking.

KING: So he can be a cop. He can be Braveheart. He can be Jerry.

GIBSON: Yeah.

KING: It doesn't matter what it is. If it's cooking, you're high.

GIBSON: Yes. It's also -- I don't know -- good for your head I think. Good for my head.

KING: Do you ever think you're him?

GIBSON: No, I never get there.

KING: We'll be right back. Don't go away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS: you expect me to believe that someone came in here last night and gave that guy something that stopped his heart?

GIBSON: Look at his charts, you tell me.

ROBERTS: I've got tot go down stairs right now. The CIA wants to see your body.

GIBSON: Really? Well, I won't be here when you get back, but I'll keep in touch.

ROBERTS: You're handcuffed to the bed, Jerry.

GIBSON: Yeah, I guess so. I'll chew through my arm or something. It's better than the hospital food.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Mel Gibson. The film is "Conspiracy Theory." OK, what was it like to be man of the year at Harvard?

GIBSON: Oh, that was a hoot, a tasty pudding.

KING: Who was woman of the year?

GIBSON: Julia.

KING: That was advanced thinking on Harvard's part.

GIBSON: I don't think it was advanced. I think they did it quite --

KING: What do they do there?

GIBSON: They give you a pudding pot and an award. And they give you a roasting. They get you up there and make you put on -- if you're the guy, you have to put on a wig and a bra because there's certain tradition in theatre there of an all-male review, playing women and that sort of the stuff. The show was great. I thought the kids were incredibly talented and really gave it 110 percent.

But not just that, I was impressed by the organization and just who they were. I mean, they were really -- these are smart guys.

KING: Did you accept right away?

GIBSON: Yeah. I heard it was a lot of fun. .

KING: Some people don't like to be put on.

GIBSON: Who likes to be put on? I had a wonderful time.

KING: But it's reverential, too. The put on is also a great tribute.

GIBSON: Oh yes, behind it, they're really saying we want to have you here. But even if they do give you a roasting -- but it was fun. KING: This program is seen throughout Australia. We get a lot of mail from Australia. What don't we as Americans -- what should we know about that country that we don't know?

GIBSON: Wow. Well, there aren't kangaroos hopping down the main streets of Sidney.

KING: One guess is everyone I met, they're very individualistic.

GIBSON: That's true.

KING: Hard workers.

GIBSON: Yes. Indeed. And they call -- somebody put it to me this way, they call a spade a shovel, you know?

KING: That's funny. There's so much land, right? Wide open land between big cities.

GIBSON: There is, most of it uninhabitable. But it's a big, great, vast country with all these resources in it.

KING: Do you feel away from things when you're down there? Out of it?

GIBSON: No, you don't.

KING: You look at the map and --

GIBSON: It seems a long way away, but it's not. They're really hooked into the world. It's not like they're in some remote place.

KING: Computers and satellites -- in other words, you don't feel like you're --

GIBSON: The world is shrinking and they're right there. The thing -- they're very similar in a lot of way, the two countries. I think -- they had a very similar start.

KING: They did, pioneers. Do you like going back?

GIBSON: I do, yeah.

KING: You're a big hit there, one would imagine. Like "Conspiracy Theory," major opening in Australia, right? Aren't you kind of a favorite son?

GIBSON: Well, I would hope so. You never know. You know, I never presume these things, that it's going to be a big hit, or anywhere for that matter.

KING: Do your films generally do well out of country?

GIBSON: Yes. Better foreign than -- better in Europe and Japan, Asia and all that than --

KING: Why?

GIBSON: Well, all films do. There's more people.

KING: And they like action and they like -- they're very attractive to the American name movie star, right?

GIBSON: I think so. This is film Mecca here.

KING: Are you a film fan?

GIBSON: I am.

KING: You watch movies?

GIBSON: Yeah. Not so much anymore, but I used to. I used to watch them a lot more than I do now.

KING: Why?

GIBSON: I don't know, I guess I'm kind of jaded a little bit when I watch them now. They don't have the same sort of magic that they used to have, because I know all the tricks. I've looked up the sleeves and I can see the strings moving.

KING: When you watch a film, though, do you say I would have -- I would like to have played that, or I would have done that this way? You don't watch as I watch?

GIBSON: Yeah, it's a different kind of watch. Now sometimes you're watching for the strings and looking up the sleeves and going wow, that's pretty interesting how they did that, how they achieved that. Sometimes, how the hell did they achieve that? You actually -- and the good thing about being me is I can go and ask the person, hey, how did you achieve that? And they might tell you.

KING: Were you surprised at all about how you were received with "Braveheart"?

GIBSON: I was. I was. I had hoped that it would do well, but it wasn't necessarily a campaign strategy to sort of, like, go for the big boys. It was --

KING: But that the tough critics would like your direction so much? Hard to expect that of a film star who they tend not to want to like.

GIBSON: Well, I guess. I was pleased with it, because I think, you know, that's your endeavor really, to go out there and touch as many people in a positive way with what you do. You know, you're not making anything for an elite. And if people approve, that's a reward, you know? That's your main reward.

KING: We should tell you, in our wrap up here, that "Conspiracy Theory" has action, but it's not an action movie. It has violence, but it's not a violent movie. It has humor, but it's not a pure comedy. How would we describe this vehicle. It is a -- GIBSON: A masterpiece. I don't know.

KING: Certainly character driven.

GIBSON: Very. It's primarily very character driven. And, you know, it tells a story that the ends get tied up to.

KING: That's rolling dice sometimes in movie, right?

GIBSON: Absolutely. Look at the films this summer that don't have --

KING: Character driven -- or are character driven.

GIBSON: And don't have a story. That's what I liked about it.

KING: Is judgment the toughest part of this business? Picking what you pick?

GIBSON: No, I wouldn't think so.

KING: Playing is still the toughest part?

GIBSON: Yeah, getting it right, even if you have a pretty good idea. There's levels that you come in with, and getting the right temper on it, telling the story you want to tell and have others help you tell, and help somebody else tell what they want to tell. It's all about communication and getting it right.

KING: Isn't it also weird to be -- have all this work, all this effort and be judged in a weekend?

GIBSON: It is, yeah. It's very strange.

KING: They know Friday night at midnight how well you're going to do. They can project.

GIBSON: They do. They project all over the place. Projectile all over the place.

KING: It's a weird life.

GIBSON: It is strange. It all takes such a long time and copious planning and preparation. And it's all over like that.

KING: It's a product, but if Hershey's doesn't sell its new candy bar the first day, they don't panic and take it off the stands.

GIBSON: That's right. You leave it there and hang and twist in the wind if that be.

KING: Do you approve advertising for a movie?

GIBSON: I'm involved to a certain extent, yeah. As you get further up the corporate ladder, you --

KING: They let you say if I'm unhappy with this?

GIBSON: Of course, yeah, with your own image. Most have their own image kind of approval. That's a basic.

KING: You would want to work with Julia again?

GIBSON: Absolutely.

KING: Was that project that never came off, was it ever done by other people?

GIBSON: It's probably sitting around in a vault some place.

KING: Obviously, it's good if you both considered it.

GIBSON: It was good. It was good. I'm about seven or eight years too old for it now.

KING: That's weird. You ever thought you'd say that, I'm too old for this part. Mel, it's great. Always a delight having you.

GIBSON: Thanks very having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We hope you enjoyed this look back at our interview with Mel Gibson. Tomorrow night, Queen Latifah. Time now for "AC 360."