Flawed he­roes

What does it take to kill a Hollywood ca­reer? More than it used to, ob­vi­ously.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SHOWBIZ - by mARK CARO

MEL Gib­son’s ca­reer is tee­ter­ing on a ra­zor’s edge of obliv­ion and re­demp­tion, as the re­cent Han­gover 2 ker­fuf­fle il­lus­trated, while Char­lie Sheen ap­par­ently has an all-pow­er­ful im­mu­nity card to pro­tect him from his own naked, rav­ing “al­ler­gic re­ac­tions”.

What does it take to kill a Hollywood ca­reer? The cri­te­ria are for­ever shift­ing.

In the early 1920s, silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Ar­buckle saw his ca­reer – and life – ru­ined af­ter he was charged with man­slaugh­ter stem­ming from a woman’s death at a party.

Wil­liam Ran­dolph Hearst’s news­pa­pers drove the sen­sa­tional cov­er­age, and al­though Ar­buckle’s third trial (af­ter two mis­tri­als) re­sulted in an ac­quit­tal (the jury state­ment pro­claimed him “en­tirely in­no­cent and free from all blame”), the film in­dus­try not only pre­vented him from work­ing but re­fused to cir­cu­late his films.

Adul­tery kept In­grid Bergman in Italy for sev­eral years in the 1950s but did lit­tle harm to El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor and Richard Bur­ton and count­less cheat­ing Hollywood cou­ples since.

Ro­man Polan­ski won the best di­rec­tor Os­car for The Pi­anist (2002) de­spite hav­ing lived in Europe since 1978 to es­cape sen­tenc­ing for his guilty plea to un­law­ful sex with a mi­nor, yet Paul Reubens, aka Pee­Wee Her­man, never re­ally did get his ca­reer back on track af­ter his 1991 ar­rest for in­de­cent ex­po­sure in an adult movie the­atre. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks. Is blurt­ing out racial slurs a ca­reer killer? Well, aside from last year’s Se­in­feld re­union on Curb Your En­thu­si­asm, Michael Richards has done no non-an­i­mated TV or movie act­ing since he shouted racial ep­i­thets at an African-Amer­i­can heck­ler at a West Hollywood com­edy club in 2006.

Isa­iah Washington had been en­joy­ing a ca­reer break­through on Grey’s Anatomy un­til re­ports of him us­ing an anti-gay slur against costar T.R. Knight – and his re­hash­ing of the con­tro­versy and word back­stage at the Golden Globes – left him job­less in 2007.

Yet in her 2006 divorce fil­ing, ac­tress Denise Richards quoted a Sheen phone mes­sage in which he called her the same racist term Michael Richards used, and Sheen’s ca­reer had no hic­cup.

Are drugs a ca­reer killer? If so, much of Hollywood wouldn’t be work­ing. The key word there is “work­ing”.

“If you’re still in the busi­ness de­liv­er­ing the prod­uct, you can be for­given and for­given and for­given,” said Bruce Bibby, who cov­ers gos­sip for E! un­der the name Ted Casablanca. “There are hero­inad­dicted ac­tresses out there, and ev­ery­one knows who they are, and they keep de­liv­er­ing the prod­uct.”

By con­trast, Lind­say Lo­han, whose strug­gles with sub­stance abuse are well-doc­u­mented, is not work­ing re­li­ably, and her seem­ingly end­less trips to re­hab make it dif­fi­cult for pro­duc­ers to in­sure her.

Robert Downey Jr was in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion many years back and did prison time. Now he’s one of the world’s biggest movie stars. Key fac­tor: Aside from be­ing im­mensely tal­ented, Downey is widely ac­knowl­edged to be one of Hollywood’s best-liked fig­ures – and be­ing liked counts for a lot.

How else to ex­plain Sheen’s Te­flon coat­ing? Any of these in­ci­dents might have killed other ca­reers:

> Sheen was re­ported to have ac­ci­den­tally shot his fi­ance, Kelly Pre­ston, in the arm in 1990; yes, she broke off the en­gage­ment. That same year also found him in re­hab for drug and al­co­hol use, but his ad­dic­tion prob­lems con­tin­ued, and he was hos­pi­talised for an over­dose in 1998.

> Also in the 1990s, Sheen ad­mit­ted pa­tro­n­is­ing Heidi Fleiss’ pros­ti­tu­tion ring and was charged with mis­de­meanour bat­tery (and re­ceived a sus­pended sen­tence) af­ter a for­mer girl­friend said he’d abused her. His mar­riage to Denise Richards ended in divorce in 2006 with her ac­cus­ing him of threat­en­ing her and be­ing ad­dicted to drugs, porn, pros­ti­tutes and gam­bling, ac­cord­ing to a court fil­ing.

> Sheen re­peat­edly has sug­gested that the Ge­orge Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion was be­hind the ter­ror­ist attacks of Sept 11, 2001.

> In late De­cem­ber last year, Sheen was ar­rested for at­tack­ing wife Brooke Mueller; she ac­cused him of hold­ing a knife to her throat and threat­en­ing to kill her. He reen­tered re­hab, and in Au­gust this year he agreed to a plea deal on mis­de­meanor as­sault while the more se­ri­ous charges were dropped. CBS showed its sup­port by re­new­ing him for an­other two years for his sit­com Two And A Half Men at what USA To­day re­ported to be US$1.8mil (RM5.6mil) an episode, “mak­ing him by far the top-paid TV star”. Po­lice en­coun­tered Sheen again one morn­ing in New York af­ter he re­port­edly trashed his Plaza ho­tel suite in a naked, in­tox­i­cated rage al­legedly wit­nessed by a pros­ti­tute af­ter he couldn’t find his cell phone or wal­let – all with his exwife Richards and their two kids in an­other room nearby. His pub­li­cist said he had “an ad­verse al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to some med­i­ca­tion”. How does Sheen do it? Show­ing up for work and mak­ing his em­ploy­ers money helps. Also, one prom­i­nent Hollywood pub­li­cist (who, averse to com­ment­ing on real or po­ten­tial clients, asked not to be named) noted that fans by na­ture are a for­giv­ing bunch. “They ac­tu­ally like their he­roes flawed,” the pub­li­cist said. “They can iden­tify with them bet­ter.”

In that case, Sheen is prompt­ing peo­ple to iden­tify with some pretty ex­treme be­hav­iour, but, Bibby noted, at least the ac­tor al­ways has been up­front about be­ing a “bad boy”.

“He’s a pretty well-liked guy,” Bibby said. “Gib­son isn’t.”

Di­rec­tor Todd Phillips was keen on help­ing Gib­son off the mat by way of a pre­sum­ably wacky cameo as a Bangkok tat­too artist in the Han­gover se­quel, and he noted in a state­ment that he “had the full back­ing” of Warner Bros Pic­tures pres­i­dent Jeff Robi­nov. So at least one stu­dio is ready to do busi­ness with the trou­bled ac­tor-filmmaker just three months af­ter the pub­lic re­lease of his rag­ing, threat­en­ing, ep­i­thet-filled phone mes­sages to then-girl­friend Ok­sana Grig­orieva.

But, Phillips’ state­ment con­tin­ued, the cast­ing de­ci­sion “did not have the full sup­port of my en­tire cast and crew” – with Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis widely re­ported to have led the com­plaints – so Gib­son was out, and the un­con­tro­ver­sial Liam Nee­son was in.

The New York Post sub­se­quently re­ported that Gib­son was “fu­ri­ous” over get­ting the boot, and it quoted “a source close to Gib­son” as say­ing: “He doesn’t un­der­stand why Mike Tyson, a drug user who turned his life around, was given a chance (in the first Han­gover) while Mel was kicked to the curb. Ev­ery­body de­serves a sec­ond chance.”

If you want to avoid Sheen’s wrath, it’s prob­a­bly best not to date him. If you want to avoid Gib­son’s wrath, it’s prob­a­bly best not to be fe­male, Jewish, black, His­panic or gay. A fine dis­tinc­tion, for sure.

“Ba­si­cally, I think it all comes down to ar­ro­gance,” Bibby said. “Char­lie Sheen is not an ar­ro­gant (jerk). He’s just an ad­dict. And Mel Gib­son is an ar­ro­gant (jerk) and an ad­dict.”

Still, the pub­li­cist said we shouldn’t count out Gib­son, who has two films in the can (Jodie Fos­ter’s The Beaver and How I Spent My Sum­mer Vacation from Adrian Grunberg, Gib­son’s first as­sis­tant di­rec­tor on Apoca­lypto).

“Comebacks are easy. They just take time.” – Chicago Tribune/ McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Te­flon coated: Char­lie Sheen ar­riv­ing at the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen, Colorado, for a hear­ing in his do­mes­tic abuse case. De­spite his prob­lems, Sheen is still a well-liked fig­ure in Hollywood.

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