A brave re­turn


Virtuozity - - Virtuozo -

IT WAS 21 YEARS ago that Mel Gib­son tri­umphantly walked into the Grand Ha­vana in Bev­erly Hills, went straight to his locker and pulled out a box of Co­hibas. The ac­tor then be­gan hand­ing out Ro­busto’s to every­one in the room. The rea­son for his gen­eros­ity was that Gib­son had just won two Os­cars for Brave­heart - the epic story of Scot­tish hero Wil­liam Wal­lace.

The film had won Best Pic­ture and Gib­son was named Best Direc­tor. That night he clutched both of the golden stat­ues as he fre­quented the Grand Ha­vana, a club the New York-born ac­tor knew well. For he was a fre­quent vis­i­tor to many of Amer­ica’s most ex­clu­sive cigar-friendly es­tab­lish­ments. In fact Gib­son’s name was etched in brass on hu­mi­dor boxes at the Grand Ha­vana Room and Club Ma­canudo in New York.

It was dur­ing the 1980s and ‘90s that Gib­son es­tab­lished him­self as one of the big­gest movie stars in the world. Hav­ing first found fame by por­tray­ing Mad Max in the postapoc­a­lyp­tic ac­tion films, the Lethal Weapon fran­chise would then ce­ment his place as a lead­ing man.

Yet, Gib­son had been thrust into the lime­light and strug­gled at times with his new-found fame as he ex­plained back in 2000. “The lawyers, the press, loss of anonymity, all the stuff that no one tells you about. It's like be­ing a blind man walk­ing into the woods. It takes a while to come to terms with that, this new world that you're hav­ing to ex­ist in.”

Roles in Tequila Sun­rise, Con­spir­acy The­ory and Signs would keep Gib­son in the pub­lic eye, but he re­mained pri­vate, rarely con­duct­ing in­ter­views about his favourite cigars. But he was of­ten pic­tured smok­ing a Cuban both on and off screen, es­pe­cially in the film Mav­er­ick in which he played a cigar-smok­ing, gun­slinger in the wild west.

But af­ter a string of poorly re­ceived per­for­mances came a much-pub­li­cised break­down that made the wrong-type of head­lines across the world. While hav­ing his name on a movie poster had once guar­an­teed suc­cess, pro­duc­ers and direc­tors across Hol­ly­wood black­listed the ac­tor and for nearly 10 years he was rarely seen on the big-screen.

In­stead he chose to keep a low pro­file, only rarely be­ing spot­ted at his favourite Ha­vana Club where he could keep away from the pry­ing eyes of the press.

How­ever, Gib­son is now en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance thanks to his first film as a direc­tor in a decade. Hack­saw Ridge - the true story of WWII Amer­i­can Army medic Des­mond T. Doss who re­fused to pick up a weapon yet still re­ceived the Medal of Hon­our - was a huge hit across the globe.

The film re­ceived a 10-minute stand­ing ova­tion at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val and

“The lawyers, the press, loss of anonymity, all the stuff that no one tells you about. It's like be­ing a bling man walk­ing into the woods.”

has taken the top prize at sev­eral award cer­e­monies. Gib­son was also nom­i­nated for Best Direc­tor at the Golden Globes and is fi­nally be­ing for­given for his pre­vi­ous mis­de­meanours.

“I’ve done a lot of work on my­self these last 10 years,” stated Gib­son while pub­li­cis­ing the film. “I’ve de­lib­er­ately kept a low pro­file. I didn’t want to just do the celebrity re­hab thing for two weeks, de­clare my­self cured and then screw up again. I think the best way some­body can show they’re sorry is to fix them­selves and that’s what I’ve been do­ing and I’m just happy to be here.”

“I think the best way some­one can show they're sorry is to fix them­selves and that's what I've been do­ing and I'm just happy to be here.”

Thanks to the crit­i­cal ac­claim Gib­son is now work­ing on new projects and is set to once again be­come a lead­ing fig­ure in Hol­ly­wood. His next pro­ject, The Pro­fes­sor and the Mad­man, sees him play a pa­tient in an in­sane asy­lum and is al­ready cre­at­ing plenty of buzz. The 61-year-old is also plan­ning to di­rect a fol­low up to his 2004 movie The Pas­sion of the Christ.

But it is Hack­saw Ridge that will pro­vide an opportunity for Gib­son to re­turn to the Os­cars. It may also mean mem­bers of the Grand Ha­vana Room may have a rare opportunity to share a Co­hibo Ro­busto with the ac­claimed direc­tor.

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