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Golden Globe nominations only a starting point for a Mel Gibson comeback

Golden Globe nominations only a starting point for a Mel Gibson comeback
Director Mel Gibson, center, and actor Vince Vaughn on the set of the film, "Hacksaw Ridge." (Summit via AP)

The three Golden Globes nominations for Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge" on Monday would seem to signal a thawing of relations between the controversial director and the entertainment establishment.

Certainly the filmmaker appeared to think so.

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"I'm very appreciative of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s overwhelming recognition of Hacksaw Ridge," he said in a statement of the nominations, for best drama, director and actor Andrew Garfield. "This film was a labor of love for everyone involved, and is also about a man who truly exemplified love and goodness."

But calling the noms an industry reconciliation would be premature at best.

The HFPA, after all, has a recent history of seeking to get Gibson to its show, inviting him onstage as a presenter last year. (Gibson and host Ricky Gervais shared an awkward moment, you might recall, trading edgy insults.) The decision by some 80 foreign entertainment reporters to honor Gibson's first directorial work in a decade is a far cry from the seal of approval that an Oscar or major guild nomination — with its requirement of support by hundreds of industry mainstays — would provide.

During a 2006 DUI arrest Gibson embarked on an anti-Semitic tirade that included the phrases "[Expletive] Jews...the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Several years later he used a racial epithet and aimed threats and extremely harsh language at ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva during a custody dispute. At one point, when she asked why he hit her as she held their infant, he responded that she "[expletive] deserved it." An attempt to collaborate with the screenwriter Joe Eszterhas on a project also ended with an expletive-laden rant.

"Hacksaw Ridge" opened to largely positive reviews and has taken in $60 million in the U.S as it winds down its run. The total is a strong number but does not suggest much by way of a public shift one way or another toward the director in recent years. Gibson's previous directorial effort, 2006's "Apocalypto," came out just five months after the DUI outburst and also took in $60 million domestically when adjusting for inflation.

Gibson's acting appearances since  the incidents suggest Americans don't have a deep appetite to watch him on screen. Both his action-thriller "Edge of Darkness" in 2010 and dark comedy "The Beaver" in 2011 performed poorly at the box office. How much would be different if he were to appear in a movie in 2016 remains an unanswered question.

Some in Hollywood have called for the industry to forgive Gibson — Robert Downey Jr. made such a plea in 2011 at the American Cinematheque awards ceremony as Gibson looked on.

The filmmaker, however, has drawn criticism for not going out of his way to sound penitent while on tour for his new war film.

He told a Variety podcast in October that the anti-Semitic remarks were an "unfortunate incident" and said he finds it "annoying" when they're invoked, "because I don't understand why after 10 years it's any kind of issue." He also lamented that the words were "recorded illegally by an unscrupulous police officer who was never prosecuted for that crime. And then it was made public by him for profit, and by members of — we'll call it the press."

After a "Late Show With Stephen Colbert" appearance in November, The Atlantic wrote a sharp critique of his approach, saying, "That, in the end, is precisely the problem: Mel Gibson hasn't, really, apologized...The disgraced star underplayed his mistakes, wallowed in his own suffering, and then offered that classic answer of those who are, finally, #sorrynotsorry: I apologize that you are upset."

The Globes do offer a platform for Gibson to seek to try to rehab his image. Without Gervais there — Jimmy Fallon hosts this year — it could at least provide a hospitable environment for Gibson if he wanted to seek rapprochement with the Hollywood establishment.

On Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT

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