Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Did you hear the one about the Hollywood star whose personal foibles threatened to overshadow his box office bankability? This is hardly a new concept or concern – just ask Tom Cruise, Gary Busey, Russell Crowe, Michael “Kramer” Richards … so you’d think Mel Gibson wouldn’t be exactly surprised to be asked about his tabloid-documented misconduct during the period between his last starring roles, i.e. drunk driving charges and anti-Semitic rants. More to the point, anyone who works in the public spotlight has been the focus of such reports should be locked, loaded and ready to deal with questions about personal conducts in the context of their next career steps. So it was with astonishment that I watched Gibson get his back up and then some during a satellite interview to promote his new movie with a Chicago-based TV interviewer who asked an entirely legitimate question in an entirely non-obnoxious manner: did Gibson think that his publicly-reported personal issues might still be on the minds of moviegoers, as he promotes his first starring-role film since those matters went down? First, he ridiculed the interviewer – twice calling him “dude,” for some reason – challenging with “What are you referring to specifically?” then shaking his head in mock amazement as the list of transgressions was specified. “That’s almost four years ago dude. I mean, I’ve moved on; I guess YOU haven’t,” was the response, followed later by “I’ve done all the necessary mea culpas … let’s move on, dude.” Then, the capper – switching from “dude” to “a**hole,” after he thought the satellite link had been closed. For an often brilliant public performer, this was worse than amateur hour. Anticipate the tough/likely questions ahead of time, and be prepared to deal with them with aplomb. Gibson’s push-back tactics might have worked with his die-hard fans who have stuck through him through thin and thinner over the past several years, but that’s not the audience he needs to reach – and reach out to – today.

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