Mel Gibson: A Real Life 'Man Without a Face'?
Part 2: The rest of the story...
To be sure, the great Paul Harvey has propagated more than a few urban legends in his time, but this particular bit of codswallop was not his doing. It's a spoof, passably mimicking the style and format of Harvey's radio commentaries. (I'm told Mr. Harvey did do a 2000 story on Mel Gibson in which he recounted a minor incident in the actor's youth a violent bar fight that left him battered and bruised which may have inspired this Internet tall tale. But the words you just read were not his.)
As for Gibson himself, his real life story, interesting though it may be to his fans, is not the stuff of which high drama is made. Born in 1956 in Peekskill, New York, he indeed moved to Australia with his family at the age of 12, but the teen-aged Mel, far from having aspirations to join the circus or become an actor, was, by his own admission, a loner and a heavy drinker with no particular direction in life.
It was his older sister, Mary, who set Gibson's future career in motion by submitting an application in his name and without his knowledge to the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Sydney. Having nothing to lose, he auditioned and was accepted. He proved to be a talented actor and lived theatrically ever after.
His First Big Break
His first big break in the movies occurred in 1979 when he landed the starring role in a low-budget Australian flick called "Mad Max," which soon attracted a cult following. There's an anecdote surrounding this early triumph which presumably inspired our apocryphal email story.
About a week before the big audition, he got drunk at a party and wound up in a fistfight with three other men. And lost. "I woke up in the bloody hospital with head stitches, a busted nose, my jaw off the hook, peeing blood," he recalled in a 1995 Playboy interview. He was "still a mess" on the day of the audition, but ironically it was his busted-up face (he claims) that caught director George Miller's attention and won Gibson the part as the film's post-apocalyptic antihero.
Be that as it may, he did not require a year in the hospital to recover, nor was he left permanently disfigured, nor did he join a circus freak show and spend five years wandering and horribly depressed. On the contrary, he healed quickly, shot Mad Max that same year and went on - within the same span of time our email story tells us it took him to hit bottom, find God and undergo plastic surgery - to become one of the world's most sought-after leading men.
He did, in fact, later direct and star in "The Man Without a Face," the 1993 film adaptation of Isabelle Holland's novel of the same name. In it, he played a reclusive teacher whose face had been horribly scarred as a result of an automobile accident. But the script wasn't based on Gibson's own life, not even remotely. As a matter of fact, the novel (as in a work of fiction) from which the film was adapted was first published in 1972.
Mel Gibson was 16 years old at the time.
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Sources and further reading:
Mel Gibson Bio
From the Internet Movie Database
'The Man Without a Face'
From the Internet Movie Database
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