Robert Downey Jr.: Forgive Mel Gibson
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Robert Downey Jr.: Forgive Mel Gibson

‘Iron Man’ star says actor-director with history of anti-Semitic sentiments is now ‘a fundamentally different guy’

Robert Downey, Jr. (photo credit:
s_bukley / Shutterstock.com)
Robert Downey, Jr. (photo credit: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com)

Actor Robert Downey Jr. over the weekend called for lifting the unofficial blacklist of actor-director Mel Gibson, arguing that Gibson, who had been ostracized for his anti-Semitic remarks, had “changed so much” since his outburst and is “a fundamentally different guy.”

In an interview with Deadline published Friday, Downey said he would only agree to star in a fourth “Iron Man” film if his buddy Gibson would direct it.

“Nobody should make a case for somebody who just wants forgiveness but hasn’t changed, but he’s a fundamentally different guy, “he said. “I think it was just the very worst aspects of somebody’s psyche being treated as though they were the blanket statement about a person.”

Adopting a seemingly contradictory stance halfway through the interview, Downey proceeded to say that the actor-director did not need the public to absolve him for his remarks, and reiterated that Gibson has changed, but added: “he’s still Mel.”

“But honestly we are talking about a competitive business and it all comes down to this: because he is so gifted as a storyteller and a director, I don’t know that he requires some sort of mass forgiveness. He has changed, but at the same time he’s still Mel.”

Gibson went on an anti-Semitic rant after he was arrested for drunk driving in 2006, saying that Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world. He later apologized for his remarks, but the tirade took a toll on his career, as various studios refused to work with him following the incident.

Downey said Gibson was a “a great, great collaborative guy,” and “is the first to admit his character defects.”

“I always say too that if you want to judge a man or a woman then look at their kids. He has the healthiest, happiest, most productive kids you could ever meet or know, and I’m fortunate to be friendly with several of them,” he said.

In 2012, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas said in a letter to Mel Gibson that the actor and filmmaker “hates Jews.” Ezsterhas sent the letter following Warner Bros.’ rejection of his screenplay for Gibson’s movie about Judah Maccabee. Eszterhas wrote that Gibson wanted to make the movie only so he could “convert the Jews to Christianity.”

Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” also angered many in the Jewish community who thought that it played into notions of Jewish culpability for the killing of Jesus.

Downey previously defended Gibson at an awards ceremony in October 2011, asking the crowd to join him “unless you are completely without sin, in which case you picked the wrong fucking industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses, offering the same clean slate you have me, and allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contributions to our collective art without shame.”

In a profanity-laced and anti-Semitic rant of his own, actor Gary Oldman also stood up for Gibson in June.

Mel Gibson “got drunk and said a few things, but we’ve all said those things. We’re all fucking hypocrites… The policeman who arrested him has never used the word nigger or that fucking Jew?” Oldman said.

“Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him,” he said, adding, “Some Jewish guy in his office somewhere hasn’t turned and said, ‘That fucking kraut’ or ‘Fuck those Germans,’ whatever it is? We all hide and try to be so politically correct. That’s what gets me.”

Oldman subsequently apologized.

JTA contributed to this report.

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