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Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone and Martin Campbell Discuss ‘Edge of Darkness’

Mel Gibson returns to acting after a seven year break with a starring role in Edge of Darkness,

Ray Winstone and Mel Gibson in ‘Edge of Darkness.’

© Warner Bros Pictures

a thriller directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) and based on the award-winning six-hour BBC miniseries. After starring in Signs and playing a supporting role in The Singing Detective, Gibson opted out of acting and concentrated on directing. Now he’s back in front of the camera playing Boston police Detective Thomas Craven.

In Edge of Darkness, things get personal for veteran homicide detective Craven when his only child, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), is gunned down. Craven doesn’t believe the official story, that she was murdered by mistake and that the killer was actually after him, and so he takes matters into his own hands. Craven launches his own investigation into his daughter’s private life to find out what she was involved in that could have possibly led to her death.

Ray Winstone (The DepartedBeowulf), the only British actor in the otherwise all-American cast, co-stars as Darius Jedburgh. Darius is a ‘cleaner,’ a mysterious figure who comes into the picture after Craven’s daughter is killed to find out what Emma knew.

Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, and Director Martin Campbell Edge of Darkness Press Conference

Have you gotten the acting bug back and might you pop up in Max Max 4?

Mel Gibson: “Okay, well, yeah, I walked away from it after Signs because I just felt I was a bit stale and I needed to kind of maybe… It wasn’t ringing my bells, so I focused on directing and writing and producing and all that kind of stuff, and it was time to come back. Now, I got the acting bug back because I felt like all of a sudden, maybe after all these years I might have something to offer again and it coincided with a very good piece of material. It was a compelling story with good elements attached and I dug it. And it gave me the chance to work with Martin and Ray and Graham and [writer] Bill Monahan. If it wasn’t this, it would’ve been something else. But this was the best thing that I saw.”

Have you talked to George Miller about Mad Max?

Mel Gibson: “Oh yeah, George and I…yeah, I’ve talked to George. Yeah, we’ve had a good chin wag about it. We talk all the time anyway, George and I, so I’m abreast of that. I know he’s been trying to do this for years, the fourth installment. At one point I was involved and it felt a bit… and then this and that, so now it’s probably gone through a lot of changes. I can’t wait to see it because everything he does, I think, is magic, I think is a touch of genius, more than a touch of genius about George. Probably most of any good trick I’ve ever learned, I’ve learned off that guy and Peter Weir.”

Once you got back, did you feel rusty or did it come back to you quickly?

Mel Gibson: “A little bit. I remember Martin had to tell me to tone it down a couple of times because you forget levels and stuff. It’s like sort of like dialing in levels and stuff. So after that it was pretty natural. You don’t do something for 30 years and forget it. So yeah, it felt all right. It felt better, actually.”

Did the juices come back?

Mel Gibson: “Yeah, pretty much, yeah. And that was something an old, wise old – well, not so wise, not so old guy told me once. ‘Go away, dig a hole, do something else, come back and it magically rejuvenates your creative impulses and stuff.’ He’s right, I think. And I cannot qualify how exactly, but I know that something happened. Just nothing better than a vacation sometimes.”

Do you keep in shape naturally or did you have to get back in shape for the fight scene?

Mel Gibson: “Well, the only thing I did with that was just I ordered a chiropractor for the day after, because I knew what it was going to feel like. I knew I was going to wake up like roadkill, and I did. You don’t bounce back as quick as you used to, and that guy’s 25, right? And he’s taking it easy on you, okay. It’s not a pleasant experience, you know? Things, you don’t pop back the way you used to, but it’s okay. So long as it still looks good.”

Do you naturally stay in shape?

Mel Gibson: “I don’t work out much. I try and eat right and exercise a little. That sounds horrible. I quit smoking, so that’s something in the right direction. There’s no more fun things left. I just don’t do anything fun anymore. But that’s dying, isn’t it? You die in stages, right? You let things go in pieces. It’s more than halfway through, right?”

Did you watch the original because your performance was similar to Bob Peck’s?

Mel Gibson: “It was? Interesting because I watched it back in the ’80s, avidly. Avidly. It was some of the best TV I’d ever seen, and British television at that time was great. We’ve all talked about that, but I made a point to not watch it because I didn’t want it to be a part of that but to just try and be truthful. Hey, if you’re saying that my performance was anything like what Bob Peck did, I’m flattered because I think he was amazing.”

What were your preconceptions when you saw the screenplay and how closely do these sync up?

Martin Campbell: “I think very closely. The action, we tried to do the action… Cumulatively, it’s actually not that much. There’s not a great deal of action in it, but we designed the action so rather like a car crash, most violent acts come out of nowhere. They simply happen in the blink of an eye. You never quite know exactly what happened and that was the principal of this, really.”

Mel Gibson: “He likes to do that kind of thing. Before you can do this [cover your eyes], it’s like, ‘Oh, oh!’ It’s like that. It’s much better.

Mel Gibson in ‘Edge of Darkness.’

© Warner Bros Pictures
Martin, did this movie remake feel familiar or totally new?

Martin Campbell: “Well, like Mel approached the acting, he didn’t watch the series and neither did I. I simply forgot the series and treated it as a new movie. I think it was the only way to go about it.”

Is it more political thriller than film noir?

Martin Campbell: “No, I think it’s much more about loss. It’s about grief and it’s about retribution. It’s all of those things. I think the political story is the least interesting of the elements in the film.”

What were the most challenging scenes for you?

Mel Gibson: “Boy, challenging. Look, every time you go out there to do something, you wonder if you can do it. There’s no assured success. There’s no secret recipe for success. Every time you go out there, you go out there with the possibility of great failure. So the whole business of putting your wares on display, whether you’re a chef or an opera director or a painter or whatever, a filmmaker, whatever you happen to be, you’re throwing your stuff out there for other people and it’s going to be judged. You’re either going to be excoriated or praised or somewhere in between. Both sometimes. It’s all a challenge. The whole gig is a challenge.”

Why are you drawn to stories about characters who lose family and fight for justice?

Mel Gibson: “Well, there’s a lot of anger around. That’s not a good answer either. I think that’s a very old theme in a lot of stories. Look at Beowulf.”

Ray Winstone: “Yeah, I think also you look at the script first. If you love the script, and it just happens to be about that subject, the subject is not the thing you look at first. It’s the script.”

Mel Gibson: “It really is. And if you go back, Martin and I talked about this, it reminded us of a Jacobean tragedy from the 17th century in almost every way. By one of those guys like Tourneur. He wrote The Revenger’s Tragedy. They were all written by English guys about the Italians. It was really weird in the 17th century. ‘Man, those Italians are really vengeful.’ ‘Look at how revengeful…,’ all talking about the other guy. So that’s what it reminded me of, where everybody gets it, even the dog. Even the dog gets it. So, I don’t know. It’s an old theme and it’s part of most hero myths. Something sets the spheres a-wrong and somebody has to right it. It’s a big theme.”

You’ve been on the edge, defending projects, being the center of politics. Has all that made you a better actor? And how did you quit smoking?

Mel Gibson: “Well, all experiences, what does not kill you makes you stronger and tougher I think. Life’s experiences, whether they be pleasant, unpleasant, torturous or excruciatingly wonderful and blissful, season you somehow and you learn from them. And hopefully we learn. Isn’t that what it’s about? That’s like all I’m trying to do now is put some information on a chip that I can leave to my progeny and maybe they can do a better job than I can in this crazy, spinning piece of dirt in the future.”

“How did I quit smoking? It was torture. I’m on day nine now so it’s almost over. But the first three days I was like an ax murderer. Day four I’d come at you with a bat. Day five I was dangerous with a lawnmower. But it is a hellish habit to break. Your neurons are involved. My mother smoked, I think, when I was in her womb. I’m not sure. I think so. When I first had one when I was nine years old, I thought, ‘Oh my God, now, ahh, yes, I missed this.’ I knew I missed it. Then 45 years later, after every single artistic decision, every decision I’ve ever made was done with a cigarette. To not have that is pretty hectic. That’s crawling the walls – I did for a while.”

Ray, how much fun was it to play this character?

Ray Winstone: “It’s funny because the parts you really want to play are the emotional parts. I do anyway, personally, to sit across the table or sit in the garden watching someone play the emotional part. When I read the script – and I didn’t have a lot of time to get my [head] together – and with the help of Martin, and Mel as well, decide which way you’re going to take it. To play a man really, me in the film, a man with no emotion who’s seen death and created death, I’ve kind of met people like that, years ago who’ve been through, whether it’s the second World War or people who were members of the SAS. They have these eyes that kind of burn into you and look at the wall behind you. You can’t tell them lies. Because of the amount of emotion that Mel has to go through in this film, it’s kind of making the decision. It’s all about decisions anyway as an actor, but to make a decision to play someone who had no emotion on the surface – that’s fun. Besides, going to work is fun anyway, especially when you’re sitting opposite someone like Mel or John Hurt or whatever it is. It’s always a blessing because you’re working with people who are talented and know their job and know their business.”

How did you happen to learn to direct, and how do you dial back and take direction?

Mel Gibson: “Well, how do you learn to direct? I mean, you hang around the hub and watch what’s going on and ask a bunch of questions. You’re there for the inception of an idea, you’re there to see it executed. You’re there to doubt it, you’re there to see if they pull it off or not. You’re there to sort of share the fruits of the victory or failure. It’s like, ‘Wow…’ It’s like a big science experiment for 30 years, so how can you not pick it up? And if you’re working with really good people, it’s just great.

Ray Winstone in ‘Edge of Darkness.’

© Warner Bros Pictures

Martin Campbell: “Oddly enough, we had a slightly different ending to the film and it just wasn’t comfortable. It didn’t work, and in fact Mel said to me, ‘This is not working. It doesn’t feel right,’ and so forth. We discussed it and he said to me, ‘Well, why don’t we put it in the hospital? In the hospital corridor?’ That’s precisely what we did, so that’s where that came from. There’s also another scene which is, I think, one of the best scenes in the movie which is the flashback scene to the little girl and the shaving scene. Well, I have to say that was entirely Mel’s idea. It wasn’t mine, and that was a scene that Mel improvised with the little girl. We shot it in two or three hours, I think. We shot the scene and it’s probably my favorite scene in the movie, or certainly one of my favorite scenes in the movie.”

Regardless of whether you revisited the series or not, were you hesitant to revisit a past success?

Martin Campbell: “No, it all depended on the script. As Ray said earlier, it entirely depends on the script. I think the idea of a father who’s lost his only daughter and sets out on a voyage of discovery, I always thought that was a great story. To be honest, it was simply a matter of the script coming right. Andrew Bovell did a terrific job, the first writer, but Bill Monahan took it to the finish line. I could put the series out of my mind and it was a very good script so I had no hesitation.”

Mel, was there a point during your period off that you considered not coming back?

Mel Gibson: “Yeah, of course, yeah. Probably further toward the beginning and then as time went on, you think, ‘Maybe I should try again.’ You don’t know. That’s why I didn’t make some big pronouncement: ‘I am quitting. I’m retiring.’ I didn’t want to do that, but I just thought I’d back away for a while.”

Were you discouraged or tired?

Mel Gibson: “Just tired and bored with it, you know? I’ve done that a couple of times. I just walked away and just spent a year not doing it, doing something else. I think it’s a natural thing. As soon as something starts getting a little tedious and you want to spice it up again, you kind of have to change it.”

Are you a protective dad in real life, and is it especially hard with daughters?

Mel Gibson: “Yeah, well, I think I am a protective dad. I’ve never really been in situations, fortunately, where the kids have been in some of harrowing dangerous experience. I related one the other day. It’s pretty basic. I remember I went to the pharmacy to buy some formula for my newly born twins. They’re now 27. I brought my 21 month old to the pharmacy with me because my wife was occupied with twins. It was a place called Coogee in Australia. There was a pharmacy right on the corner and then there was the Coogee Bay road, really busy road. We had a nurse from New Zealand at the time who used to help out during the day and go home at four. So it’s that time, we’re in the pharmacy, I’m buying formula and I take my eyes off the child for a second. The next thing I look up, I’m saying, ‘Well, what’s the difference between this one and that?’ I look up and I see my child standing about maybe 25 yards away on the edge of the curb and the nurse in a bus stop on the other side with traffic blowing in front of her going [waving hands no]. She’s going out there to say hi to her. 25 yards and not much time to get the kid, okay? So needless to say, there’s an old man with broken ribs. There was a lady with a footprint on her face. I completely wrecked the place to get through that place and get the kid. I broke everything and ran through things and lifted things and threw them out of the way, that you weren’t supposed to do, to pluck her out before she got struck by a car.”

“So, yeah, you’ll do anything for your kids, even kill somebody. [Laughing] But the poor woman, I had to apologize to a lot of people afterwards and they didn’t understand. They get very angry, of course, because you’ve knocked an old lady over.”

Did you learn anything exciting while you were recharging away from the industry?

Mel Gibson: “Well, I didn’t really get away from the industry. I learned a lot about the industry. I learned about writing. I learned about conceiving, from conception to writing, bringing that to the screen to sort of mounting a film to producing it to directing it, to actually single-handedly marketing and distributing and doing everything except exhibition. And I think I did it. It’s almost kind of the full thing. Now I bought a bunch of theaters in Australia called the Dendy chain, so I’m an exhibitor as well.”

What made you come back then?

Mel Gibson: “To act again? It was just time. I don’t know. I just felt like doing it. It was my first love. I used to love doing it and if the tarnish is on it and the glow goes off it, you can kind of walk away for a while. When it’s time to come back, you come back.”

Ray, is Steven Soderbergh’s Cleo still happening?

Ray Winstone: “I don’t know. It was going to go last year and I think Steven had another film to go and do. There was talk of it going this year but I haven’t heard anything more about it, to be quite honest with you. It’d be great, dressing up in a toga and all that with Tony Curtis haircuts, singing rock n’ roll.”

Would it have been you singing?

Ray Winstone: “What, do you want me to apologize for that? Yeah, and that’s another – from a kid, I always wanted to be a singer. My balls dropped one day and that was it. My daughter’s a singer. She sings jazz and blues. But I’m a frustrated singer, really. I think I became an actor because I couldn’t sing. You play a different kind of music now. I’d love to do that.”It’s not officially dead?

Ray Winstone: “I haven’t been told it’s dead. I haven’t been told when it’s going, but I’d love to. And to get a chance to kiss Catherine Zeta-Jones…you know, that’s just making movies, isn’t it? So I’d love to do the film. I think he’s a very, very clever boy and I think if anyone can pull that off, he could.”

Mel, have you ruled out a cameo in Mad Max?

Mel Gibson: “No, no. We just talked


January 29, 2010 - Posted by | 1

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