The purported audio rants of actor Mel Gibson complicate the release of his next film by Summit Entertainment LLC, the studio that holds U.S. distribution rights, analysts said.
“The Beaver,” directed by Jodie Foster, stars Gibson as a man who converses with a beaver puppet. No release date was scheduled before recordings of obscenity-laced tirades, purportedly by Gibson to girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, were made public. The two are in a battle for custody in Los Angeles over their eight-month-old daughter.
The film isn’t likely to be shown in U.S. theaters anytime soon, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of researcher Hollywood.com’s box-office tracking unit.
“You have to remain in a holding pattern,” Dergarabedian said. “They have some time to think about it. It’s not like they had posters all over town saying, it opens whenever.”
Summit hasn’t made a decision on how it will proceed, said a person with knowledge of the situation. “The Beaver” has been filmed and is getting so-called post-production touches, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter is private.
Summit executives weren’t available to comment, according to a spokesman. Gibson’s publicist, Alan Nierob, didn’t return messages seeking comment. Foster’s publicist, Jennifer Allen, referred calls to Summit.
Straight to DVD?
Summit may opt to skip theaters and release the movie as a DVD, said Tony Wible, a Philadelphia-based analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC. The move would eliminate marketing expenses for a theatrical release, he said.
“There’s a chance they don’t earn out the advertising dollar,” Wible said. “That’s why some of the less popular films, riskier films, don’t go out to theatrical, and I think that’s the case here.”
Hollywood and the movie-going public have been forgiving of others. Robert Downey Jr. rebounded from drug-related jail time and Eddie Murphy and Hugh Grant from encounters with prostitutes. All resumed successful film careers.
Gibson’s situation differs from other cases of celebrity misbehavior because of the nature of the comments, Dergarabedian said. The male voice on the recordings, posted by RadarOnline.com, screams racial epithets and threatens violence.
“It’s so mean spirited and there’s nothing remotely cool about it,” Dergarabedian said. “It’s hard to turn this into something positive.”
William Morris Endeavor, Gibson’s talent agency, said this month he was no longer a client.
Detectives investigating Gibson for possible domestic violence received audio recordings during a closed court session of a custody case involving Gibson and Grigorieva, 40, the Associated Press reported on July 15.
“The Beaver” would be Gibson’s second since he was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy in 2006. He served three years’ probation and attended court-ordered Alcoholics Anonymous meetings after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor drunk-driving charge. His record was expunged in 2009, the Associated Press reported then.
The crime drama “Edge of Darkness,” released in January by Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. and made for about $80 million, generated $43.3 million in U.S. ticket sales, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.
“How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” listed as being filmed as of April 9 on IMDB.com, is being produced by Gibson’s Icon Productions. Gibson stars and is credited with writing.
The U.S.-born Gibson, 54, began acting in Australia in the 1970s and rose to stardom with 1980s film roles in “Mad Max” and “Lethal Weapon.” He produced, directed and starred in 1995’s Academy Award-winning “Braveheart,” about Scottish warrior William Wallace.
Other films Summit plans to release this year include the spy satire “Red,” set for October.
The Los Angeles-based studio released “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the third film in the franchise based on Stephenie Meyer’s books, on June 30. It generated $470.4 million in global ticket sales against a production budget of $68 million, according to Box Office Mojo. This year Summit won a best-picture Oscar for “The Hurt Locker.”