Actor, director, producer. Born on January 3, 1956, in Peekskill, New York. Gibson was the sixth of 11 children born to Hutton and Ann Gibson, who were Roman Catholics of Irish descent. Shortly after the onset of the Vietnam War, Hutton Gibson relocated his family to Australia for fear that his sons would be drafted into battle. Mel spent the remainder of his childhood in Sydney, where he attended an all-boys Catholic high school.
After Gibson’s high school graduation, he considered becoming a chef or journalist. However, when his sister submitted an application on his behalf to The National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, he decided to audition. Without any prior acting experience, he was accepted and enrolled in the drama school. While there, he made his stage debut in a production of Romeo and Juliet, and his screen debut in the low-budget film Summer City (1977). Upon his graduation that year, Gibson joined the Southern Australian Theater Company, where he appeared in the title roles of classical productions, such as Oedipus and Henry IV.
After conquering the stage, Gibson tried his hand at television, landing his first role on the Australian series The Sullivans. In 1979, Gibson graduated to mainstream cinema with his role as a futuristic warrior in Mad Max, and as a mentally retarded man in love with Piper Laurie in Tim, for which he earned his first Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award for Best Actor. Furthermore, Mad Max became the biggest commercial success of any Australian film, grossing over $100 million worldwide.
Gibson received his second AFI Award for Best Actor for his performance as a patriotic idealist in Peter Weir’s World War I drama Gallipoli (1981). Later that year, he reprised his role as the leather-clad hero in Mad Max 2 (1981). The film was released in the U.S. as The Road Warrior in 1982, and its success established Gibson as an international star. His second collaboration with Weir, The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), featured the actor in his first romantic lead alongside Sigourney Weaver.
Gibsons American film debut in The River (1984) was considered a success. The film earned four Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress nod for Sissy Spacek. In 1985, he returned to Australia to complete the Mad Max trilogy in the less impressive Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, which co-starred singer Tina Turner. Later that year, Gibson’s popularity was confirmed when he was featured on the cover of People magazine as the first ever “Sexiest Man Alive.”
After a brief hiatus, Gibson returned to the screen with the blockbuster hit Lethal Weapon (1987), playing volatile cop, Martin Riggs, opposite Danny Glover’s by-the-book character, Roger Murtaugh. The success of Lethal Weapon inspired three sequels – Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), all of which featured Glover and Gibson in their respective roles as good cop and bad cop.
In Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990), Gibson gave a notable performance as the tormented prince. In addition, Hamlet was the first film produced by Gibson’s newly formed production company, Icon productions. Other productions by Icon included the Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved (1994), and the 1997 remake of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenia.
In the early ’90s, Gibson appeared in a few poorly received films, including Air America (1990) and the sappy Forever Young (1992). He made his feature directorial debut with the 1993 tearjerker The Man Without a Face, in which he also played a severely disfigured burn victim.
In 1995, Gibson released his most passionate project to date, directing and starring as the 13th century Scottish nobleman, Sir William Wallace, in the medieval epic Braveheart. The film triumphed at the Oscars, winning top honors in five categories, including Best Picture and Best Director. Gibson diversified his range of characters later the same year, when he provided the voice of John Smith in Disney’s Pocahontas (1995).
In the late ’90s, Gibson starred in a handful of crime thrillers, including 1996’s Ransom (with Renee Russo and Gary Sinise), 1997’s Conspiracy Theory (with Julia Roberts), and the independent film Payback (1999). In 2000, he headlined the highly anticipated war saga The Patriot, in which he played a reluctant hero during the American Revolution. Also that year, he starred in the romantic comedy What Women Want, costarring Helen Hunt, Lauren Holly, and Bette Midler. In 2002, Gibson headlined another box-office hit, M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, where he plays a rural Pennsylvania farmer whose life takes a drastic turn when 500-foot crop circles appear in his cornfields.
Mel Gibson’s next project put him back in the director’s chair in an ambitious film about the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life entitled The Passion of the Christ. Released in 2004, the unlikely blockbuster made headlines for its controversial adaptation of a biblical story. A devout Catholic, Gibson said that the Holy Spirit was making the film through him, “I was just directing traffic.” His next historical epic, Apocalypto, focused on the decline of the Mayan civilization and was released in December 2006.
In recent years, Mel Gibson has been accused of being anti-Semitic and racist. He has also openly acknowledged his battle with alcohol addiction. In 2006, he pled no contest to a drunk-driving charge and admitted to making anti-Semitic remarks during his arrest. He was sentenced to three years of probation, including mandatory AA meetings.
Gibson has kept a relatively low profile since this incident. He served as a producer on the 2008 PBS documentary Another Day in Paradise and as an executive producer for the related PBS miniseries Carrier.
After years of directing and producing, Gibson has stepped back in front of the cameras for the 2010 thriller Edge of Darkness. He stars as a police detective who investigates his daughter’s death.
In 1980, Gibson married Robyn Moore. The couple had seven children together before filing for divorce in 2009. His eldest daughter, Hannah, married musician Kenny Wayne Shepherd in 2006. Gibson is currently dating singer Oksana Grigorieva; the couple is expecting their first child.