Is Mel Gibson poised to be welcomed back as the Best Director winner at Sunday’s Golden Globes for “Hacksaw Ridge”? The filmmaker won raves for helming this World War II epic about an Army Medic (Andrew Garfield) who served in the Battle of Okinawa while refusing to carry a weapon, guiding it to three total Globe nominations including Best Actor and Best Film Drama. A victory here would cement the already impressive comeback of a Hollywood icon who spent the last decade as an industry pariah.
By now, Gibson’s personal history is well known. How the once venerated actor-director saw his career come to a screeching halt following sexually and racially offensive comments. How in the 10 years since he’s struggled to regain his footing in several low-profile projects. How the possibilities of him once again being handed the reigns of a big scale endeavor looked slimmer and slimmer. Is much of that seemingly forgiven in the wake of his latest film’s critical and box office success.
Hollywood Foreign Press voters put Gibson on the awards map for the first time when he won the Globe for helming “Braveheart” (1995). That pointed the way towards eventual Best Picture and Director victories at the Oscars a few weeks later. Since then he received acting nominations for both drama (“Ransom,” 1996) and comedy (“What Women Want,” 2000) performances.
It should be noted that “Braveheart” lost the Best Film Drama Globe to “Sense and Sensibility” the same year he personally prevailed. Splits are far more common there than at the Academy, so even if “Hacksaw Ridge” fails to best “Moonlight” or “Manchester by the Sea,” that doesn’t necessarily put a damper on Gibson’s chances. Look no further than Martin Scorsese for “Hugo” (2011) and “Gangs of New York” (2002), Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007), and Robert Altman for “Gosford Park” (2001) to find instances where not only the director won and the film didn’t, but where HFPA voters went their own way instead of simply picking the Oscar frontrunners.
Globe voters also have a soft spot for actors-turned-filmmakers, such as Ben Affleck (“Argo,” 2012), Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby” in 2004 and “Unforgiven” in 1992), Kevin Costner (“Dances with Wolves,” 1990), and of course, Gibson. Plus, they love to reward veterans who’ve come back from the fray, including Burt Reynolds (Supporting Actor for “Boogie Nights,” 1997), Mickey Rourke (Drama Actor for “The Wrestler,” 2008), and, most recently, Sylvester Stallone (Supporting Actor for “Creed,” 2015).
Yet perhaps the best thing Gibson has going for him is the fact that his victory would make for great television. Just imagine the thunderous applause that would erupt as he bounds onstage to collect a little gold trophy, an industry welcoming back one of its formerly-favorite sons. What would the man say if given the chance to have such a prominent place on their stage? It’s a scenario that might be too delicious to pass up, and could spark a lightbulb in the minds of Academy members now that ballots are out.
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