In the first part of her exclusive interview with Mel Gibson — which aired this morning on "Good Morning America" — Diane Sawyer talked with the actor-director about that fateful night, July 28, 2006, when he was arrested for drunk driving and spewed anti-Semitic remarks that made international headlines.
She began the interview by saying no questions were off-limits.
That day began, he said, "much like any other day." He said he did some work, went to a screening.
"Well, of course, I guess I must have been a little overwrought," Gibson said. "That's what happens. Too much pressure, too much work. You do things that go against good judgment. So that's it. A few drinks later and I was in the back of a police car wailing."
Gibson said he was drinking tequila that night — even took a couple slugs in his car while he drove — but he doesn't know how many he had that night. How drunk was he?
"It's not a question of how drunk you are," he explained. "You're impaired. Your judgment is impaired enough to do insane things like try and drive at high speeds. Even a couple of drinks, you loose all humility."
Sawyer reminded Gibson of some of the powerful words he uttered that night, that he "owned Malibu," that "Jews were the responsible for all the wars in the world," then he asked the arresting officer if he himself was a Jew.
She asked him if he thought those were anti-Semitic words and he replied, "Oh, yes. Absolutely. It sounds horrible. And I'm ashamed that came out of my mouth. I'm not that. That's not who I am."
She asked Gibson what he might have said if the arresting office was black. "Who knows? I'd have to get loaded again and tell you and then be in those conditions again. It's unpredictable what's going to come flying out," he said.
Gibson, who has struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse in the past, described himself as a "happy drunk … until I snap."
"Years go by, you're fine. And then all of a sudden, in a heartbeat, in an instant, on an impulse, somebody shoves a glass of Mescal in front of your nose, and says, 'It's from Oaxaca,' " he said. "And it's burning its way through your esophagus, and you go, 'Oh, man, what did I do that for? I can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.' "
Gibson said he has no idea where this anger inside him came from.
2"I've been angry all my life," he said. "I try not to have it manifest itself. You try and keep a lock on it. It's real, back there someplace, you know. I've talked to people about that. Where is that coming from? I can get really mad about — I can murder inanimate objects. You should see me choking the toaster in the morning. So I'm kind of a work in progress right now. You got me a little green. I mean, I just got out of the straitjacket with the messy hair and everything."
He said the first thing that went through his mind when he had to have his mug shot taken at the precinct was Nick Nolte's infamous 2002 mug shot, so he attempted to fix his hair.
"I did my best with a finger combing in the water fountain to splash a little water on my face to not take one of those hideous mug shots because I knew it would be around. Vanity won out," he said.
The actor-director eventually pleaded no contest to charges of drunk driving under a plea deal in which he's required to serve three years' probation, pay a fine and attend alcohol rehab classes.
Gibson says that when he got home that morning (a morning he describes as "unbearable") he faced his family members, his wife, Robyn, and their children, and apologized. "I've apologized more than anyone I know. It's getting old," he said.
That morning "some of my kids were there and I talked to them for a little bit and it was a little rough that morning. So I chased it down with a few cold ones," he admitted.
He discussed how he told his wife, his companion for 26 years and the mother of their seven children. "I just told her straight out: 'slipped again.' She was like, of course, you know, she doesn't like that, so — but she was gracious, compassionate," he said.
Gibson said he sees the incident as "a blessing," and Sawyer questioned that description.
"Yeah. Well, firstly, I got stopped before I did real damage to anyone else," he said. "Thank God for that. I didn't hurt myself. I didn't leave my kids fatherless. That's a blessing, OK? The other thing is, sometimes you need a cold bucket of water in the face to sort of snap to. Because you're dealing with a sort of malady of the soul — an obsession of the mind. Some people need a big tap on the shoulder. In my case, public humiliation on a global scale seems to be what was required."
He disagreed with the statement that alcohol reveals how one really feels about things.
"Alcohol loosens your tongue and makes you act, say and behave in a way that is not you," he said. Adding that anyone who uses the old Roman saying, "In Vino Veritas," to describe what happened, "they don't know what they're talking about; it's as simple as that. Or they don't have the problem and don't understand it."
Sawyer countered that there are plenty of people who get drunk and don't go on anti-Semitic tirades.
"People say all sorts of horrible things, not just anti-Semitic things," he said. "They say horrible things. They say to their parents, 'I hate you and I want you to die.' They don't mean that stuff. It's the stuff that comes out when you're loaded. It's extreme."
In tomorrow's portion of the interview, Sawyer and Gibson will talk about where his anti-Semitic statements came from.
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