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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 07:53 GMT
Mel Gibson: Action hero gets serious
Mel Gibson, once known as an A-List action hero, has tackled one of the most challenging stories ever told - that of Jesus' crucifixion - for his new film The Passion of the Christ.

The Passion of the Christ
Mel Gibson directed Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ
Gibson remains one of Hollywood's biggest movie heartthrobs, being named best actor at the US People's Choice awards for the third time in four years.

But at 48, he was too old to play Jesus in The Passion - so satisfied himself with co-writing, directing, producing and financing it.

After earning his spurs behind the camera with Braveheart, which he directed and produced as well as starred in, he decided he had "a deep need" to tell the story of Christ's final hours.

He has wanted to make this film for the last decade, and has said he has tried to make a familiar story less distant.

"The Gospels tell you what basically happened - I want to know what really went down," he said last year.

Gibson himself is a conservative Catholic - and has previously told interviewers about his opposition to abortion, birth control and divorce.

Mel Gibson
Gibson has directed three films during his career
But his religious views are not as conservative as those held by his father, Hutton, who set up a group called Alliance for Catholic Tradition and questioned the extent of the Holocaust.

Mel Gibson has avoided publicly criticising his 82-year-old father, saying: "He never denied the Holocaust - he just said there were fewer than six million."

Mel was born in New York, the sixth of 11 children, and moved to Australia in 1968 after his father won an injury payout and the TV quiz Jeopardy.

He soon adopted an Australian accent after being teased for being a "Yank", and performed at the Australian National Institute of Dramatic Arts.

Alcohol battle

While there, he played Romeo opposite Judy Davis' Juliet, and shared accommodation with Shine star Geoffrey Rush.

Mel Gibson at the Oscars
Braveheart won five Oscars in 1996
Like Kylie Minogue, he started his screen career with a role in TV soap The Sullivans before finding film fame in Mad Max in 1979.

The futuristic film became an unexpected hit, taking $100m around the world, and spawned two sequels.

More acclaimed roles in films like war drama Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously - both directed by Peter Weir - followed before his hugely successful appearance in 1987's cop thriller Lethal Weapon.

Around this time, he also began his battle with alcohol after realising he was drinking four or five beers every morning before work - later attending Alcoholics Anonymous and becoming teetotal.

Lethal Weapon was a global smash, and established Gibson on the Hollywood A-list, with three sequels helping his image and bank balance.

Directing

But he wanted to prove he was more than a Hollywood hunk, and won high critical praise in Hamlet in 1990 before directing his first film, The Man Without a Face, three years later.

Mel Gibson in The Patriot
He has remained one of Hollywood's biggest box office stars
The next film he directed was also his next big success - Braveheart scored five Oscars in 1996, including best picture and best director.

A string of thriller and action movies like Ransom, The Patriot and Signs along with lighter fare such as What Women Want followed - and proved he is still a major draw at the box office.

And with his fee reputed to have reached $25m (13m) per film, he has accumulated enough cash to be able to make films like The Passion without having to rely on big studios.

He has also said he prefers directing to acting.

"It's more fun, that's all there is to it," he has said.

"It's essentially the same job, which is storytelling, but you have more control over the way you want to tell the story."


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