Why I Wanted to See Mel Gibson in The Hangover Part II

If you're going to joke about self-destructive men, why not swing for the fences?

By Andrew Osborne

Mel Gibson is currently on the shit list of just about everyone but Jodie Foster. From all available evidence, he's a homophobe (see: the effeminate prince in Braveheartan infamous 1991 interview); an anti-Semite (see: The Passion of the Christan infamous 2006 DUI stop); a racist (see: infamous 2010 calls to his ex, Oksana Grigorieva); and a misogynist (ditto). And I'm really sad that he got cut from The Hangover Part II.

In case you've forgotten, 2009's The Hangover concerned three guys (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) who roofie themselves in Vegas, lose a fourth guy, and hang out with a baby, a tiger, and heavyweight champ Mike Tyson. The central joke of the movie, of course, was about three "ordinary" guys who finally get to live on the edge, doing all the things society (and, more specifically, women) won't normally let them do. The roofies allow the characters to unleash their collective Male Id, a force of unbridled anarchy and insatiable sexual desire, and the experience is liberating.

The casting of a real bad boy like Gibson didn't fly with the faux bad boys of The Hangover Part II.

Now, two years later, most of the Hangover cast is back for what looks like a scene-by-scene remake of the first movie. To take Tyson's place in the surprise-cameo role, the filmmakers invited Mel Gibson — and then disinvited him after protests from both the public and the movie's own cast. The casting of a real bad boy like Gibson didn't fly with the faux bad boys of The Hangover Part II (particularly Galifianakis, according to rumors). In a 2010 interview posted by TMZ, franchise director Todd Phillips said, "I thought Mel would have been great in the movie... but I realize filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and this decision ultimately did not have the full support of my entire cast and crew."

One cast member who did support Gibson's casting was convicted rapist, former drug user, notorious pigeon enthusiast, and all-around controversy magnet (wait for it) Iron Mike Tyson. In an interview with The New York Post, the fighter-turned-actor said, "I'm not going to ever in my life point my finger at anyone. I don't live in a glass house. None of us do. I work with anybody, as long as they're respectful... We all have that guy — a Mel Gibson — in us."

That, of course, is the entire premise of the Hangover franchise.

Now, while I can understand not wanting to work with someone as seemingly loathsome as Gibson, it does seem hypocritical to playfully celebrate the bad behavior of one troubled misogynist while condemning that of another, all in service of a massively successful franchise about bad behavior (while quietly writing out your one notable female star, Heather Graham, to boot).

And, yes, I know The Hangover Part II is presented as nothing more than a fun, escapist comedy. But, according to Roger Ebert, it also pushes the "bad boy" envelope even further this time, "like a challenge to the audience's capacity for raunchiness. It gets laughs, but some of them are in disbelief. As if making sure no one was not offended, it has a montage of still photos over the closing titles that include one cruel shot that director Todd Phillips should never, ever have used... a desecration of one of the two most famous photos to come out of the Vietnam War."

I wonder whether Galifianakis protested to Phillips about that one too. Is a parody of the Saigon execution photo actually less offensive than Mel Gibson's mere presence? Probably not, but maybe for The Hangover Part II, Gibson's particular version of "the unleashed Male Id" was just a little too close to home.

It's too bad, because the specter of Mel Gibson might actually have made The Hangover Part II a more cutting look at men behaving badly than the mechanical retread it appears to be. Whenever a movie succeeds, Hollywood's instinct is usually to repeat it verbatim, only bigger, louder and dumber. And I'll probably rent The Hangover Part II eventually, since I like most of the people involved with it. But I definitely won't be seeing it on the big screen. Why? Because I've already seen the light-hearted story of three friends accidentally staring into the abyss. So if there has to be a darker, crazier sequel, why not own it with a deeper dive into what it truly means to be "bad" — featuring Gibson as the scary personification of the abyss staring back?

Commentarium (16 Comments)

May 26 11 - 1:31am

They can't make a movie just for you Andrew. Movies are for everyone, silly.

May 26 11 - 4:31am
Ray Rahman

I'm not quite sure how a racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynist man in real life (Mel Gibson) is comparable to fictitious people from an artistic endeavor (characters in a movie). Gibson really *did* say and do those things, and he did so on his own accord—he wasn't reading from a script in an attempt to question cultural taboos and test the integrity of our social mores. Calling Gibson a "bad boy" who simply represents "the unleashed male id" is to say that every male *thinks* that Jews are conspiratorial villains, that "packs of n---ers" can't help themselves from raping a woman if she's wearing a miniskirt, and that it's the woman's own fault in the first place—but that he (the 'leashed' male) just can't *say* it aloud. Of course, that's not true, either in real life or the two Hangover movies. One hateful actor's inexplicable goodwill amongst Hollywood types (Jodie Foster, apparently Todd Phillips) shouldn't infringe on the ethics of actors/humans with a conscience (Zach Galifianakis, whose Dave Chappelle-like moral qualms with mainstream fame and responsibility have been coming to the forefront lately).

May 26 11 - 10:26am

I think the point is that this franchise romanticizes the idea of men behaving badly. It has a "backlash" take on feminism and political correctness in general; it suggests that men can only live fully when they cast off the shackles that society (ie women) places on them. It's all in fun, but it's still a regressive sociological viewpoint, and Gibson is a real-life reminder of why we had PROgressive social movements in the first place.

May 26 11 - 10:44am
Ray Rahman

I just have trouble connecting "men living fully without societal shackles" and "hate." I honestly don't think Mel represents any of the movie's themes--it's pure shock value, as Andrew pointed out. And, for the record, Tyson doesn't sit well with me either.

May 26 11 - 6:20am
big mac

Mel Gibson isn't a badboy, he's a racist misogynistic arsehole

May 27 11 - 4:37pm

I don't understand how Osborne cannot fathom why Galifiankakis didn't want a known racist anti-semite. Gibson had been casted to be a Tattoo Artist with 3 lines (a highly interchangeable role with at one point was to have Liam Neeson sub in), not as some sort of personification of real-life consequences. The whole concept of using Gibson would had been another shock factor "oh my goodness, look who it is!" moment. As far as describing the lead actors as 'faux bad boys," I'd really hope you can appreciate the difference between actors and an actor who leaves hate filled voicemails screaming his hopes of an ex-girlfriend getting "raped by a pack of n******."

May 26 11 - 7:34am

I think the point is that Mike Tyson is *at least* as big an arsehole as Mel Gibson - the latter has said some terrible things, but has never actually been convicted of raping anyone - yet the film-makers didn't scruple at playing him for laughs in the first movie. So it just seems like double standards. Maybe it's just that it's "too soon" after Gibson's bad behaviour?

May 26 11 - 7:58am

It's not that I don't know Mel Gibson is a scumbag. Everyone but Jodie Foster knows Mel Gibson is a scumbag. (I'm pretty sure even Mel himself knows he's a scumbag.)

The point of the article is that I have no interest in seeing the same movie twice -- and given a franchise that goes out of its way to be offensive, that hired a cuddly convicted rapist for the shock value of it, and that offered a role to Gibson after dumping its one prominent actress for a younger model, I'm merely suggesting it might have been interesting if the sequel had actually been about something (like its own fascination with the dark side) as opposed to a retread of a formula we've already seen.

And, to be bluntly honest, I'd rather have written an article about Hollywood's casual sexism against Graham, but Gibson is a hotter topic (and allows everyone to show their own moral superiority by cutting down such an obvious villain).

May 26 11 - 8:38am
Ray Rahman

Well, I certainly get where you're coming from with your last point, but it seems weird to defend someone just so people can un-defend them in the comments. But hey, we've all been there—yay Internet! You should do that Graham thing sometime, that sounds interesting—I actually forgot she was in the first one (or, frankly, in any movie) until I rewatched it this week for reference's sake.

Oh, and I think the movie *does* seem to have a fascination with life's/our seamy dark sides, and realizes it more fully than the first one (though not full or well enough to actually make it a good movie), but, yeah, it's also one of the most point-by-point formulaic retreads I've seen in a very long time.

May 27 11 - 9:02am

Andrew wins that debate. Moving on, I've heard Graham is one of these least intelligent people in Hollywood, so it may not be sexism at all.

May 26 11 - 10:30am

The Mel Gibson boycott is the reason why I won't be seeing The Hangover II. In fact, this article captures my feelings on the subject very well, save for harsh judgment directed at Gibson for what amounts to a series of insane rants. His exclusion, while featuring Mike Tyson so prominently is the height of hypocrisy.

May 26 11 - 1:26pm

Mel Gibson is a scumbag (along with all the other insults already hurled at him). He's also a great actor. Who he is off screen really doesn't matter to me, I don't want to be his friend. As long as he can act I want to see him on screen. My opinion of him as person, and as an actor are two totally separate things.

May 26 11 - 6:18pm

Maybe I'm just a sucker for celebrity propaganda, but I buy that Tyson has really changed himself. I just can't hate the person he is now as much as I hate the person that Gibson is now. Maybe if Gibson gets a series about how much he loves raising mice I'll warm up to him, too.

May 27 11 - 12:03pm

Gibsons personal life got out. I wonder how many other celebs are like that but you don't know it because they keep it on the dl. His work is different from his home life. He is a great actor and director. Just because he's a dick in real life doesn't mean we can't enjoy what he does on screen.

May 29 11 - 5:39pm

I don't know how anyone can be judged on their private life by a voicemail. The biased media only ever focus on Gibson. If you read anything about Gregorieva and what she was up to you wouldn't be so judgemental of Mel. He's human and has faults like anyone else. It's not as though he's a newcomer to Hollywood. If Gibson had been as bad as the media paint him, he would have been finished 30 years ago. He's going through a bad time and needs support, not condemnation. And I for one, support him. Shame on those who point the finger with their self-righteous, holier than thou attitude.

May 29 11 - 7:54pm
michael c

I can see why Todd Phillips wanted Mel Gibson in the movie...remember that Phillips made his first mark
in cinema history with his doco about GG Allin (Hated). GG Allin's stages show included bashing himself and audience members, pissing and sh*tting on stage, and other acts that go well beyond the male id. Perhaps Mel Gibson was the only person he could think of that could attract similar outrage, however much Mel pales in comparison to Allin.