Last night at the 25th Annual American Cinematheque Award Ceremony, which was honoring Robert Downey Jr., the Iron Man actor asked Hollywood to forgive Mel Gibson.
Gibson was invited onstage to present Downey Jr. with the prestigious award, since, in the words of Garry Shandling, “The Cinematheque was concerned a bit about Robert’s checkered past, so they chose someone to present the award who could help balance that out and the choice was so obvious, Mel Gibson.”
Gibson spoke kindly of the star, who he famously helped to make a comeback by paying Downey Jr.’s insurance bond so he could star in 2003’s The Singing Detective. “You are my friend,” Gibson said. “When I saw you all those years ago and got all those warnings, I just thought, ‘There’s nothing so much wrong with him.’” Gibson explained, “You’re a good dude with a good heart.”
During Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech, he had even kinder words for Gibson. “I asked Mel to present this award for me for a reason,” he said. “When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it – he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.”
He continued, “I did and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume at the time he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight. So anyway on this special occasion and in light of the recent holidays including Columbus Day, I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong f—ing industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.”
The crowd in the room applauded vigorously, as Gibson appeared to tear up a bit.
(Reporting by Carrie Bell)