Movie Article

Crossover Hit

What ''The Passion'''s success means for Hollywood. Besides striking nerves, Mel Gibson's controversial movie has struck box office gold -- and left insiders wondering what's next

Mel Gibson, James Caviezel | THORNY SITUATION After pulling in big box office with ''The Passion'' (starring James Caviezel, left), director Gibson may not end up a Hollywood pariah after…
Image credit: The Passion of The Christ: Phillipe Antonello
THORNY SITUATION After pulling in big box office with ''The Passion'' (starring James Caviezel, left), director Gibson may not end up a Hollywood pariah after all

After all the controversy, the heated op-eds, the pickets, pans, plaudits, and predictions, the numbers are in: ''The Passion of the Christ'' racked up $125 million in its first five days. Not only is it the highest-grossing dead-language film of all time, but on Monday, its sixth day of release, ''The Passion'' added another $10 million -- surpassing ''Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' as the biggest foreign-language film ever released in the U.S. While the blockbuster opening answered some questions that preceded its release (Will people flock to see a graphically violent, subtitled film in Latin and Aramaic?), it leaves a few unanswered.

What's the fallout for Mel?
Some Hollywood insiders claim he's damaged his reputation among industry peers. ''I think more people will be reluctant to work with Mel,'' says one studio executive. Yet, in an industry more famous for its love of mammon than its fear of God, Gibson scores points for risking his own cash ($30 million) on what until recently was viewed as a provocative art flick. ''The thing that this town respects more than anything else is someone who makes money,'' says Peter Jackson's manager, Ken Kamins, a former ICM agent.

With ''The Passion,'' Gibson's name has now been on 11 movies that have banked more than $100 million in domestic box office. ''This is Hollywood,'' says Richard Donner, who directed Gibson in the ''Lethal Weapon'' movies. ''There are dollar signs in the eyes of every studio head out there. If anything, people will say, 'What a brilliant guy. Oh, my God, he is good at what he does.'''

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