Mel Gibson praises Robert Downey Jr for asking Hollywood to forgive his friend

Tony Stark's final 'Iron Man' scene

Source: Marvel

In 2011, one of Hollywood’s greatest comeback actors, Iron Man‘s Robert Downey Jr, was being honoured with the 25th American Cinematique Award for his contribution to the entertainment industry.

The Beverley Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles was packed with industry heavyweights, fellow actors including Sean Penn and Michael Douglas, his pregnant wife Susan, extended family, and packaged with a pre-recorded video of messages from celebrity friends like Jamie Foxx and Jodie Foster.

But, the “undisputed highlight” of the night came when previously unannounced ex-pat Australian actor and Air America co-star, Mel Gibson, appeared on stage to call Downey to the stage to accept his award.

Both men had suffered the humiliation of addiction and how that played out in Hollywood, and both stood by each other during their darkest days … Downey – who served a prison sentence for drug possession – and Gibson, who was blacklisted after an alleged anti-semitic rant to police and later, domestic violence charges.

“If there is anything Hollywood loves, it is redemption,” reported Deadline who covered the event.

Downey, whose father’s side of the family is Jewish, warmly embraced his friend and spoke to a captive audience.

“Unless you are without sin – and if you are, you are in the wrong f–king industry, you should forgive him and let him work,” Downey said to much applause.

He asked people to join him in “forgiving my friend his trespasses, offering him the same clean slate you have given me, and allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame.”

Now, 13 years later, Gibson, 68, who went on to win two Oscars for 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge, says he loves Downey for his “bold and courageous” move.

Downey Jr and Gibson met in the late 1990s, when Downey ‘was near rock bottom’. Photo: Getty

Brave heart

In a cover story on Downey in April’s Esquire  – where he teases an Iron Man return and his reaction to host Jimmy Kimmel’s Oscar’s drug joke, Gibson was asked by feature writer, Ryan D’Agostino, about that impassioned speech.

“One time, I got into a bit of a sticky situation where it kind of ended my career. I was drunk in the back of a police car and I said some stupid sh-t, and all of a sudden – blacklisted.

“I’m the poster boy for cancelled,” Gibson adds, referring to that infamous 2006 arrest in Malibu.

US website, TMZ, got hold of the police report alleging Gibson “launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements” once he was handcuffed in the back seat of the patrol car after alleged drunk driving.

“A couple of years into that he [Downey] invited me to some kind of award he was getting – we always had this kind of seesaw thing, where if he was on the wagon, I was falling off, and if I was on the wagon, he was falling off.

“So I was pretty much nonexistent in Hollywood at the time, and he stood up and spoke for me.

“It was a bold and generous and kind gesture.

“I loved him for that.”

Jodie Foster cast Gibson in The Beaver (2011) after his arrest and cast Downey in Home for the Holidays during his addiction era. Photo: Getty

‘The C word’

Gibson says Downey taught him “many things”: “I will use the ‘C’ word, courage.”

Downey’s father Robert Downey Sr was also a drug addict, who exposed his son to drugs at a very early age, according to an IMDb biography. He would go on to struggle with abuse from 1996 to 2003.

He was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded gun and given three years of probation, Variety reported, and served two subsequent prison sentences for violations.

“Mel and I have the same lawyer, same publicist and same shrink,” Downey told the audience that night.

“I couldn’t get hired and he cast me. He said if I accepted responsibility – he called it hugging the cactus – long enough, my life would take meaning.

“And if he helped me, I would help the next guy. But it was not reasonable to assume the next guy would be him,” Downey responded.

By 2003, Downey was clean and sober and he began to rebuild his career, leading to his historic casting call for Iron Man in 2008.

He went on to make another eight films in the MCU blockbuster franchise, changing his life forever.

Six weeks after Oscar best supporting actor win for Oppenheimer, Esquire asked Downey about an Iron Man return – even though Tony Stark died in Avengers: Endgame in 2019 – he says he’d “happily” go back into the red suit.

“It’s too integral a part of my DNA. That role chose me.

“And look, I always say, Never, ever bet against Kevin Feige [Marvel president and producer]. It is a losing bet. He’s the house. He will always win.”

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