Madder Max?

Mel Gibson, a handsome and whimsical fellow, has made some wonderful movies. He won an Oscar for directing Braveheart, thrilled millions and made millions in the Lethal Weapon series with Danny Glover, made Sigourney Weaver and Pauline Kael swoon in The Year of Living Dangerously, and gave eschatology an Australian accent and swagger in his Mad Max trilogy. Even his Hamlet was pretty good.

Now Gibson is producing and directing The Passion, based on what is often called The Greatest Story Ever Told. The movie will be rigorously faithful to the Gospels, Gibson claims, so much so that the actors will speak only Aramaic and Latin. (Latin? Never mind.) And no subtitles. Gibson, known as a "traditionalist" Catholic, is a fan of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, and a supporter of various schismatic Catholic traditionalist groups. According to the New York Times Magazine (March 9, 2003), the superstar inherited much of this worldview from his father, a former seminarian well known among "traditionalist" Catholics for his conspiratorial frame of mind and extreme views. Gibson senior, now eighty-four, is a Holocaust denier and an ardent believer that Vatican II was "a Masonic plot backed by the Jews." He thinks that all the popes since John XXIII have been imposters, and has written scathing attacks against John Paul II and the Vatican.

To what extent Mel agrees with his father’s wackier theories is not clear. There...

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