Gibson: 'Public Humiliation on a Global Scale' Made Him Address Alcoholism

Oct. 12, 2006 — -- On the morning following his arrest for drunken driving, actor Mel Gibson continued drinking as he talked to his children at home, he told Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America. "

Gibson spoke out for the first time today about the anti-Semitic comments he made to police when they booked him for drunken driving over the summer.

"I just went home and saw my kids were there. You know, I talked to them for a little bit. And it was a little … rough that morning," Gibson said. "I chased it down with a few cold ones."

"It was kind of unbearable to face. … I said, 'Well, this is it. This will be the end of it, but I just have to get through this morning,'" he said. "You're not operating well, but you know you have to do something. … I wasn't flashing it in front of them or anything."

Watch the second part of Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Mel Gibson Friday, Oct. 13, on "Good Morning America," which airs across the country from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

A Day to Remember

The actor called July 28 a "day to remember" in the interview.

Gibson was pulled over shortly after 2 a.m. on July 28 in Malibu, Calif., for speeding, and he reportedly made anti-Semitic comments during his arrest.

He later apologized and called the remarks "despicable."

Like most days, he went to work, saw people, and saw a screening of his friend's movie, he said.

"I guess I must have been a little overwrought. So … and that's what happens. Too much pressure, too much work. You do things that go against good judgment," he told Sawyer. "A few drinks later, and I was in the back of a police car wailing."

Gibson was also arrested drunk in 1984, after rear-ending a car. He has talked about considering suicide before he entered Alcoholics Anonymous in 1991. Since then, his family has had to endure his relapses, but this time with the added horror of watching the news about his bigoted words.

The actor said that he didn't know how many drinks he had that night, but that he was drinking tequila and that he had been drinking again for a couple of months.

"Years go by. You're fine. And then all of a sudden in a heartbeat, in an instant, on an impulse, somebody shoves a glass of Mescal in front of your nose, and says, 'It's from Oaxaca,'" he said. "And it's burning its way through your esophagus, and you go, 'Oh, man, what did I do that for? I can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.'"

You Become a 'Braggart and a Blowhard'

The night of his arrest, Gibson drank a few swigs from an open bottle in the car, he said.

"It's not a question of how drunk you are," he said of that night. "You're impaired. … Your judgment is impaired enough to do insane things like try and drive at high speeds."

"Even a couple of drinks, you know, you lose all humility, all … everything, and you just become a braggart and a blowhard," he said.

While handcuffed in the back of the police car, Gibson said he told authorities, "I own this place."

As the officer arrested him, Gibson also went on a tirade against Jews.

He asked Officer James Mee, who is Jewish, "Are you a Jew?"

"The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," he said that night to Mee.

Gibson said he didn't know at the time that Mee was Jewish.

"I found out later, but that's all," he said. "I didn't know if he was or wasn't. I mean, I said horrible things to him … and he was pretty patient."

Gibson said his words were anti-Semitic.

"It sounds horrible, and I'm ashamed of that. That came out of my mouth," he said. "And I'm not that. That's not who I am, you know."

"Alcohol is used to kill pain. … And it is no excuse, by the way. It's not a good enough excuse," he said.

When asked whether the police officer had been black, Gibson said he was not sure what he would have said.

"I'd have to get loaded and tell you. And then be in those conditions again. Because it's unpredictable what's gonna come flying out," Gibson told Sawyer.

At the police station, a still-angry Gibson asked a female sergeant, "What do you think you're looking at?" and then made a reference to her breasts.

Gibson said he was a "happy drunk, until I snap for no reason and just turn. … It's unpredictable."

An Unsourced Anger

The actor said he didn't know what the source of his anger was.

"I've been angry all my life. … And I try not to have it manifest itself. You know? You try and keep a lock on it. … It's real back there some place," he said. "I've talked to people about that, and 'Where is it coming from?' I can get really mad. … I can murder inanimate objects. You should see me choking the toaster in the morning."

"So I'm kind of a work in progress right now. You got me a little green. I mean, I just got out of the straitjacket with the messy hair and everything," he said.

Nick Nolte's Experience Prompted Fear of Mug Shot

When Gibson was getting his mug shot taken, his initial thought was of Nick Nolte's widely publicized mug shot after he was arrested in Malibu for driving under the influence.

"I did my best with a finger combing in the water fountain, to sort of like splash a little water on my face, to not take one of those hideous mug shots, because I knew it would be around," he said. "Vanity won out."

Gibson said he had a long list of apologies to make.

"I've apologized more than anyone I know, so it's getting old," he said. "[The list] is huge. For my whole life."

A Compassionate Wife

Gibson said his wife's reaction to his relapse was compassionate.

"I just told her you know, straight out: 'Slipped again,'" he said.

"She was like, 'Of course.' You know? She doesn't like that. … But, she was gracious … compassionate."

Gibson and his wife, Robyn, have been married for 26 years and have seven children.

Gibson has said that she gets medals.

"She hopes. She bears the brunt. And it's no different this time. … There you have it," he said.

But every time you relapse, it's harder to fight your way back, Gibson said.

"The risk of everything -- life, limb, family -- is not enough to keep you from it," he said. "That's the hell of it. You are indefensible against it."

Gibson said, in that situation, you will sacrifice anything.

"So you must keep that under arrest, in a sense. But you cannot do it of yourself. And people can help, yeah. But it's God. You gotta go there. You gotta do it," Gibson said. "Or you won't survive. All there is to it."

Gibson now says he views the experience as a blessing.

"Well, firstly, I got stopped before I did any real damage to anyone else. Thank God for that. I didn't hurt myself. You know, I didn't leave my kids fatherless. That's a blessing," he said.

"The other thing is that sometimes you need a big bucket of water to snap to because you're dealing with a sort of … a malady of the soul, and obsession of the mind, and a physical allergy. And some people need a big tap on the shoulder, you know?"

"In my case, public humiliation on a global scale … seems to be what was required," he said.

In Vino Veritas?

But Gibson experienced humiliation for him, outrage from others, and powerful questions from all.

Gibson said he didn't believe that alcohol liberated people to say what they really felt.

"That's patently false," he said. "Alcohol loosens your tongue and makes you act, say and behave in a way that is not you."

"That's the old Roman saying, in vino veritas. … They don't know what they're talking about. It's as simple as that. Or they don't have the problem, and they don't understand it."

When they're drunk, "people say all sorts of horrible things … not just anti-Semitic things. They say horrendous things. … They say to their parents, 'I hate you and I want you to die,'" he said. "They don't mean that stuff. … It's the stuff that comes out when you're loaded. It's extreme."

"But if it is not in you, is it going to come out?" Sawyer asked Gibson.

"It has to have some kind of place somewhere, and you have to ask where is it coming from? Where is it coming from?" he said.