I hate what my brother has become: Mel Gibson’s younger sibling Donal reveals their bitter rift
One is a Hollywood superstar who is as infamous for his off-screen meltdowns as he is for his Oscar-winning turn as William Wallace in Braveheart and iconic performances in the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon films.
The other walks into Hollywood’s iconic Polo Lounge and merits not even a passing glance from the film industry power brokers packing the restaurant’s blue leather booths.
At 65, Donal Gibson is Mel Gibson’s younger brother by a couple of years and shares the same piercing blue eyes and rugged good looks that made his sibling a global superstar.
Donal even sounds so similar to his brother that Disney hired him to voice the lead character of John Smith in the sequel to the studio’s blockbuster animated hit Pocahontas when Mel was unavailable to reprise the part.
They were once so close Mel gave Donal a part in Braveheart and encouraged him to pursue his own Hollywood dreams.
Donal Gibson, right, is pictured at an ‘uncomfortable’ dinner with his older brother, Mel, in 2008
On the set of Braveheart with Mel Gibson, right, when the brothers shared a close relationship
But today those dreams lay in tatters – as does their relationship.
In this, his first-ever interview about his famous sibling, Donal lays bare the price Hollywood fame and fortune took on their once ‘unassailable bond’ and reveals how he blames Mel’s controversial movie The Passion Of The Christ (which earned the star a reported $425 million, or £340 million) for tearing them apart.
‘Mel and I were once so close that I find it unbelievable that we’re not talking, that we’re not in touch,’ Donal says softly, shaking his head. ‘When we were kids we shared a bedroom, we did everything together.
‘When he came to LA, I followed. He’s only two years older than me so he was my big brother, my best friend. When he became famous there was no jealousy. I was happy for him, proud that he’d made it.
‘Fame changed him. He started believing in his own publicity. The Mel I knew disappeared.
‘Hollywood ate him up and spat him out. To me, the fame, the money, it all went to his head and created a monster. I hate what he has become.’
Donal has chosen to speak out now because devout Catholic Mel is about to start work on a sequel to The Passion Of The Christ called Resurrection.
When the original film was released in 2004 – the film covers the final 12 hours of Jesus’s life known as The Passion – it was condemned by many as antisemitic for its portrayal of Jews and criticised for its extreme violence.
Mel is in a long-term relationship with Rosalind Ross, pictured together in 2019, with whom he has a young son
New York-born Actor Mel Gibson played William Wallace in the Oscar-winning film Braveheart
Shot entirely in Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin, fans described it as almost a religious experience and it became the highest-grossing independent movie of all time, taking in $612 million (£490 million) at the worldwide box office. Mel, who largely self-financed the film, became worth hundreds of millions overnight. Today he owns a home in Malibu, a sprawling property in Costa Rica and a private island in Fiji. But for Donal, the movie was ‘a disaster’.
He claims his nascent Hollywood career ‘went into the toilet’ as people blacklisted him for what he calls ‘the sins of my brother’.
Like many family feuds, this one started over money. Donal says he repeatedly begged his brother for financial help and was shocked when Mel told him: ‘Your problems are your own.’
I ask Donal if it is really fair, as a grown man, to place his lack of success in Hollywood firmly at the feet of his brother. Mel does, after all, have his own family of nine children to support – why should he be responsible for a sibling? Donal balks. ‘I was getting regular work before Passion Of The Christ but I think people thought Mel was an antisemite so they thought I was too.
‘I believe I was blacklisted. Mel was OK because he had millions pouring into the bank.’
Things only got worse, Donal says, when Mel – a man who has been open about his struggles with addiction – was pulled over for drink-driving in Malibu in 2006 and went on a drunken rampage, calling one female police officer ‘sugar t*ts’ – which he later denied – and unleashing a tirade of antisemitic remarks.
Mel later said: ‘I was loaded and angry and arrested. I was recorded – illegally – by an unscrupulous police officer who was never prosecuted for that crime and then it was made public by him for profit.
‘Surely if I was really what they say I was, some kind of hater, there’d be evidence. There never has been. For one episode in the back of a police car on eight double tequilas to… dictate all the work, life’s work and beliefs… is really unfair.’
The ‘driving under influence’ arrest was followed by leaked tapes in 2010 where Mel allegedly screamed racist remarks, including using the N-word, at then-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of one of his nine children.
While Mel apologised profusely, it has taken years for his Hollywood career to recover.
Indeed, while supporters including Robert Downey Jr pleaded with studios to give Mel a second chance, many within the film industry have never forgiven him.
Stranger Things actress Winona Ryder claimed Mel called her ‘an oven dodger’, something he vehemently denies.
‘Hollywood is a one-industry town and when Mel went nuclear and made those abhorrent remarks about Jews when he was arrested, my work dried up overnight,’ Donal says.
Donal, who had managed to land small roles in films such as Immortal Beloved and did voiceover work on TV shows including Justice League Unlimited, lists a litany of perceived slights.
He claims a speaking role in a movie starring another Hollywood A-lister was cut because the actor allegedly had a dispute with Mel.
When Donal reminded his brother he had made suggestions to the soundtrack for The Passion, he claims his brother responded: ‘Bully for you.’
Whether he would ever have reached the acting heights of his brother is something he says remains unknown. ‘I believe Mel’s actions meant I couldn’t get work. The Gibson name was toxic,’ Donal says. ‘My agent dumped me. The phone stopped ringing.
‘People associated the Gibson name with bigotry, racism, cruelty, hatred and rage.
‘I’d been working with big studios such as Warner Brothers and Disney. Overnight it stopped.’
Donal says Mel did once help him out financially and offered him a small family-owned flat to live in but he believes his brother should have compensated him for the ‘pain and suffering’ he and his wife, Shanas, claim to have endured.
‘Because we have been stuck in nearly 20 years of hell.’
Every time he asked his brother for money, Mel became angry.
‘He shouted at me, telling me if I was upset by the Gibson name I should change my name.
‘He screamed: “You can’t guilt me on this” and “your problems are your own!” ’
He cites the Hemsworth brothers – Chris, Liam and Luke – who have enjoyed varying levels of success in Hollywood.
Chris plays Thor in the Marvel movie universe and is one of the most highly paid actors in the world.
‘Other families look after each other. The Hemsworth brothers live near each other, support each other.’ Donal began to dread family gatherings because of what he calls ‘the Gibson rage’.
His brother became prone to moody outbursts or uncomfortable silences, even during what should have been ‘fun’ bonding trips.
One example of this is when Mel flew him to Boston on his private jet and introduced him to Robert De Niro. Donal shows a photo of a clearly uncomfortable Mel sitting beside him at dinner during that trip. ‘Mel was upset because Celine Dion had the presidential suite at the hotel and he wanted it. He was in a bad mood all night.’
Donal believes Mel’s wife of 31 years, Robyn, mother of seven of the star’s children, helped his brother ‘stay balanced’ until their 2011 divorce.
‘I think Mel was scared of his wife,’ Donal said. ‘She ruled their house with a rod of iron. When their marriage ended Mel started acting up.
‘He was surrounded by people who only told him what he wanted to hear.’
Donal has written a book: Resurrection: Tales Of Family, Madness, Mayhem And Surviving The Gibson Rage and is looking for a publisher
Donal has not spoken to his brother for more than five years now, something he finds hard to reconcile when he thinks about the close bond they shared growing up.
They were born in upstate New York, just two of 11 children. A set of twins separated them.
‘The twins were a year older than me and Mel was two years older. These were the guys I spent my childhood with. We were the gang of four, a carefree crew.’
Their father, Hutton, worked on the railroads while their Irish-born mother, Anne, was a housewife who struggled to make ends meet.
Donal calls Anne the ‘glue’ that held their family together. ‘We were dirt poor and often went hungry but we loved each other.
‘We jumped out of hayloft windows. We skated on thin ice, literally. We played at soldiers. We dodged lightning. We got chased every day by a Great Dane called Duchess.’
Their father, a self-taught man who devoured books and could read Latin, supplemented his meagre income by entering game shows.
Hutton won America’s Jeopardy game show five times and brought home prizes including cars and televisions. When Donal was ten his father suffered a work injury and used the compensation money to relocate to Australia.
Donal says: ‘Even when Mel was young he was driven. He wanted to be rich and famous.
‘Acting was in our blood. We played at being Vikings or Spartacus. Mum was crazy about movies. She encouraged us to be storytellers.’
Mel attended drama school and moved to Hollywood where he quickly became a star in 1979’s Mad Max.
Donal followed his brother: ‘He was supportive. I was happy for his success. Then it all turned sour with The Passion.
‘It feels that when he made that film he didn’t care what it would do to my acting career. He didn’t care his antisemitic outbursts would have consequences for me.’
Today Donal works as an artist but longs to return to voiceover work. Wife Shanas, a writer, is the main breadwinner.
Meanwhile, Mel is in a long-term relationship with Rosalind Ross with whom he has a young son.
Donal has written a book: Resurrection: Tales Of Family, Madness, Mayhem And Surviving The Gibson Rage and is looking for a publisher.
‘I warned Mel there would be consequences for The Passion Of The Christ.
‘You don’t have to be a genius to realise that a controversial film about the death of Christ might be condemned as antisemitic and offend Jews.
‘But Mel ended up laughing all the way to the bank.
‘When I heard he was making a sequel I had to speak out. Religious films only create dissension, fear and anger. They do not unify people, they divide people.’
The rift means Donal no longer talks to other family members. ‘I don’t want to bring my other siblings into this because Mel is the rich and successful one and I think there is a feeling among some that they don’t want to upset him.
‘I still love Mel but I don’t know who he is any more. I want him to make things right between us. I want to live in peace.’
You can read more about Donal Gibson and his book at https://www.resurrectionbydonalgibson.com/