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Gibson, Mel

Talking ‘Maverick' in New York

                                          

From the May 20, 1994, Deseret News

Manhattan may seem like an odd gathering place for promoting a Western movie, but it was convenient for Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, James Garner and director Richard Donner to come together and talk to the press about "Maverick."

Gibson and Foster are even busier than usual, with Gibson prepping his second directing effort — "Braveheart," a big-budget, on-location period piece in Scotland — and Foster in the midst of shooting her latest, "Nell," which requires her talents as both actor and producer.

And it's been a grueling weekend for them, attending screenings of the movie at a New York City multiplex and then subjecting themselves to several dozen back-to-back interview sessions with print, radio and television reporters — including national and international press. (Even Siskel & Ebert were spotted on Friday, Roger Ebert holding court with colleagues in the press room while his partner/adversary Gene Siskel quietly reviewed notes in the suite that doubled as a makeshift TV-interview control booth.)

Finally, Sunday evening arrives and the rest of us get our chance for a series of mini-press conferences — 15 to 20 reporters in each of four rooms, tossing off questions to Gibson, Donner, Garner and Foster as they file in one after another, each for 20-minute sessions.

Before getting down to the business of "Maverick," Gibson — who is noticeably exhausted, rubbing his eyes and running his hands through his long, thick hair — says, no, he's not interested in starring as James Bond, despite reports in the trade papers. "It's sort of been done to death, hasn't it?"

He then adds that he hasn't even been approached about playing Bond since Timothy Dalton announced his retirement from the 007 license-to-kill thrillers. Although he does reveal that veteran Bond-movie producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli did give him a call 12 years ago. "And even then I thought it was a dumb idea, and that it had been done to death."

He adds that he also has no intention of doing a "Lethal Weapon IV." "I don't think so. Maybe somebody else."

This comes as a shock to Donner, who directed the first three "Lethal Weapon" movies and who says he has been writing a fourth. "What a day," Donner says. "What a terrible piece of news!"

Of course, with these guys, it's hard to know whether they are serious. Gibson and Donner are close friends and they love playing pranks - on each other as well as the press.

Gibson has been developing "Maverick" for several years and confessed a love for the TV show. "I saw the reruns in the '60s when I was a child. There was a massive amount of Western stuff on TV — that's all there was — and yet I used to stop and watch this one.

                                 

                                                  Mel Gibson in a scene from 'Maverick'

"I guess the difference was, it went against the cliche and threw water in the whole face of the genre. And Jimmy Garner had a special . . . well, there's something magnetic about what he does. He's a great guy and that's why it worked, because of him and because of the style."

The idea to adapt the TV program as a movie came while Gibson was kicking around ideas with his partner, producer Bruce Davey, and they both recalled fond memories of the show. "I always figured that would be a good big-screen adventure, so we kind of cooked up the idea."

There are some differences between Gibson's interpretation of Bret Maverick and the way Garner played him on television. "The one Garner did was really sleek and suave, and he didn't really care about getting a dirty shirt — but then again he never got one. And I just kind of borrowed from that."

                             

                                                James Garner, left, Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson, 'Maverick'

Gibson added that his interpretation of the character is "the clown, if you like. It's almost like a fish-out-of-water story in a way, because he's thrown into a hostile land and has to survive in another way, rather than the cliched way — which is when they call him out for a showdown. He avoids that. That's what's fun about it, finding another way around it."

Asked about the possibility of a "Maverick" sequel, Gibson shakes his head. "Do I want to do a sequel? I don't know. I would do something, I suppose. But for a sequel to work, it has to stand on something good. If it's going to be some kind of strange, half-baked appendage, then I don't want to get involved."

Donner's response was, "Well, if he's not going to do another `Lethal Weapon,' I'm not going to do another `Maverick'!

"No, it's up to Mel. He owns it, it's his franchise. It's really up to the people (the movie audience). If the people go to the movie and it's a success, and Mel wants to do another one, and he has the good sense to ask me to do it, I'd do it without a second's hesitation."

On the subject of adlibbing on the set, Donner says, "It's just dialogue in bits and pieces. (Screenwriter William Goldman) is such a good writer, and it's all there. It's almost like, you don't want to mess with it. But it's almost a sin not to, when you have actors like this that can run with it."

Foster says she enjoyed being able to play around with dialogue and bits of comic business. "It amazes me that the two of them (Gibson and Donner) are so quick. And they really care about each other. They are an incredible team."