mel_gibson.jpgUPDATE: *ABC has released new excerpts from Diane Sawyer’s interview with Mel Gibson. See bottom of post.*

There were no restrictions imposed by Mel Gibson on his Diane Sawyer interview, which airs Thursday and Friday. So why Diane? “Because she’d be the hardest on him, yet she’d be fair. He needed someone who’d hit him hard. But she was f****** harder on him than I could imagine. I was cringing,” a Gibson insider told me. “No other TV journalist would have been that hard on him.” Well, for one thing, this is her second time around: she interviewed Gibson when his film The Passion of the Christ incited allegations of anti-Semitism. For another, ABC is owned by Disney, which is releasing his movie, Apocalypto, on December 8th. (Although the network did cancel his planned mini-series about the Holocaust soon after his DUI arrest this summer during which he made anti-Semitic slurs.) Gibson acknowledges in the interview that he’ll have a hard time winning back the respect and trust of the Hollywood crowd. “He was very humble about that,” a source told me. “He said that, over time hopefully, they’ll have a better understanding of who he is. I was surprised at that remark.” Also, “the alcoholism part really is good. He’ll help other people,” the insider described. Clearly, ABC is milking this for ratings by stretching it over two parts.

UPDATE: *According to just-released new ABC excerpts: “How much did you read of people who came out and said, Do not work with him again? What do you feel about them?” Diane Sawyer asks Mel Gibson in the interview. “I feel sad because they’ve obviously been hurt and frightened and offended enough to feel that they have to do that,” he says. “Um, and it’s their choice. There’s nothing I can do about that.” Gibson says that he will continue to work and make movies. “I’ll always continue to work. I’ve never much depended on anyone but myself, as far as that goes,” he says. “And, hey, I’m not under the illusion that everything’s just going to be hunky-dory work wise forever. I’ve never been under that illusion. Things could go away tomorrow.” In time, Gibson says he hopes he can make amends for his statements and convince people he isn’t anti-Semitic. “Would you like to say to them, ‘Give me a chance to show you who I am?'” Sawyer asks. “Well, hopefully … in time they’ll know,” he says. “And, you’re powerless over everything really. … All you can do is take another step, keep breathing.” He told Sawyer that he has not had a drink in 65 days. “No, nothing,” he says. “It’s…it’s poison.” But he admits that staying sober is a constant struggle. “A couple of times, you know, it was like oh, man, the hell with it, you know,it was like oh, man, the hell with it, you know,” Gibson says. “But you don’t, because I have friends and people that care and, you know, you’ll fortunately be at the right place at the right time to, you know, reach out and … And many people have reached out. My goodness. I mean it’s … I’ve been overwhelmed.” Gibson says that he had begun drinking again a couple of months before his July arrest. “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 says. “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.'”* Earlier, ABC released this Gibson comment on the night of his arrest. “It was just the stupid rambling of a drunkard, you know and … what I need to do to heal myself and to be assuring and allay the fears of others and to heal them if they had any heart wounds from something I may have said. So, this is the last thing I want to be is that kind of monster.” Gibson also, I hear, refutes those reports that he fell off the wagon.

This interview will be the only time Gibson plans to talk about his alcoholism, that drunken night when he ranted against “The Jews,” and its fallout. After this, the actor / director / producer wants attention on his movie Apocalypto. But is Diane-doing-Mel too early, given that the movie doesn’t come out until early December? “It’s not early enough. It’s almost too late for the film,” an insider explained. “No one wants his personal baggage to muddy it up. After this, he’s done.” Though it is likely that he’ll appear on Jay Leno just before the movie’s release (something he did before Passion‘s opening, too.) And possibly a newsmagazine cover, since both Time and Newsweek have asked to feature Mel and his film. Meanwhile, I’ve learned Gibson continues meeting privately with Jewish leaders, some of whom have accepted his apology. But Gibson refuses to publicize this. “There are not meant to be photo ops or for public disclosure.” As for his life right now, it consists of “meetings, meetings, meetings, sponsors, sponsors, sponsors,” as he continues his alcoholism recovery.