4:20 PM UPDATE: I’ve just learned that WME Entertainment actually fired Mel Gibson the day before his longtime Hollywood agent Ed Limato’s death last weekend. I’m told what happened is that the news media reported last week there was a tape of Mel Gibson making a racial slur. And last Friday, WME board member Ari Emanuel “woke up at 3 AM and emailed his partner Patrick Whitesell that ‘we can’t represent a guy who said the N-word’.” So the agency dumped Mel Gibson on July 2nd, and the next day, on July 3rd, his agent Limato died. Today the 2-minute recording was released by the celebrity website RadarOnline.com which initially broke the news that on it Mel Gibson allegedly uses a racial epithet during a fight with Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his child: “You’re an embarrassment to me. You look like a f***ing bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n***ers, it will be your fault.” Just now, the Drudge Report headlined both stories, “Mel In Hell”.
3 PM: “There is no way, with Ed Limato not here, that Mel Gibson would be a client of this company, ” an insider just told me. “I don’t think anybody’s surprised by this, given Ari’s history.” Of course that’s a reference to Ari Emanuel’s July 2006 appeal to Hollywood not to work with Gibson after the actor’s drunken anti-Semitic rant during an arrest by an officer with the Malibu Sheriff’s Station. (“At a time of escalating tensions in the world, the entertainment industry cannot idly stand by and allow Mel Gibson to get away with such tragically inflammatory statements,” Emanuel posted on The Huffington Post. “People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line.”)
Then, irony of ironies, Ari inherited Mel as a client when Endeavor agency merged in April 2009 with the William Morris Agency where Ed Limato was a senior agent. Limato had represented Gibson since the start of the actor’s Hollywood career. But I’ve learned that it wasn’t Limato’s death that caused WME to dump Gibson. In fact, the agency had “not officially represented” the actor prior to Limato’s death but both camps agreed to keep it secret. Gibson recently has been facing a new round of horrible publicity caused by allegations that tape recordings were made of him uttering a racial slur and threatening violence against his former girlfriend. The tapes were turned over to a Los Angeles judge in the pair’s messy custody battle over their daughter.
The question since this latest scandal is whether Gibson’s Hollywood career will be affected. Now those questions will multiply tenfold because WME has dropped him. Still, Gibson, the director of the worldwide biggest independent film ever The Passion Of The Christ, has a very active motion picture career at present. He stars in a movie called The Beaver directed by Jodie Foster which is supposed by distributed by Summit Entertainment. And he’s filming a movie titled, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, about a career criminal brutally imprisoned in Mexico and the 9-year-old boy who helps keep him alive. Gibson also has been talking about directing a Viking epic project as well as reteaming with Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black in Cold Warrior. And, of course, Gibson also is a movie mogul as the co-owner of Icon Productions.
As for WME, I know that Ed Limato in his last days asked his clients like Denzel Washington, Richard Gere, and Steve Martin, to remain with the agency and be represented by board member Patrick Whitesell.
As for Gibson, when he met Limato, then a William Morris agent, the Australian film industry was just beginning to make an impact on Hollywood. An Australian agent sent over a photo and a resume of a client he thought Limato might want. As Limato slipped the photograph from the envelope, it took his breath away. But could Mel Gibson act? Limato would soon find out. Gibson had just made Mad Max, a low-budget Australian movie directed by George Miller which had fared well in Europe. The agent expected to be disappointed. Instead, he was awestruck. From the very first frame of film, Gibson showed range. As it turned out, Gibson had already visited several agencies, including CAA. “CAA asked him to ‘read,’ Limato recalled to me. “I really want you to be my client,” Limato said to him. As Gibson’s star rose, so, too, did Limato’s. Now Limato’s WME agency ends its relationship with Gibson.