Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson

Warner Bros.

Mel Gibson was famous for 20 years before showing signs of crazy. He didn't become a raged-filled lunatic overnight. How did hide it?

—Kelly, via the Answer B!tch inbox

You're making quite a few assumptions about what exactly may be plaguing Mel Gibson. For one, you seem to be taking Gibson's now-infamous parade of leaked rants against his ex girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, as evidence of mental illness.

But there are plenty of people, particularly in Hollywood, who are wholly douchey and quite sane—aware and even proud of their douchebaggery, in fact. They abuse. They threaten. Then they turn it off and go to work.

Is Mel one of those?

(The entire character spread of Entourage comes to mind, though even Ari Gold knows better than to use Mel Gibson-inspired tirades against Lloyd. We could also talk about Oliver Stone. Or maybe, seriously, not.)

"It's utterly impossible to diagnose a person with zero context in this way," psychiatrist Dr. Paul Dobransky tells me. "Context is everything."

Point is, we don't even know if Mel is, as you put it, "crazy". He could just be a manipulative, verbally abusive piece of trash, and if that's the case, there's no reason to believe he couldn't turn his behavior on or off whenever he wanted. Gibson was photographed just the other day heading into his church; paparazzi reported no out-of-control rants on his way to the nave.

Still, he has always had a temper problem, Hollywood has always known it, and until he started pairing racial slurs with his bile, no one cared.

From a Playboy interview in 1995:

PLAYBOY: The director of Maverick and Lethal Weapon, Richard Donner, has said that you have a lot of anger and hostility and that underneath, you're a tough son of a bitch.

GIBSON: I don't know. I get pretty dark sometimes, pretty bleak. But that passes. I rarely lose my temper anymore.

PLAYBOY: Which means you have lost it in the past.

GIBSON: You've got to get it out. I used to just hang on to it and then some little thing would set it off, which was stupid. You behave like an asshole when you lose it, and you feel like an asshole afterward. It's not healthy.

That same year, Gibson went off on celebrity biographers. In a rant that seemed to foreshadow his "rose garden" threat to Grigorieva, Gibson told the Observer, "I think some restraint needs to be put on some of these people. They can harass you to the point where they are lucky they don't get mob hits called out on them. I didn't call the mob, although I could afford them 3,000 times over and never get caught."

Gibson also seems to have nursed a sadistic streak for quite a while. Even before his anti-Semitic slur heard round-the-world—even before his bigoted statements against gays, in fact—Gibson appeared to take a delight in unsettling other people.

The most widely reported case involved Julia Roberts, who costarred with him in the 1997 movie Conspiracy Theory. As a "prank" Gibson wrapped a freeze-dried rat in a pretty package and sent it to the actress. "You could hear her screams for miles," Gibson later recounted.

As for Roberts, she later told a reporter for CBS, "I get a little paranoid when [Gibson] is around. Yesterday I felt convinced that he was going to come into my room during an interview and do something dastardly behind me. So I kept getting this bad feeling on the back of my neck. But he's—he's really the only thing on this planet that makes me paranoid."

(For the record, other actors such as George Clooney are infamous on-set pranksters, but their japes don't seem to take so much glee in making the target scream. For example, Clooney once put a sticker on the back of Brad Pitt's car that read, "Small penis aboard.")

Whether you count Gibson's rat prank as funny or sick—or Roberts's subsequent comment as serious or kidding on the square—there's one thing that's certain: Gibson either misread Roberts's sense of humor, he enjoyed seeing her frightened, or both.

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Photos: Mel Gibson's Crazy Faces

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