There's little doubt about whether the ranting, raving, expletive-spewing voice heard on the now-infamous series of tapes released by Radar Online is that of former Hollywood icon Mel Gibson. The "Lethal Weapon" star's representatives have not disputed — nor have they confirmed — that it is their client hurling racist and sexist invective at ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. The only real question remaining is when, or even whether, Gibson, 50, can possibly bounce back from his latest scandal.
Crisis management and public relations guru Howard Bragman of PR firm Fifteen Minutes said, for the time being anyway, Gibson's focus should not be on his public image or career, but on weathering the legal storm and dealing with whatever issues are fueling his emotional outbursts.
"If Mel wants to have some sort of life again he needs to number one, play out his legal hand," said Bragman, who consulted for actor Isaiah Washington after the actor was accused of using a gay slur against former "Grey's Anatomy" co-star T.R. Knight. "His legal hand far outweighs his PR hand right now and his PR problem." Gibson, who has been accused of using homophobic and anti-Semitic language in the past, has not commented on the tapes.
After one taped phone conversation captured Gibson allegedly threatening Grigorieva's life and then apparently offering an apology for physically attacking her while she held their then-two-month-old baby, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department launched a domestic violence investigation, which is currently under way. A probe into allegations of extortion on Grigorieva's part has also been opened.
Asked if he thought Gibson was receiving an unfair amount of criticism for the shocking content of the tapes, Bragman responded, "If the tapes are true, then clearly his girlfriend was getting unfairly treated and the baby was getting unfairly treated."
And, assuming Gibson does not get charged with any crimes, accused of anything else or locked up, Bragman said the actor will have to undertake some serious soul-searching to try and understand what fueled the rage on the tapes, in which a hyperventilating, shouting Gibson often sounds on the edge of losing control as Grigorieva urges him to seek therapy to deal with his anger.
"Then you have to get at the root causes and say, 'Where does this anger stem from?' " he said. "Do a lot of therapy, go to anger management, go to rehab if there's drugs or other substances involved and then try, if enough time passes, for some cathartic moment. Some sort of volunteer work, some sort of interview and then maybe by 2015 we'll let him take a small part in a crappy movie."
Gibson was swiftly dropped by his longtime talent agency in the wake of the tapes, and the fate of his upcoming slate of movies appears to be in the air at the moment, but not everyone in Hollywood has rushed to write him off. Considering that Gibson has a massive war chest and has his own production company, Icon, which has financed such blockbusters as "The Passion of the Christ," it's possible he could continue to work as a director and producer without necessarily having to face the gauntlet of a press tour to promote a movie.
Bragman, however, who often preaches the gospel of "time plus distance and contrition equals forgiveness," isn't so sure. "I think Mel Gibson is not going to have a mainstream Hollywood career again."