Mel Gibson is unveiling a new film with Hacksaw Ridge this week, the first film he's directed in 10 years.
But the Oscar-winning director is aware that people remember his tabloid meltdown era, which started with his infamous 2006 drunken driving arrest in Malibu, Calif. Gibson peppered the arresting officers with anti-Semitic taunts.
Speaking to USA TODAY, Gibson, 60, says he's apologized and moved on from that troubling time, and believes the public has as well.
"A lot of time goes by. People are tired of petty grudges about nothing. About somebody having a nervous breakdown (after) double tequilas in the back of a police car,” says Gibson, now sober. “Regrettable. I’ve made my apologies, I’ve done my bit. Moved along. Ten years later. Big deal."
“I’ve worked on myself a lot,” Gibson adds in a somber voice. “I’m a different person than I was back then. But the thing that remains the same is I think I could always tell a story.”
Gibson says any anti-Semitic label is unfair.
"It's not true. None of my actions bear that sort of reputation, before or since. So it’s a pity, after 30 or 40 years of doing something, you get judged on one night. And then you spend the next 10 years suffering the scourges of perception,” says Gibson. “But it’s my fault for having (allowed) that perception, I fed the bullet to the gun.”
But he believes this label too has faded, allowing him to fully work on directing and starring in major Hollywood projects.
"Time does that. It’s kind of obvious that’s not who I am," says Gibson. "Otherwise, I’d be somewhere else doing something else. I just feel fortunate that I get the opportunity to do what it is I love doing. I have this compulsion to do it, to tell stories."
Gibson says he was compelled to tell the story of World War II Army medic Desmond Doss, because the story of a man refusing to carry a gun into battle was so powerful.
"(Doss) was messenger of love, a bringer of piece into a situation that absolutely reduced most men to animals," says Gibson. "He maintains this kind of higher equilibrium, even in the worst testing ground. It was like a flower growing in a wasteland."
Gibson has confirmed plans for a follow up to 2004's The Passion of Christ, which will focus on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Steve Pond, awards columnist for TheWrap.com believes Hacksaw Ridge could contend in several award categories including best director for Gibson, Andrew Garfield for best actor as Doss, and even best picture.
"It could do well. It's such a crowd-pleasing movie and there's been enough time to overlook the past," says Pond. "Some won't forgive Mel Gibson, but there are people that love the Mel Gibson redemption narrative."