Apparent Gibson Tapes Reveal Violent, Racist Rants

Audio tapes recently released appear to show Hollywood actor Mel Gibson threatening violence against his then-girlfriend, confirming that he had beaten her and insulting blacks. Michele Norris talks to Los Angeles Times reporter John Horn.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

If this next story were a movie, it would be tough to watch. But it's no movie. It's the latest, disturbing turn in the life of the actor Mel Gibson.

A: What you're about to hear is unsavory, and it may not be appropriate for young listeners. We're talking about audio that was posted by the website RadarOnline. It's audio of a conversation, apparently between Gibson and his now ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. The two are engaged in a nasty custody battle over their infant daughter.

On the recording, the man alleged to be Gibson sounds unhinged, cursing wildly, at times panting to catch his breath as he verbally abuses Grigorieva.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIOTAPE)

NORRIS: I don't need medication. You need a (bleep) bat to the side of the head, all right? How about that? You need a (bleep) doctor. You need a (bleep) brain transplant. You need a (bleep). You need a (bleep) soul.

NORRIS: At one point, he says, you deserved it, when she accuses him of physically hitting her.

For more on the story, I'm joined by Los Angeles Times film writer John Horn.

John, welcome to the program. The tapes in question surfaced over the weekend and late last week. What do we know about how and when these tapes were allegedly recorded?

NORRIS: They were apparently - allegedly recorded by his ex-girlfriend secretly, and I suspect without his knowledge or consent, which they - a minor legal question in the bigger picture.

NORRIS: Now, you say that they were released. She is claiming that she did not leak them. So do we know anything about who did provide them?

NORRIS: We don't know, and Radar has not said who. No one yet has disputed the authenticity of it, but it's not clear from where it came.

NORRIS: You know, actors are individuals, but they're almost like small corporations. There are a lot of people whose livelihoods are attached to their success. So when you're talking about Mel Gibson's future, you're actually talking about the futures of a lot of people. But first, I want to just talk about the actor, if I can. There's a big question about what this will mean for his future. Could this be the end of the line for his career?

NORRIS: I think absolutely. I mean, he has not made any - he's made one studio movie in the last eight years, and that was a film called "Edge of Darkness." That was mildly - but not greatly - successful. He has another movie on the shelf, called "The Beaver," with Summit, which is the company that did the "Twilight" movies. And he has starred in an independently financed movie that has yet got a distribution deal.

There's two businesses that Mel Gibson is in. He is a filmmaker who kind of self-finances his own works. He did so with "Apocalypto," and he did so with "The Passion of the Christ." And then there's the actor. And one is kind of a stand-alone business, that he can do it on his own. But as an actor, you're in a very collaborative business, and you need people to want to work with you. And I can't imagine a lot of people wanting to work with him right now.

NORRIS: So is this really about morality or bankability?

NORRIS: Unfortunately, I think it's really about bankability. I mean, there have been other actors, and some of them are quite successful right now. Charlie Sheen is involved in a domestic violence case. He's working steadily. Alec Baldwin called his daughter a thoughtless little pig. He's working steadily.

SIEGEL: that he has offended blacks; there's allegation that he made a derogatory comment about Latinos; he's offended women; he previously had offended Jews. And I don't know who's left.

NORRIS: When you listen to the audio - and it is very disturbing, hard to get through all eight minutes of it - he makes several threats against his ex-girlfriend. He talks about burning down her house. She talks about allegedly being punched by him, and losing a couple of teeth. Are there any legal charges here?

NORRIS: Potentially. I mean, the local law enforcement is looking into it. And I think this is probably why these tapes exist, that they were given over to law enforcement or some lawyers, and they came out that way.

You know, if he is making threats against this woman - he's, you know, threatening to kill her; I think he says at one point that she will be, and I'll leave out the adjective, the rose garden - yeah, absolutely, I think there's the potential for some sort of criminal case against Mr. Gibson. So the end, or the potential end, of his career is only one of his problems right now.

NORRIS: Thank you, John.

NORRIS: Thank you.

NORRIS: That's Los Angeles Times film writer John Horn.

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