Even Mel Gibson wasn’t initially sold on his latest filmmaking project. Late last month, the “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Passion of the Christ” filmmaker was confirmed to direct and co-write a remake of the 1969 Western “The Wild Bunch,” originally directed by Sam Peckinpah, but at a recent event, he admitted that his take on the classic film originally sprung from “a bad idea.” Gibson will handle screenplay duties with Bryan Bagby and also executive produce the film, which is set up at Warner Bros.
On Tuesday evening, Gibson made a surprise appearance at the U.S. premiere of S. Craig Zahler’s film “Dragged Across Concrete,” in which Gibson stars alongside Vince Vaughn as a pair of crooked cops planning a major heist. Deadline reports that Gibson, Zahler, and the rest of the cast sat for a “lengthy post-screening stage interview,” during which talk inevitably turned to Gibson’s imminent remake.
“I wanted to strip away a lot of stuff, all my bad mannerisms and bad habits and just channel one of my heroes, the great Lee Marvin,” Gibson explained of his approach. “The character is a cynical guy and tried to reflect what was there on the page. In the script it doesn’t refer to my character by his name — it doesn’t call him Ridgeman — it calls him the ‘the grim fellow.’ That stuck with me. So I stayed as grim as possible.”
As Deadline reminds, Marvin was originally expected to star in Peckinpah’s film as gang leader Pike Bishop, though the part eventually went to William Holden, who starred in the feature alongside Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sanchez, and Ben Johnson. Gibson, it seems, wants to recreate that could-have-been scenario for himself.
Deadline spoke to the actor and filmmaker after the event, during which Gibson explained why he was initially reticent to remake the film. “I thought it was a bad idea at first,” Gibson told the outlet. “Why make ‘The Wild Bunch’ again? Who would do that? I thought about it and I thought about it some more, and then I thought of a way [into the story]. A way to tell the story. So I’ve been sitting in a room with a writer and it’s been a blast. So it started as a bad idea, but it’s heading toward something that could be special. It’s about last chances and guys with lives of accrued violence.”
The theme of violence has been a mainstay in Gibson’s works, including his bloody directorial outings “Passion of the Christ,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” and “Apocalypto.”
After a series of personal controversies and legal issues, most notably a 2006 drunk driving arrest during which Gibson was recorded hurling racial and sexual epithets at his arresting officer and a 2010 domestic violence-related restraining order from his ex-partner Oksana Grigorieva, Gibson’s directorial career made a comeback in 2016 with the release of his World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge.” The movie earned six Oscar nominations, including best picture and best director.
His current slate is stacked with new projects, and though it’s expected “The Wild Bunch” has risen to the top of the heap, he’s also working on a ramen of the World War II saga “Destroyer,” a Viking epic titled “Berserker,” and a sequel to his hugely successful “The Passion of the Christ.”