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Home Movie News Mel Gibson Is Back & So Is Controversy, ‘Hugh Hefner’ Documentary Sold

Mel Gibson Is Back & So Is Controversy, ‘Hugh Hefner’ Documentary Sold

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Mel Gibson’s revenge thriller Edge of Darkness opened today, Jan. 29. Directed by Martin Campbell and written by Academy Award winner William Monahan and Martin Bovell, the film marks Gibson’s comeback in a starring role since M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 Christian sci-fier Signs – in which God allows most human beings to perish so Mel Gibson can recover his faith before the final credits start rolling.

Whether inspiring or infuriating, Signs was a sizable hit upon its release – $227.9 million domestic; $180 million overseas as per And, accusations of anti-Semitism notwithstanding, so was Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which he directed in 2004 with fellow devout Catholic Jim Caviezel in the lead.

But then came the Malibu drunken driving arrest in 2006. According to Time, the arrest report read “Gibson yelled out, ‘The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.’ Gibson then asked, ‘Are you a Jew?’” The officer in question was indeed Jewish, and was later investigated by his own police department in case he had been responsible for leaking the hush-hush incident to the media.

The 53-year-old actor mostly kept a low profile until his much-publicized divorce proceedings in early 2009. He has since fathered a child with his current companion.

Just a week or so ago, Gibson became embroiled in another tangle, this time with Los Angeles TV station KTLA’s entertainment reporter Sam Rubin. During a taped interview, Rubin said that some moviegoers would probably welcome Gibson back, while others felt “he should never come back.”


Gibson leans toward Rubin.

“Because of what happened before,” Rubin replies.

“What happened before?”

“The remarks that were attributed to you.”

“That were attributed to me. That I didn’t necessarily make. O.K.? But — and I gather you have a dog in this fight.

“Pardon me.”

“You have a dog in this fight? Or are you being impartial?”

Rubin is Jewish. The journalist later remarked he should have given Gibson an appropriate response at the time – especially considering that the Edge of Darkness actor appeared to be contesting the anti-Semitic remarks attributed to him. However, Rubin stated he had initially failed to understand what Gibson’s “dog in this fight” remark meant. (You can watch a clip from the interview here.)

Back in the early 1990s, Gibson was accused of making anti-gay comments to a Spanish journalist. He later claimed something had been lost in the translation and refused to apologize to gay men. Either way, his fans were unfazed. The actor starred in several hits throughout the decade and even went on to win the best director Academy Award for Braveheart (1995).

Next for Gibson is The Beaver, directed by and co-starring Jodie Foster. The film has a tentative 2010 release date. (Update: The Beaver was ultimately released in May 2011.)

Hugh Hefner documentary sold

George Lucas, Tony Bennett, Joan Baez, Jim Brown, James Caan, Jesse Jackson, Jenny McCarthy, and Bill Maher are some of those taking part in Brigitte Berman’s documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, which has been acquired by Phase 4 Films for distribution via various channels in the United States.

More than the Playboy magazine mastermind and the guy who had a nude centerfold of Marilyn Monroe, the Hugh Hefner portrayed in Berman’s documentary is also a fighter for progressive causes, an ardent movie lover, and a campaigner “against censorship and for the individual’s right to freedom of expression on all fronts.”

The 124-minute Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel is scheduled to hit US screens in the spring.

From the film’s press release:

Berry Meyerowitz, Phase 4 Films’ President and CEO, announced today that the company has acquired all U.S. rights, and DVD, Video-on-Demand, Pay Per View and Digital Rights in Canada, to the theatrical version of Oscar-winning™ Director/Producer Brigitte Berman’s feature documentary titled HUGH HEFNER: PLAYBOY, ACTIVIST AND REBEL. The longer festival version of the film, which, played to critical acclaim at the recent Toronto Film Festival, portrays the flamboyant, outspoken founder of the Playboy Empire and his many fierce battles with nearly all levels of the U.S. government, the religious right, and militant feminists. Phase 4 Films will launch the film theatrically in late Spring 2010.

When Hefner launched Playboy in December 1953 the magazine achieved instant notoriety and astounding success. Its magnet was a nude centerfold of Marilyn Monroe. Hefner became an outspoken champion of the sexual revolution, and immediately the outraged forces of Church and State initiated a war against Hefner and Playboy that raged over the decades.

Berman explores the paradox of the man – on the one hand, the hedonistic Playboy, pursuing his own sexual odyssey and living a highly controversial lifestyle, and on the other hand, the humanitarian who has been a catalyst for progressive change on a whole array of social and political issues: racial equality, First Amendment rights, abortion rights, sexual freedom, censorship and social justice.

Berman won an Academy Award for her feature documentary “Artie Shaw: Time is all you’ve got.” Her friendship with Hugh Hefner began when Hef contacted her after discovering that she had made a feature documentary about one of his favorite musicians – Bix Beiderbecke. Hef, being an avid film collector, wanted to add her documentary about Bix to his collection. He also released Berman’s “Bix” film on his Jazz Video label.

“What fascinates me about Hef is that while many know him only as a hedonistic, sensual Playboy and a legendary lover of countless beautiful women, there is a whole other and far more interesting, far sexier side to him as well. He is a driven, talented publisher of a groundbreaking magazine who is also a social activist at the forefront of countless progressive causes. Hef took great risks in breaking the color line in his Playboy clubs and TV shows, who defied the blacklist in the McCarthy Fifties decade, fought antiquated and absurd sex laws that regulated private conduct in the nation’s bedrooms, provided legal teams to fight anti-abortion laws that eventually led to Roe vs Wade, and campaigned against censorship and for the individual’s right to freedom of expression on all fronts. For me, this film has it all – sex, glamour, politics, romance, tragedy, and conflicts – and many great surprises about a man people think they know, but don’t really know,” said Berman.

Notes Meyerowitz, Phase 4 Films’ President & CEO, “Most people think they know who Hugh Hefner is from what they see in the media, however this film shows what an unbelievable, forward thinking revolutionary he was, and is an absolute must-see for audiences of every age, race, religion or sexual orientation. This film is a perfect follow up for us after our release of VALENTINO. There is a real market out there for docs that are as provocative and well made as this one.”

When Hefner agreed to participate in the film, he granted Berman unprecedented access to his vast, personal archives and agreed that she would maintain creative and editorial freedom – something he’d never done before.

The film highlights how in fighting his battles, Hefner was arrested for obscenity, branded a pornographer by Reagan’s Meese Commission, endured a boycott of his magazine, was under FBI surveillance and was set up on a fabricated drug charge. He has won every legal battle he has ever fought. And of course his legendary lifestyle has continued unabated throughout.

The list of participants in the film is extraordinary. Those featured by Berman are essentially a “Who’s Who” of the decades and controversies surrounding Hefner and Playboy, including George Lucas, Tony Bennett, Joan Baez, Jim Brown, James Caan, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jenny McCarthy, Bill Maher, and more.

The theatrical version of Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel is a 124 minute documentary produced by Metaphor Films and its award-winning producers are Victor Solnicki, Brigitte Berman, Peter Raymont. Phase 4 Films acquired the Canadian DVD, Video-on-Demand, Pay-Per-View and Digital rights to the film from Robin Smith’s KinoSmith Inc.

The deal to acquire the film was negotiated by the Cinetic Media’s Debra Fisher and Phase 4’s Larry Greenberg.

The film is produced in association with Telefilm Canada and The Rogers Group of Funds through the Theatrical Documentary Program; produced in association with The Movie Network (executive in charge of production Michelle Marion) and produced in association with Movie Central (executive in charge of production Erica Benson); produced with the participation of the Ontario Media Development Corporation and with the assistance of the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credits, produced with the participation of The Canadian Television Fund, produced in association with Rogers Broadcasting Limited, and developed with the assistance of Super Channel.

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Brandi Belle -

Very nice review. I never thought that play boy has that good history. I love it very informative.

hiwaycruzer -

Bravo Mel!

Rubin is just another parasite of the press, unworthy to shine your shoes…

xenia -

I refused to go see Edge of Darkness. Itlooked stupid. A friend saw it and fell asleep despite all the noise. For people to stay awake they have to make the gun blasts louder these days. Everyone seems to be going deaf. I stayed home and slept in my own bed. That was very comfortable. Movie seats are more comfortable than they used to be, but not as comfortable as my bed.


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