Padding around her 3,000-sq.-ft. Sherman Oaks, Calif., home in flip-flops and jeans, Oksana Grigorieva quietly makes her way to the bedroom she shares with her daughter Lucia, 12 months, who is being tended by Oksana’s 61-year-old mother. When the toddler catches sight of her mom, her face lights up-and there’s no mistaking her father’s famous blue eyes and wide grin. “I think she looks like both of us,” says Oksana. But Grandma has a different take: “Mel Geeb-son,” she says in her thick Russian accent.
Whether Grigorieva likes it or not, Mel Gibson’s presence can be felt throughout every inch of this house-which the actor, in fact, owns. The Russian-born musician, 40, and the Oscar-winning multimillionaire, 54, became involved in December 2007, when Gibson was, he has said, already separated from his longtime wife, Robyn, with whom he has seven children, ages 11 to 29. (Robyn filed for divorce in 2009.) At first, says Grigorieva, her romance with Gibson was blissful: “He would carry me around like a little kid and call me ‘my rusita bonita,’ my pretty Russian.” But Gibson’s temper began to flare more and more, she says. Grigorieva alleges that on Jan. 6 Gibson punched her and she fled his home with Lucia and her 13-year-old son Alexander (from a previous relationship with actor Timothy Dalton). Gibson’s attorneys declined to comment for this story, but his side has repeatedly disputed her allegations. A source close to Gibson has maintained that the actor was trying to stop Grigorieva from shaking the baby “like a rag doll” on Jan. 6. Counters Grigorieva: “That’s a complete lie.”
On Feb. 18, Grigorieva says, Gibson exploded in a torrent of verbally abusive phone calls. Audiotapes of those calls surfaced on the Internet in July-Grigorieva denies leaking them-and now the exes are both embroiled in multiple legal dramas. The L.A. district attorney is determining whether to charge Gibson with domestic violence; an L.A. sheriff’s investigation is underway as to whether Grigorieva attempted to extort millions from Gibson in exchange for keeping the tapes private; fights over visitation and child support are ongoing. Caught in the middle is Lucia, who lives with her mom but sees her dad nearly every other day, including overnight visits once a week. In a five-hour interview at her home, Grigorieva appears exhausted but composed. These days “my life is a train wreck,” she says softly. “It’s devastating.”
Take us back to the beginning of your relationship.
We met in 2007 in April [when she was recording music for Gibson’s company]. The relationship began December of 2007. He and his wife were separated for many years when I met him. He explained that for many years they were very unhappy and their union was for the children. He wrote letters professing that he is so in love with me. He said he was never in love before. In 2008 he gave me a Claddagh ring-a type of Irish wedding ring. He proposed his commitment for the rest of his life.
Was Lucia planned?
Yes. He said that he wanted to have a “love baby”-a baby born out of love. We were very happy. For two years he was hiding his dark side very well. I was very much in love with him.
When did things start to sour?
Jealousy kept coming up. I was working on my album for a year, [and] I became isolated from my friends because seeing my friends would [cause] another jealousy fit. He would act out, scream and yell and [then] apologize and say to me, “I’m so afraid to lose you.” He would be calling and controlling me everywhere, at all times, nonstop.
What happened on Jan. 6, the day of the alleged assault?
A babysitter was watching Lucia [at Gibson’s Malibu mansion], and I was at my son’s basketball game. Mel was calling me throughout the game, screaming, “Where are you? I hate this babysitter! The baby’s crying!” When I get home, his face is pale, he’s frothing at the mouth. I’d never seen him that bad.
Had he ever been violent toward you before?
No. Anyway, it seemed like he calmed down a little bit and [the babysitter] left. But he’s still erratic, talking to himself like a lunatic, and I said, “I gotta take my children and just leave you to calm down.” He got enraged and he started screaming, “Where are you going, you effing c-word?” I told Sasha [her nickname for son Alexander] to hide under the bed. Mel ran in and started screaming all kinds of nasty words. Then he just hit me twice with the fist. Boom, boom, to my head and my mouth. I fell on top of the bed. I’m just covering the baby and not protecting myself. He proceeds to choke me with both his hands. He was screaming in my face. Everything was happening very fast. At that point I’m blacking out but I’m holding the baby, and I see a little bit of blood drawn on her chin. I was scared for my life and my daughter’s.
How was Lucia injured?
He punched me in the mouth, and the end of the blow brushed her chin. [Then] he just screamed, “Get the eff out of here.” We ran to the pool, barefooted. I know that my veneers are missing because I can feel it. I went into the kitchen to grab my keys and he’s pulling a gun out of his shorts. He’s starting to wave it. He said, “I’m gonna effing show you how to effing leave here.” I thought he would kill me.
What’s your understanding as to why he was so enraged?
He gets angry for no specific reason. The majority of the time it’s jealousy. He told me many times he’s very depressed. He said he had thoughts of suicide and he would’ve killed himself many times if he wasn’t Catholic. He’s afraid of hell.
Was his rage connected to alcohol?
I’ve never seen him drunk. It’s his old dry drunk rage. He’s an untreated alcoholic. That’s what he says.
What did you do after you left Gibson’s house on Jan. 6?
I called my mom, and I e-mailed my lawyer and wrote out exactly what happened and took some pictures of myself. I needed somebody to know.
Why didn’t you call the police?
The worst thing for [Mel] is public humiliation. He threatened to kill me if I go to the police. That’s one. Two, I was just assaulted. I was shaking. If you’d just been beaten up, you’re exhausted. You just lock up the house and hope he’s not gonna come.
Did you take Lucia to a pediatrician?
No medical care was needed; it was just a tiny scratch.
Why didn’t you leave him?
You can’t just cut off love when you’re a victim of domestic violence. He was begging for another chance the following day. On his knees. He apologized for hitting me. He said he will never, ever touch me [again].
Why did you allow him to continue to be around Lucia?
I got back with him at the end of January, and he was a sweetheart. Pretty much every day he would come and see us and say he’s being treated, he’s going to doctors. Therapy. He was bringing flowers. He was inviting me to the Golden Globes. On Valentine’s Day we went to dinner in Malibu. He held my hand, and he said he’ll do anything for us to be a family again.
What happened on Feb. 18?
It was the tree planting ceremony for Lucia. Each child of Mel’s has a tree planted somewhere at the mansion, and each tree has a placenta from that child planted under the roots of the tree. Lucia started crying, and I went back into the house. Mel followed me and asked me why I was talking to [a gardener]. Then he started picking on my English. I told him he was being mean, and he got enraged. Throughout the day, he came back, yelling and screaming. At some point he grabbed Lucia, tossed her in my arms. He said, “Take her or I’ll hurt her.” I called my mom and said, “I’ve got to leave him.” From early evening the tirade of phone calls began.
Why did you record them?
I only recorded a tiny portion because he started threatening my life. I needed to document his threats.
Did you intend to extort him or use the tapes against him?
That never crossed my mind. I didn’t know that people can do such things.
Why did you sound so calm while he was screaming at you?
I was so exhausted. That’s the only time I ever recorded him, [but] there were so many of those phone calls. What’s the point of coming down to the same level of an enraged animal?
Did you leak the tapes?
I never leaked those. I just want to make that clear. I didn’t think they were valuable to begin with. To me they were truthful evidence of a crime he committed. I e-mailed some of my conversations to my sister, who deleted them, she said, back in February. I don’t know who leaked them. [Her then-lawyers’] offices and the court had them.
After everything, you were set to agree to mediation and joint custody in May. Gibson offered you a settlement worth $15 million.
He basically offered to settle it, and then my lawyer found out that he wanted to litigate-to fight.
People got the impression that the $15 million was to keep the domestic violence allegations under wraps.
No. The $15 million was a proposal that I walked away from because he was wanting 50 percent custody of an infant when he’s unstable. I feared I would never be able to prove that the tapes are accurate and not doctored.
What do you say to people who view you as a gold digger?
That they need to know the truth. I’m standing up to a bully who is very rich and famous.
Did you accuse your ex-boyfriend Timothy Dalton of abuse, as an Internet report said?
Whoever says that I accused Timothy of hitting me is lying. He’s a great dad, and we are still really good friends.
Your bodyguard Kristian Otto Herzog was ordered by a judge to stay away from Lucia because of his felony arrest record.
He was somebody that was supportive of me. I didn’t know anything about [his record]. I’m withdrawing any communication with him.
What’s your financial situation like right now?
I’m so severely in debt. I haven’t been paying my lawyers. I’ve been borrowing from friends. The child support that was just granted a couple of days ago-$20,000 a month-will slowly get me out of debt, but I haven’t seen any of that yet.
What do you hope for Mel?
For the sake of Lucia, I really want him to be well. I’m not angry at him. He just needs to be a man. He has to have courage to be responsible for what he’s done, and then maybe God will forgive him, maybe his daughter will forgive him. Maybe we’ll all forgive him.