After making a comeback with his Oscar-winning directorial effort Hacksaw Ridge last year, Mel Gibson is now stepping back in front of the camera for the new comedy, Daddy’s Home 2.
The film tells the story of a father and stepfather, played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, whose cozy relationship is put to the test when their fathers come to visit for Christmas. Gibson stars as Wahlberg’s old school, tough-guy dad, who is the exact opposite of Ferrel’s overly affectionate dad, played by John Lithgow.
Gibson’s character in the comedy, his first family film in over a decade (his last movie was the 2016 action thriller Blood Father), seems to be a nod to the actor’s past reputation as a Hollywood bad boy. Ferrell told the NY Daily News he believes the new comedy will help Gibson become a regular onscreen appearance once again.
“I think this was kind of a fun thing for him to step outside, be on camera after having an absence for a while, and also (doing) a family, PG-13 comedy was something he hasn’t really done,” the Saturday Night Live alum said. “I think if he chooses to do more of that, he’s going to be more than back.”
While promoting Hacksaw Ridge last year, Gibson’s old controversies came back to light, and in interviews, he talked about getting sober and refocusing himself after past scandals.
“Mel has showed some remorse over his past behavior,” a source previously told PEOPLE. “He was very stubborn about it for a long time. He now realizes that it was a distraction from his work. Mel wants to be remembered for his work. He has worked on his issues and has definitely shaped up.”
Gibson, now 61, faced intense scrutiny and public outrage in the wake of his 2006 arrest for drunk driving and a subsequent anti-Semitic rant. He also made headlines four years later after an audio recording surfaced in which he can be heard going on a profanity-laced tirade against then-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, amid claims that he had assaulted her. (The actor admitted to slapping Grigorieva, but said it was done in order to stop her from shaking their then-1-year-old baby, Lucia.)
His response to past indiscretions have drawn criticism over the years. While promoting Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson told Variety of his 2006 arrest, “I was loaded and angry and arrested. I was recorded illegally by an unscrupulous police officer who was never prosecuted for that crime. And then it was made public by him for profit, and by members of — we’ll call it the press. So, not fair. I guess as who I am, I’m not allowed to have a nervous breakdown, ever.”
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Similarly, during an appearance on The Tonight Show, when host Steven Colbert accused Gibson of going through some “rough patches,” the actor corrected him to “rough patch.” He added, “It’s a pity that one has to be defined with a label from, you know, having a nervous breakdown in the back of a police car from a bunch of double tequilas, but that’s what it is. Now, you know, this is not — that moment shouldn’t define the rest of my life.”
Later in the show, Gibson did acknowledge that if he had to give his younger self advice, he would say “to shut the f— up.”
He also expressed remorse over his behavior towards Grigorieva with Deadline about a year after the incident. In his first public comments since the tapes leaked, Gibson said he regretted his remarks, but added, “Who anticipates being recorded? Who anticipates that? Who could anticipate such a personal betrayal?”
During an interview with Australian media last year, Gibson revealed that he’s been sober for a decade now. “I am a member of [the] 12-step program and I achieved sobriety like that,” Gibson said. “I’ve got 10 years of sobriety under my belt.”
He also opened up to Variety about his past controversies at the time, saying on its “Playback” podcast: “10 years have gone by. I’m feeling good. I’m sober, all that kind of stuff, and for me it’s a dim thing in the past.”
In March, Zane Buzby, the founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project, revealed that Gibson had been quietly working with the charity and was making a large impact. “Mel Gibson is helping Holocaust survivors in eight countries, it’s remarkable,” she told Extra. “I have a great respect for people who turn their lives around, and I think that everyone makes mistakes in life, and I think the real proof of what kind of human being you are is what you do with that mistake.”
In addition to his new movie, Gibson has been busy raising his ninth child, Lars, born in January, with his girlfriend Rosalind Ross.
“Mel seems genuinely excited about the baby. It was a surprise, but Mel seems very happy,” a source told PEOPLE last year. “He says having kids is making him to stay young. He loves being a dad.” The source also said that Gibson “has a good relationship” with Lucia, his 6-year-old daughter with Grigorieva.
Daddy’s Home 2 hits theaters today.