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Can you forgive and forget Mel Gibson's off-screen history?

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As Mel Gibson is quick to point out, it’s been more than four years since his drunk-driving arrest that included allegations of an anti-Semitic rant. Ancient history, in his mind. At least that’s what he told Dean Richards of WGN in Chicago when Richards dared ask the seemingly relevant question of whether audiences will perceive him differently in his new film, Edge of Darkness, after his recent scandals: “That’s almost four years ago, dude. I mean, I’ve moved on. I guess you haven’t.” Then, as the interview stumbled toward an awkward conclusion, Gibson called Richards an a–hole. (video after the jump)

It’s not the first time that Gibson has expressed his agitation at a journalist who wants to talk about more than just the film he’s pumping. Two weeks ago, he fired back at similar questions from Sam Rubin of KTLA in Los Angeles, asking the Jewish broadcaster, “I gather you have a dog in this fight.”

I’m not sure one has to “have a dog in this fight” to wonder whether Gibson, who hadn’t starred in a film since 2002, would find a welcoming audience after all that’s occurred in his off-screen life during that time. His film’s tepid $17.2 million opening weekend may have slightly answered that question, and his recent outbursts haven’t helped his cause, in my opinion. He was much more reflective and less defensive last week on Good Morning America, when he told Cameron Mathison, “Ask any human being walking on the planet, ‘Have you ever done anything that you’re not too proud of?’ and I think most people will say, ‘Yes. I’ve done a few things I’m not too proud of.’ And a lot of times the most difficult thing about all of that is being able to forgive yourself.”

How forgiving are you as a moviegoer? Can you ignore an actor’s personal baggage to truly enjoy a character they play on screen? Or has Mel Gibson become too polarizing to convincingly portray fictional characters?

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