Mel Gibson On ‘The Wild Bunch’ Remake: “It Started As A Bad Idea”

Mel Gibson made a surprise appearance Tuesday night at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood for the American premiere of Dragged Across Concrete, the brutal heist movie from writer-director S. Craig Zahler that stars Gibson and Vince Vaughn as compromised cops planning a score of their own.

A subdued and bearded Gibson joined four other cast members (Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White and Fred Melamed) and Zahler (Brawl in Cell Block 99) for a lengthy post-screening stage interview. When the Oscar-winning firebrand figure mentioned his  just-announced plan to direct a remake of Sam Peckingpaugh’s The Wild Bunch he got an enthusiastic response from the crowd of genre fans.

“This film is related, it’s in that Peckingpaugh realm,” Gibson said about Dragged Across Concrete, which made its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival but screened Tuesday night as the finale-night programming for this year’s Beyond Fest. The script centers on malevolent men whose lives are defined by their codes or their compromises and challenged Gibson to distill his performance to bare essentials.

“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 said to cheers. “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.”

Marvin, interestingly, had been a front-runner to star Peckingpaugh’s muddy-and-bloody 1969 classic but the memorable part of gang-leader Pike Bishop. In the role, the dour Holden led a historic ensemble — with Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sanchez and Ben Johnson — as it rode into cinema history with Peckingpaugh and his unflinching gunfighter epic.

“I thought it was a bad idea at first,” Gibson said in a post-event interview. “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…those guys [in the original film]? They laugh a lot but it isn’t funny. “

The western is Gibson’s first return to the director’s chair since Hacksaw Ridge, which co-starred Vaughn and earned Gibson’s his second career nomination in the best director category. He won the Academy Award for the 1995 historical epic Braveheart.

Gibson has a herd of projects in varied stages but The Wild Bunch has pushed to the fore. In the pipeline behind the remake: Destroyer, the World War II saga of the USS Laffey (which would re-pair Gibson with Daddy’s Home 2 co-star Mark Wahlberg) and Berserker, a Viking epic set in Norse antiquity. Gibson is also The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection, a sequel to the controversial 2004 box-office sensation that still reigns as the highest-grossing R-rated release in film history.

“You write stuff and you never know, really, what’s going to happen with it,” said the 62-year-old Gibson whose big-screen breakthrough came in the 1979 classic The Road Warrior. “Some things take 10 years before anything happens at all, other things come together after nine weeks.”

Gibson next stars alongside Colin Farrell in director Tommy Wirkola’s War Pigs for Millennium. He’s repped by CAA. Bagby is CAA and Anonymous Content.

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