12/01/09 | Film

The Passion of Mel Gibson

by a Titular Collaborative


“Tobey or not Tobey, that is the question,” pondered the studio executive.

“He may butcher the accent, but the teens love him – and he’s only asking for six million,” offered the producer.

And so with that, Tobey Maguire was cast as Hamlet. His agent called him that afternoon to relay the good news. “Spiderman is for kids, Hamlet is about mortality – real love and death kind of stuff,” said the agent. “People love that shit.”

“Cool!” Tobey said.

Fast forward to the scene (the filming of the scene) at Elsinore. The script calls for ‘a single slow tear’ when Hamlet is stricken by his father’s ghost. The snow machine rumbles in the background, occasionally coughing up fractions of a blizzard. The production crew graze on donuts behind the set. A production assistant leans into Tobey’s plush face and puts artificial tears in his eyes.

“This will look like crying,” she says.

“Cool!” Tobey says.

And so with that, Hamlet cries a single slow unsalty tear. It seeps through the manufactured snow, barely melting its own way towards the studio floor. The fake and the real. The ghost and the son. The posters on the wall. Six million dollars. Everything is an effigy.


Once at a movie theatre my face fell in between the seats while I watched Apocalypto. My girlfriend at the time told me she hadn’t noticed that I had dropped my face, but when I look back and think of the faces she made as we walked out of the theatre, I realize that she enjoyed it. Her mouth would open and she’d gust bits of laughter and squeeze her hands together trembling in joy. The people turned their faces away from me when I smiled at them.

I had drunken too many Red Stripes before we went into the movie. It happens every time: I drink, I lose shit. Usually it’s my cell-phone or my wallet, but never my face. I’ve learned from my mistake. I felt safe in the darkness of that theatre, under the genius-glow of Mel Gibson’s money; I felt that there no one would judge me because I had no face, that Mel Gibson understood me.

When I went the next afternoon to recollect my face, the usher told me, “That thing? That’s a face?” He didn’t seem surprised that I was a man without a face looking for his face. “I thought some faggots with huge cocks had fucked each other here last night,” he said as he dipped his hand into an open garbage bag lying against the wall. “Here,” he said, and handed me my face.


He stood at her doorway, her room, this sister’s room, his sister’s room. There were never words. He was without words. He was always without words.

She used to let him cuddle her chest, her stomach. Going back she let him feel in her a mother, sometimes, late at night when the thunder spilled and he was frightened. Those times. This was not those times.

He trailed her feet as a boy, as a boy without a mother. She was not his mother and she pushed him back, used her hands to force him away, but at night, when she felt smothered in guilt and her own losses, her own mother gone, she let him climb inside her sheets, on her pillows, stringy boy arms around her middle, huddled both crying smiling.

This was in the going back, when she was a girl and he was a baby and their father kept outside, working before the sun and bedding in the moon, their father existing as both daylight and stars. When the nails and planks and boards were for the next in line, the next dead, the next going gone. When she tried to hold him, this sister, tried to hold the baby like a mother and dropped him on his head, planted him in the dirt of the road, her father’s voice calling to her, her name, out from his mouth the letters colored birds. This was when she gave up being a mother, this was when she stopped mothering, stopped trying to be something other than a girl, a father’s girl, a brother’s sister, a gone mother’s daughter.

Except those nights, when the rain was coming and it was lightning and crackle spit pop skies. Those nights she gave in to his need, to his without mother existence, receded, rescinded, toes in ocean waves, the coming going in and out, the needs of a boy, breaking and broken.

Until later, when he was a boy going to a man, turning, and he watched her sleep from the doorway, from her room in this hall, the home built by her father, her legs shiftless under the gauze of white sheets and girl hair, curled even in sleep.

She would wake, eyes adjusting to his man’s outline in the darkness, the look of her father, those streaming eyes and the strength of knuckles. Those nights she was made a mother, she was made instead of a girl, instead of a daughter, she was made from his planks and boards, from his nails, hollowed in the darkness. This father’s son. Those nights she was built, shaped into angles and made for swelling, their loss of mother rectified.


There was a grain of sand. This grain of sand was out of place, having once been happily settled by the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, but now living a haphazard existence in the front yard of a suburban community (in the outskirts of Raleigh, North Carolina), having been moved into his new environment by the shaking of a “Spiderman” beach towel, and now sliding, slowly, down a hillside toward a drainage canal that would eventually lead to a sewer line underneath the suburban community that was also inhabited by groundhogs.

This grain of sand had one wish before sliding into the “Hades of Groundhogs” as the kids of the neighborhood called it, and that was to star in a Mel Gibson movie that depicted the life of a grain of sand sliding down a hillside, using, of course, the ancient native language of sand, subtitled in Spanish and funded by a federal NCLB grant for English language learners whose first language is not English.

Beside this grain of sand was another grain of sand and in fact hundreds maybe thousands of grains of sand having all themselves been deposited by the “Spiderman” beach towel on the same day and in the same haphazard manner by a seven year old boy with freckles on his nose and cheeks.

“Your dream is pathetic,” said grain of sand number 1,547. “Mel Gibson doesn’t even make movies anymore.”

“I only need his name,” said the grain of sand sliding down the hillside with a dream to act in a Mel Gibson movie.

“He doesn’t have a name anymore,” said grain of sand number 6. “Not since that thing with the alcohol and the Jewish cop.”

“Yeah, that was pretty dumb,” said grain of sand number 1,547. “But his mug shot was funny.”

“He has a name by way of not having a name,” said the grain of sand sliding down the hillside with a dream to act in a Mel Gibson movie.

“You don’t have time to be so post-modern,” said grain of sand number 6.

“Yeah,” said grain of sand number 1,547. “You sound like my high school English teacher.”

The grain of sand sliding down the hillside with a dream to act in a Mel Gibson movie wished that he had legs so he could walk away from all the other grains of sand and live his own life, the way he wanted to live, dreaming of staring in a Mel Gibson movie without being “brought down” by all the other grains of sand, but instead he could do nothing more than wait for the next rain, and hope that his rivulet took him far enough away from grains number 6 and 1,547 that he could at least experience some moment of tranquility and silence before sliding, fatefully, into the “Hades of Groundhogs” in the sewer line beneath the suburban community.

HAMLET by Jimmy Chen | THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE by Andy Riverbed | WHAT WOMEN WANT by J.A. Tyler | APOCALYPTO by Mazie Louise Montgomery