Edge of Darkness - Mel Gibson
Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) © Warner Bros and GK Films

After seven years absent from the screen, Mel Gibson is back in the thriller Edge of Darkness. Based on the BBC miniseries of the same name that starred Bob Peck, which won a BAFTA Award, the movie and miniseries were both directed by Martin Campbell.

Gibson portrays Thomas Craven, an experienced homicide detective in Boston, whose daughter is murdered. A man in agony, Craven comes to terms with his daughter’s death the only way he knows how, by solving the crime, only to discover there was a lot about her life that he knew nothing about.

Mel Gibson spoke about the movie and his return to the screen last week in Los Angeles.

Edge of Darkness - Mel Gibson
Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) © Warner Bros and GK Films

Have you gotten the acting bug back?

I walked away from it after Signs because I thought I was a bit stale and it wasn’t ringing my bells, so I focused on directing, writing and producing, and then it was time to come back.

I got the acting bug back because I felt like all of a sudden, maybe after all these years, I might have something to offer again, and it coincided with a very good piece of material, a compelling story with good elements attached, and I dug it. If it wasn’t this it would have been something else, but this was the best thing that I saw.

It was an intriguing story. That’s the main thing – if I think it’ll be compelling and entertaining to an audience, I’m on board. It was intrigued by the characters and how they reacted to what was happening to them. At the same time, it’s a very compelling mystery involving issues we’re all uncertain about, and uncertainty is scary to most people.

What grabbed me was how the story sneaks up on you. Graham King (producer) and Martin Campbell (director) are two clever guys who had a clear and smart vision of the movie, and I knew it would be great working with them.

Edge of Darkness - Danny Huston and Mel Gibson
Jack Bennett (Danny Huston) and Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) © Warner Bros and GK Films

What’s Thomas Craven like?

Craven is very pedestrian, just a guy who’s getting by, day-to-day. He hasn’t been the greatest father but he provided. His journey now is a war of attrition; everything that happens wears away at who he is. The stress, the traumatic experience of losing a child like that, has him just a little unhinged and walking around most of the time in a state of near breakdown. He is close, right at the edge, but he can’t let it crack too much because he’s got a job to do.

Was it hard to act on the screen again?

A little bit, I remember Martin had to tell me to tone it down a couple of times, because you forget levels and stuff. After that it was pretty natural, you don’t do something for thirty years and forget it, and so it felt alright. Someone told me once, go away, do something else, come back and it magically rejuvenates your creative impulses.

Did you watch the original miniseries, because your performance is quite similar to Bob Peck’s?

Interesting, because I watched it back in the eighties avidly, it was some of the best TV I’ve ever seen. British television at that time was great, but I made a point to not watch it because I didn’t want it to be a part of that, but to just try and be truthful, but if you’re saying that my performance was anything like what Bob Peck did I’m flattered, because I think he was amazing.

Edge of Darkness - Mel Gibson and Shawn Roberts
Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) and Burnham (Shawn Roberts) © Warner Bros and GK Films

It was a mystery, a crime thriller, and a political thriller, and it was set in a time in the UK when there was a lot of political unrest. The series reflected its time very well.

How was it doing the action sequences?

The only thing I did with that was I ordered a chiropractor for the day after, because I knew I was going to wake up like road kill, and I did. You don’t bounce back as quick as you used to. It’s not a pleasant experience, but it’s okay as long as it still looks good.

Do you just naturally keep in shape?

I don’t work out much. I try and eat right and exercise a little. I quit smoking, so that’s something in the right direction. There’s no more fun things left, I just don’t do anything fun anymore. (he laughs)

Edge of Darkness - Shawn Roberts and Mel Gibson
Burnham (Shawn Roberts) and Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) © Warner Bros and GK Films

How did you quit smoking?

It was torture. I’m on day nine now so it’s almost over, but the first three days I was like an ax murderer, day four I would come at you with a bat, day five I was dangerous with a lawn mower, but now I’m okay, but it is a hellish habit to break. I first had a cigarette when I was nine-years-old and every single artistic decision I’ve made was with a cigarette, and 45 years after to not have that is crawling the walls, which I did for awhile.

Was there a point when you were taking your vacation from the screen where you considered not coming back?

Yeah, of course. Probably further toward the beginning, and as time went on you think, ‘Maybe I should try that again.’ That’s why I didn’t make some big pronouncement, ‘I’m quitting, I’m retiring.’ I didn’t want to do that, I just thought I’d back away for awhile. I was tired and bored with it. I’ve done that a couple of times. I just walked away and just spent the year not doing it, or just doing something else.

It was just time to come back, I just felt like doing it. I used to love doing it, and if the tarnish is on it and the glow goes off it, you walk away for awhile and when it’s time to come back, you come back.

Edge of Darkness - Mel Gibson
Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) © Warner Bros and GK Films

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.