Mel Gibson: The Real Life "Man Without a Face?"

Urban Legend Believers Claim Mel Gibson Was Gruesomely Disfigured

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In this common urban legend, a tale of great courage and inspiration, a young man manages to overcome the odds despite a physical handicap. 

Urban Legend: Man Without a Face

The legend is usually shared via email, with something like the below:

Subject: True Story

Here is a true story by Paul Harvey. Pass it to anyone who you think would find it interesting and inspiring. You will be surprised who this young man turned out to be. (Do not look at the bottom if this letter until you have read it fully)

Years ago a hardworking man took his family from New York State to Australia to take advantage of a work opportunity there. Part of this man's family was a handsome young son who had aspirations of joining the circus as a trapeze artist or an actor. This young fellow, biding his time until a circus job or even a stagehand gig came along, worked at the local shipyards which bordered the worse section of town.

Walking home from work one evening, this young man was attacked by five thugs who wanted to rob him. Instead of just giving up his money, the young fellow resisted. However they bested him easily and proceeded to beat him to a pulp. They mashed his face with their boots, and kicked and beat his body brutally with clubs, leaving him for dead. When the police happened to find him lying in the road, they assumed he was dead and called the morgue.

On the way to the morgue a policeman heard him gasp for air, and they immediately took him to the emergency unit at the hospital. When he was placed on a gurney a nurse remarked to her horror, that his young man no longer had a face. Each eye socket was smashed, his skull, legs, and arms fractured, his nose literally hanging from his face, all his teeth were gone, and his jaw was almost completely torn from his skull. Although his life was spared, he spent over year in the hospital. When he finally left his body may have healed but his face was disgusting to look at. He was no longer the handsome youth that everyone admired.

When the young man started to look for work again, he was turned down by everyone just on account of the way he looked. One potential employer suggested to him that he join the freak show at the circus as "The Man Who Had No Face". And he did this for a while. He was still rejected by everyone and no one wanted to be seen in his company. He had thoughts of suicide. This went on for five years.

One day he passed a church and sought some solace there. Entering the church, he encountered a priest who had saw him sobbing while kneeling in a pew. The priest took pity on him and took him to the rectory where they talked at length. The priest was impressed with him to such a degree that he said that he would do everything possible for him that could be done to restore his dignity and life, if the young man would promise to be the best Catholic he could be, and trust in God's mercy to free him from his torturous life.

The young man went to Mass and communion every day, and after thanking God for saving his life, asked God to only give him peace of mind and the grace to be the best man he could ever be in His eyes.

The priest, through his personal contacts, was able to secure the services of the best plastic surgeon in Australia. They would be no cost to the young man, as the doctor was the priest's best friend. The doctor too was so impressed by the young man, whose outlook now on life, even though he had experienced the worst, was filled with good humor and love.

The surgery was a miraculous success. All the best dental work was also done for him. The young man became everything he promised God he would be. He was also blessed with a wonderful, beautiful wife, and many children, and success in an industry which would have been the furthest thing from his mind as a career if not for the goodness of God and the love of the people who cared for him. This he acknowledges publicly.

The young man is Mel Gibson.

His life was the inspiration for his production of the movie The Man Without A Face. He is to be admired by all of us as a God fearing man, a political conservative, and an example to all as a true man of courage."

The Real Story

While Mel Gibson certainly has had an interesting life, it is not the stuff of which high drama is made. Born in 1956 in Peekskill, New York, he moved to Australia with his family at the age of 12, but the young man was a loner and a heavy drinker with no particular direction in life.

It was his older sister, Mary, who set Gibson's future career in motion by submitting an application in his name — and without his knowledge — to the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Sydney. Having nothing to lose, he auditioned and was accepted. He proved to be a talented actor and lived theatrically ever after.

His first big break in the movies occurred in 1979 when he landed the starring role in a low-budget Australian flick called "Mad Max," which soon attracted a cult following. There's an anecdote surrounding this early triumph which presumably inspired our apocryphal email story.

About a week before the big audition, he got drunk at a party and wound up in a fistfight with three other men. And lost. "I woke up in the bloody hospital with head stitches, a busted nose, my jaw off the hook, peeing blood," he recalled in a 1995 Playboy interview. He was "still a mess" on the day of the audition, but ironically it was his busted-up face that caught director George Miller's attention and won Gibson the part as the film's post-apocalyptic antihero.

Be that as it may, he did not require a year in the hospital to recover, nor was he left permanently disfigured, nor did he join a circus freak show and spend five years wandering and horribly depressed. On the contrary, he healed quickly, shot Mad Max that same year and went on to become one of the world's most sought-after leading men.

He did, in fact, later direct and star in The Man Without a Face, the 1993 film adaptation of Isabelle Holland's novel of the same name. In it, he played a reclusive teacher whose face had been horribly scarred as a result of an automobile accident. But the script wasn't based on Gibson's own life, not even remotely. As a matter of fact, the novel from which the film was adapted was first published in 1972.

Mel Gibson was 16 years old at the time.