LOS ANGELES — It worked with Mike Tyson in “The Hangover.” But can director Todd Phillips make a celebrity cameo uncomfortably funny with a much more, er, complicated figure?
The New York Post reported Monday that Mel Gibson will play a Bangkok tattoo artist in “The Hangover 2.” Two people close to the production confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Gibson — who’s maintained radio silence since recordings apparently capturing his violent rants against ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva surfaced this summer — will play an American expat living in Thailand. (The gang goes to Southeast Asia in the new installment for the wedding of Ed Helms’ character to a Thai-American woman; the movie has begun shooting in Southern California and will head to Thailand in several weeks.)
Gibson and Phillips have not worked together before, but the director is clearly hoping that the riff on real-life events will elevate the laugh factor — and the shock value — of his movie. Gibson, meanwhile, is no doubt banking that a little self-referential humor could rehab a screen career that needs all the help it can get.
It’s unclear if the purported tattoo artist is a totally fictional character or if Gibson will be playing himself, banished to tattoo artistry in the wake of his scandal. Either way, the casting news raises inevitable distinctions between Tyson, who was generally seen as a troubled but liked figure at the moment “Hangover” came out, and Gibson, who still rankles many. A lot can happen in seven months — the movie is set to come out in May.
“Hangover 2” could now also have a weird ripple effect on “The Beaver,” the quirky dramatic comedy that stars Gibson as a man who counts a beaver puppet as his best friend. The long-ago-completed movie has not been given a release date, but Summit Entertainment, which is distributing the film, could now gauge the reaction to the Gibson presence before making its own decision. If audiences are ready to laugh about him hamming it up in Thailand, they may be ready to see him doing the same with a beaver puppet.
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