"When I first started out acting, I had a suspicion this [stardom] thing could happen, but that was it," says actor Mel Gibson. "I didn't care. I mean, I really didn't care. I had no commitments, no kids, no-one to be responsible to. But then in a funny kind of way, the less you care, the easier you seem to get there."
Spoken like a true "no worries" Australian heart-throb. Well, not quite. Although he was first introduced to international audiences as an all-new Aussie star, Mel was in fact born in Peekskill, New York, on January 3, 1956. He is the sixth of 11 children, and has five brothers and five sisters. The family relocated to Australia when he was 12 after his father, a railroad worker, won a large settlement for a job injury. The move came, in part, because Gibson senior wanted to avoid having his sons drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. As Mel's paternal grandmother had been an Australian opera singer, the move down under was, in a way, a return to the old country.
After attending an all-boys Catholic school in Sydney, Mel won a place at the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art when one of his sisters, recognising his latent talent, sent in an application behind his back. Mel landed his first movie lead, Mad Max,
soon after graduation, despite the result of a bar-room brawl the night before the audition which left him looking like "a busted grapefruit". In fact, Mel's burnt-out, beat-up appearance was a plus it was exactly the look director George Miller was looking for for his post-apocalyptic road flick.
Other roles in film and theatre soon followed, and in 1979 Mel scooped the first of a pair of Australian Film Industry Awards as best actor, playing a retarded handyman in Tim.
He got the second two years later for his lead as an Aussie soldier caught up in WWI in Peter Weir's Gallipoli.
Then came the worldwide success of Mad Max 2,
and a romantic lead opposite Sigourney Weaver in The Year Of Living Dangerously
, which clearly established Mel as an international star.
In the midst of all this heady success he married dental nurse Robyn Moore, and, despite his potent sex-symbol persona, the two remained happily married for over 25 years. They have seven children the eldest, Hannah, was born in 1980, followed by twins Christian and Edward, Will, Louis, Milo, and the youngest addition to the clan, Thomas, who came into the world in 1999.
The actor has worked hard to shed the image of good-looking hunk with meagre acting talents which dogged his early career. In addition to starring in action fare such as 1988's Tequila Sunrise
, he has proved he's not just a pretty face in more demanding roles, memorably surprising the critics with his interpretation of Shakespeare's Hamlet
Mel is probably best known for his role opposite Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon
movies, but it would be for his work behind the camera that he garnered his highest acclaim a best director gong for 1995's Braveheart
. For Mel, who also produced the film, it was only his second time in the director's chair. The first being two years earlier for The Man Without A Face.
Clad in a kilt, sporting blue war-paint and speaking with a Scottish lilt, he also starred in the epic, which focused on the life of Sir William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish nobleman persecuted for his efforts to free Scotland from English rule. The film earned five Oscars, including best film.
In 2004 he released one of the most controversial film projects ever, The Passion Of The Christ
, a portrayal of the last 12 hours of Jesus' life. Extremely violent, the film was equally praised and criticised, with many labelling the movie as anti-semitic. Mel co-wrote and directed the epic, filmed in a mixture of Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin with English subtitles, and, it being a labour of love for the deeply religious star, funded it with $25 million of his own money. The box office takings of The Passion Of The Christ
more than covered the investment, raking in $125.2m (£68.2m) - and breaking the record set by The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
- in its first five days.
It wasn't just his artistic endeavours stirring controversy, however. In 2006 he was arrested after being pulled over while driving under the influence of alcohol. Anti-semitic comments he made to Jewish police officer James Mee made headlines across the globe, and the under-fire actor issued public apologies for his "despicable" behaviour, adding that his comments had been "blurted out in a moment of insanity".
He checked into rehab to undergo treatment for alcoholism shortly afterwards, and was sentenced to three years' probation. The incident seemed to act as a catalyst for a shake up in Mel's life. He separated from his wife Robyn the same year, after 26 years of marriage.
It wasn't until April 2009 that divorce papers were filed, however - one month after Mel was photographed on a beach with another woman, who was later found to be Russian musician Oksana Grigorieva. It was alleged that the couple had been an item for three years and in October 2009, they welcomed their first child - a daughter named Lucia.
The relationship wasn't to last. Amidst claims of domestic violence and a volatile relationship, they announced that they had split in April 2010 when they both took out restraining orders against each other. Things went from bad to worse when a string of leaked telephone recordings, allegedly between Mel and Oksana, hit the internet, reportedly demonstrating the dad-of-eight using racist language and threatening the mother of his baby.