How to boycott Mel Gibson.

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Aug. 3 2006 6:14 PM

How To Boycott Mel Gibson

Can I still rent Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?

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It's not yet clear whether Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade will have a lasting effect on his career. On Sunday, top Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel called for an industry boycott of Gibson's projects, and on Monday Barbara Walters announced, "I don't think I want to see any more Mel Gibson movies." What's the best way to boycott Mel Gibson?

Don't see Apocalypto. The most damaging consumer boycott would be an attack on Mel Gibson films that have yet to be released. If his upcoming blockbuster flops at the box office and in secondary markets, Hollywood producers might decide that he's no longer a bankable star. That could have a long-term effect on his career.

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

A hard-core boycotter should also forgo Gibson's earlier work, since he's still making a bit of money off of DVD sales and video rentals. Actors and directors typically get at least a tiny percentage of the long-term profits from any movie they're involved in. The actors and directors guilds guarantee their members "residuals" payments for as long as the film takes in money. So, you're probably throwing a little cash Gibson's way if you buy a copy of his late-1970s classic, Mad Max.

It's likely that Gibson makes more money from the sales and rentals of his later films. As he became more famous, the terms of his contracts would have become more favorable, and he could have negotiated larger and larger proportions of the returns for his films. According to the New York Times, Hollywood stars have taken up to 7 percent of the distributor's gross revenue in the last few years—about $1 for each DVD that's sold. Megastars like Arnold Schwarzenegger can negotiate deals for as much as 20 percent of the gross across the board. Gibson may have had one of these extra-sweet deals in place by 2000, when he scored a record-breaking $25 million in basic salary for The Patriot.

Gibson's degree of involvement with a film also contributes to his profits from each sale. He'll get a lot more money when you rent The Passionof the Christ—which he wrote, directed, and produced—than he would if you took home What Women Want. (According to Forbes, his stake in Passion has earned him close to a third of a billion dollars.)

If you want to make sure Gibson never sees a cent of your money, you'll have to stop renting, buying, or otherwise paying for his movies. But unless you're one of the few people who has one of Nielsen's people meters, there's probably no harm in catching the edited version of Braveheart on network TV.

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Explainer thanks Kim Masters of National Public Radio. Thanks also to reader Leona Middleton for asking the question.