Robert Downey, Jr.: ‘Forgive Mel Gibson’

J. Arthur Bloom Deputy Editor
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The Iron Man has a soft spot for Hollywood pariah Mel Gibson.

“Unless you are without sin — and if you are, you are in the wrong fucking industry — you should forgive him and let him work again,” Robert Downey, Jr said of his friend Mel Gibson on Friday.

When the “Chaplin” and “Sherlock Holmes” star won the coveted American Cinematheque award, he selected Gibson to present it, in a symbolic gesture of acceptance of the scorned actor.

Gibson fell from A-list grace after his widely publicized self-destruction which brought the public sordid news of booze-fueled anti-semitic rants, drunk driving and a misdemeanor conviction for beating his wife.

But at the Beverly Hilton on Friday night, Downey received solid applause for his pleas for stars to forgive Gibson.

“I urge you to forgive my friend his trespasses,” Downey Jr told the sold-out crowd, with a clear reference to The Lord’s Prayer. “Allow him to pursue this art without shame.”

Downey himself is no stranger to either personal troubles or the resulting public scorn. After drug arrests and imprisonment prevented him from getting work, Gibson paid his insurance bond for the film “The Singing Detective,” giving him a second shot at an acting career.

Friday’s award ceremony gave Downey a chance to return the favor, and he recounted Gibson’s support during his own Lost Weekend-style self-destructive bender.

“When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith,” Downey said in his acceptance speech. “It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him.

“He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly — hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man.”