Now here’s a collaboration nobody saw coming.
Heroes to opposite sides of the political and cultural spectrum, yet each controversial in his own right, conservative Catholic Mel Gibson and liberal atheist Sean Penn are co-starring in the aptly titled Professor and the Madman – and this time, Gibson’s not playing the crazy one.
Set in the mid 1800s, the story dramatizes the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, an ambitious endeavor spearheaded by Professor James Murray (Gibson). He would not have completed the gargantuan undertaking with the crucial help – over 10,000 entries of help – from Dr. W.C. Minor (two-time Academy Award winner Penn), a former Civil War surgeon who became institutionalized in an insane asylum following a post-war paranoid breakdown.
Who knows? Maybe the combined psychoses of these two volatile stars will finally scare people into using the correct there/their/they’re and to/too once and for all.
Having purchased the rights to the story in the late 1990s following his Braveheart Oscar sweep, Gibson originally intended to direct. Now he will simply star and produce. Taking over the director’s chair is Farad Safina, who also wrote the screenplay. Safina previously collaborated with Gibson as the co-screenwriter for his 2006 directorial effort Apocalypto. Safina also created the critically-praised Starz political drama Boss, which was executive produced by Gus Van Sant. It starred Kelsey Grammer and ran for two seasons,
Gibson’s Icon Pictures is producing with Voltage Pictures, the company behind the Best Actor/Supporting Actor winner Dallas Buyers Club and Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker. They’re eyeing a possible September start date for production, even as they continue to raise financing at this fall’s Toronto Film Festival.