John Wick TV spin-off directors defend controversial Mel Gibson casting: 'He was the best man for the job'

Cormac stands behind his chair as he raises a fake smile in The Continental TV show
Mel Gibson's casting in the John Wick TV spin-off has been heavily criticized (Image credit: Katalin Vermes/Starz Entertainment)

The Continental: From the World of John Wick's directors have attempted to justify Mel Gibson's controversial casting in the spin-off show.

Speaking exclusively to TechRadar, Albert Hughes and Charlotte Brändström defended the actor's casting in the prequel series (read our spoiler-light opinion of The Continental while you're here), which drew heavy criticism when his involvement was announced in October 2021.

Gibson has become embroiled in multiple controversies over the years, with the actor-director accused of making anti-semitic, racist, misogynistic, and homophobic remarks at various points in his career.

Those problematic episodes, and the fierce backlash they sparked, resulted in Shane Black – who directed Gibson in acclaimed action movie Lethal Weapon – saying in 2016 that Gibson had been "blacklisted in the industry" because "people don't want to work with him" (per Business Insider).

Despite Black's postulation, Gibson has continued to find work within the entertainment industry. The 67-year-old has featured in movies including The Expendables 3 and Father Stu, as well as directing Oscar-nominated flicks like 2016's Hacksaw Ridge. Meanwhile, The Continental – the first spin-off set in Lionsgate's beloved John Wick universe – marks his first foray into TV since 2004/05's Complete Savages.

Winston stands in a dimly lit room in The Continental TV show

Colin Woodell's young Winston will go up against Gibson's Cormac in The Continental prequel series (Image credit: Katalin Vermes/Starz Entertainment)

Gibson, though, is still viewed as a divisive figure by many, and his forthcoming appearance in the Prime Video and Peacock miniseries has ruffled feathers and left a cloud hanging over the production. However, Hughes and Brändström have defended Gibson's involvement as The Continental's brutal and menacing hotel manager Cormac. Indeed, the pair say Gibson was hired due to his acting credentials, adding that they hoped fans would give him the benefit of the doubt when the period action-drama show is released.

"We hired him because we thought he was the best person for the job," said Hughes, who also executively produced The Continental. "This show is bigger than any one character or actor. I can't speak to his personal stuff, but I hope audiences give it a chance. We have a great, multicultural ensemble cast. We have seven to 10 powerful women characters of different nationalities. A lot of them are new to this game, so it was fabulous opportunity for them. But they also worked really hard to make this what it is."

"We wanted someone who could approach Cormac as a very serious and powerful individual," Brändström added. "Mel is an incredible actor and director, so he has lots of experience and I think that's why he was chosen. I can only say he was really generous and helpful to work with. Sometimes you shoot with actors, and they disappear between takes so you have to go and find them when it's their turn to film scenes. But Mel was very professional. He knows the job, he knows how to direct, so he knows what's expected of him."

The Continental: From the World of John Wick is the first of two confirmed spin-off projects set to arrive by June 2024. The second, a spin-off movie called Ballerina, will star Ana de Armas, and is set between John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum and John Wick Chapter 4. A fifth film in the main film series is also thought to be in early development, though it's unclear if Keanu Reeves will return as the titular assassin.

The Continental: From the World of John Wick's first episode launches on Peacock in the US and Prime Video internationally on Friday, September 22. Episodes 2 and 3 follow on September 29 and October 6.

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Senior Entertainment Reporter

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