Mel's New Moves

updated 09/06/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/2004 01:00AM

Before the release of The Passion of the Christ, some said he'd never work in Hollywood again. Six months and more than $600 million in grosses later, Mel Gibson would be laughing all the way to the bank—if he had time. From his Icon Productions office in Santa Monica, Gibson, 48, is laboring on a lineup of movies and TV shows that would leave a studio mogul breathless. How to unwind from all that work? "Now that the money's come through," jokes Paul Abascal, who directed Icon's Paparazzi, "he can finally put in that hot tub."

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST DVD
Distributor FOX Home Entertainment wants the same Christian groups that helped Passion break box office records to buy the DVD, out Aug. 31—preferably in packs of 50, which can come customized with a church name and selected scripture verse on each cover. A FOX rep says orders are so high the initial run exceeds 10 million copies. Meanwhile, Gibson has been quietly philanthropic with his Passion profits—"He's done a lot of good," says a close source—but his charity only goes so far. Icon has lawsuits pending against two movie theater chains that Gibson says reneged on an agreement to give him 55 percent of Passion's box office.

MEL'S MOVIES

PAPARAZZI
This thriller, which Gibson produced, opens Sept. 3 and stars Cole Hauser as a celebrity who sets out for revenge when a group of photographers endanger his family. During initial brainstorming sessions with Gibson, "we'd buy old tabloids and look through them," says director Paul Abascal. Not that they needed the inspiration. According to a close source, some scenes come directly from Gibson's life.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
A quarter-century after first playing the brooding bad-boy hero in a post-apocalyptic Australia, Gibson is ready to reclaim the role. Almost. Filming was set to begin in Africa last year but was delayed for security reasons. Now budget concerns are stalling production again.

THE MACCABEES
Those who accused The Passion of anti-Semitism can take heart—or offense. Gibson is planning to direct a film about the origins of Hanukkah.

LORENZO IL MAGNIFICO
His next movie? In January, says a source, Gibson will direct this story of Florence's 15th-century ruler Lorenzo de' Medici.

UNDER AND ALONE
The prolific producer is developing the true story of ATF agent Billy Queen, who infiltrated the Mongols motorcycle gang in Southern California.

PRINCESS WARRIOR
Gibson is also developing a film based on the life of Boudicca, a British woman who rose to military glory in the first century. No start date or casting has been announced, but Mel probably won't be playing the lead.

LITTLE SCREEN, BIG FUN

COMPLETE SAVAGES
PREMIERES: Sept. 24
STARRING: Keith Carradine Producers Mike Scully and Julie Thacker-Scully asked pal Gibson—father of six boys and one girl—to be part of their ABC sitcom about a single dad raising five boys so they could swipe his stories. "He always has some fun dilemma cooking with his kids," says Thacker-Scully. "He once told us how he and one of his boys quit smoking. We used it." Executive producer Gibson has also directed two episodes.

KEVIN HILL
PREMIERES: Sept. 29
STARRING: Taye Diggs, Michael Michele Another single dad: A hot-shot lawyer has to raise his late cousin's baby in the UPN drama. Producer Gibson gives Icon's TV department free rein, says exec producer Alex Taub: "He trusts his people."

CLUBHOUSE
PREMIERES: Sept. 26
STARRING: Dean Cain After giving his thumbs up, Gibson let more seasoned coproducers—like Aaron Spelling—handle the CBS coming-of-age drama about life in the big leagues as seen through the eyes of a young batboy (Jeremy Sumpter).

Karen S. Schneider. Tom Cunneff and Nicholas White in Los Angeles and Peter Mikelbank in Paris

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