Actor, director and producer Mel Gibson was one of the biggest names in Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to the huge success of films like Mad Max, Lethal Weapon and Braveheart. While the Academy Award winner with an estimated net worth of a staggering $425 million could have driven any car he wanted, he made headlines at the height of his career for his unexpected automobile choice: a decade-old Toyota Cressida. Here’s a closer look at the career — and car — of Mel Gibson.
Mel Columcille Gerald Gibson was born on January 3, 1956 in Peekskill, New York. He was one of 11 children. When Gibson was in his teens, his family relocated to Australia, reportedly because his father was afraid one of his sons would be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.
After graduating from high school in New South Wales, Gibson contemplated several potential career paths, including becoming a chef or a journalist. Ultimately, he decided to go in the direction of acting and enrolled in Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). Gibson made his stage debut in a NIDA production of Romeo and Juliet and upon graduating went on to join the Southern Australian Theater Company where he was cast in the title roles in both Oedipus and Henry IV.
Next, Gibson ventured into television with a role on the Australian program, The Sullivans, which ran from 1976 to 1983. It was not until the movie industry came calling in 1979 with roles in not one but two mainstream films, however, that Gibson’s career really took off. In addition to becoming a household name in his home country for his work in Australia’s most successful film to date, Mad Max, Gibson also won critical acclaim for Tim, for which he won his first Australian Film Institute Award in the “Best Actor” category.
The subsequent years were heady ones for Gibson as he enjoyed a string of successful films including Gallipoli, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, The Year of Living Dangerously, The River, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Along with international stardom came another career pinnacle for Gibson: In 1985 he was featured on the cover of People magazine’s first-ever “Sexiest Man Alive” issue.
Next up for the star? The Lethal Weapon trilogy, followed by Hamlet, Air America, Forever Young, and Braveheart. While Gibson experienced the occasional box office flop, he had more than his fair share of hits. Braveheart, which Gibson both directed and starred in, was yet another highpoint for the actor: The medieval epic took home five Oscars, including both Best Picture and Best Director.
Gibson followed up Braveheart with a range of diverse projects, including Disney’s Pocahontas, Ransom, Conspiracy Theory, Payback, The Patriot, What Women Want, Signs, The Passion of the Christ, and Apocalypto.
Like so many other actors, Gibson’s career has not been without its share of controversy and scandal, which found the actor struggling to maintain his acting career in the late 2000s. Most recently, he’s found some favor again with both critics and fans. 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge earned Gibson Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his directing work, while Gibson explored his more comedic side when he joined the cast of Daddy’s Home 2. There’s good news for action movie fans, too: Gibson has publicly hinted at the possibility of a fifth Lethal Weapon movie.
No matter how successful Gibson got, evidence remained of his humility in the form of his car choice: a baby blue Toyota Cressida. In fact, the pick is so unusual that it landed Gibson a spot on Kiwi Report’s roundup of “celebrities who drive pretty normal cars.” Also making the list? Jennifer Lawrence, John Goodman, Zac Efron, Christian Bale, and Colin Farrell.
The Toyota Cressida may not have been the fastest or flashiest of automobiles, but it had plenty of things going for it — and is still heralded today for being a fine car. Raved Road and Track In October of 2018, “Understated, yes, but plenty comfortable, and with all the build quality you’d expect from a Toyota. It had a killer engine, too — the 7M 2.5-liter inline-six straight out of a Supra. It’s this engine that keeps the Cressida alive in the minds of Toyota enthusiasts today.”
Indeed, the Cressida held up — to the point where insiders are still insisting — nearly two decades after its discontinuation — that it’s a solid choice for car buyers. “Despite a sports-car engine, the Cressida wasn’t a sports sedan; it was a luxury car, first and foremost. It was a Lexus with a Toyota badge on the grille, and it’s a great affordable classic worth seeking out today,” continued Road and Track.
According to Toyota, meanwhile, the Cressida has become one of its most iconic cars with its 1977 debut representing a departure from more basic Toyota models like the Corolla, Camry, and Celica. In addition to boasting standard features like air conditioning, a cassette stereo, and reclining front seats, the Cressida also had a straight-six engine and rear wheel driving making it a quiet yet powerful ride. All of this added up to successful sales for the Cressida within the luxury market thereby paving the way for Toyota’s all new brand: Lexus.
Making the Cressida an especially fitting choice for Gibson hearkening all the way back to his early theater days? The car’s name derives from the Shakespeare play, Troilus and Cressida. Plus, while anyone with enough cash can get their hands on a Bugatti, Rolls-Royce or Lamborghini, there’s no denying that it takes a unique kind of character to take on modern-day Hollywood in a Toyota Cressida.