US actor and film director Mel Gibson, mired in controversy over alleged anti-Semitic remarks, may be forgiven by fans, but Hollywood studios will likely be leery of a star apparently out of control, analysts said.
In an industry where image is all, Gibson has sunk into trouble since Friday, when he was arrested for drunk driving and allegedly made anti-Semitic and sexist remarks and may have even threatened police officers.
The actor and Oscar-winning filmmaker has since checked into a rehabilitation program.
"The incident was a horrible, horrible blow to his public image," said Peter Montoya, a public image consultant. He remained optimistic, however, that Gibson can prevail.
"I don't foresee that spinning out of control, like Tom Cruise, or Nick Nolte," he said. "I think it's going to fade away."
For instance, basketball player Kobe Bryant, who was recently accused of rape, remains one of the biggest stars of the NBA, and Hugh Grant, found in his car with a prostitute in 1995, remains a top British actor.
"The basic rules when you're a public figure and you make a mistake: you apologize, you apologise early," Montoya said. "I think he did that, he apologised, himself. He did the right thing so far, and I think he's going to do more in the coming months."
Montoya, who recalled the affair between former president Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, argued that apologising helps a lot.
"In America, the audience can be very, very forgiving, when you take responsibility and apologise," he said. "When you don't take responsibility and apologize, you're seen as arrogant and above the law, a la Martha Stewart."
According to Montoya, celebrities who ignore this rule end up paying the price.
These include Cruise, whose reputation suffered in 2005 due to his exuberant behavior and forceful advocacy of the Church of Scientology, to which he belongs.
Cruise's image problem is blamed in part for a disappointing box office performance of his movie "Mission Impossible 3," which was released this summer.
"There are some limitations," however, to what could be rescued, opined Robert Thompson, professor of television at the University of Syracuse.
"I would not in a million years like to be handling the PR for Mel Gibson right now.
"We're talking about a community he has to operate in, a Hollywood community," the professor continued. "He's going to have a very difficult time, not to mention the fact that there had been some accusations during The Passion of the Christ release."
"Obviously there are lots of Jewish people working in Hollywood, but it's not so much that. Hollywood in general does not look happily upon this kind of misbehaviour," Thompson said.
"Any kind of movie he wants to make, he's going to ... carry with him the baggage of this story."
Hollywood Reporter analyst Anne Thompson recalled that Gibson is not beholden to Hollywood.
"Gibson is wealthy enough to be able to write his own ticket as an independent filmmaker and seems more interested in producing and directing than starring in his films.
"But his name is still the primary force behind his movies. And this weekend's incident could prove damaging to that name."
Variety editor Peter Bart said he has watched this sort of behaviour from Gibson for years: "Through his incoherent tirades, he has betrayed his friends and colleagues. But most importantly, he has betrayed himself."