Robert Downey Jr.: Please Forgive Mel Gibson

The actor asked Hollywood to offer his troubled pal "the same clean slate" they offered him in the past

Robert Downey Jr. knows what it's like to have his personal failures on display for all of the world to see. So it was particularly poignant to hear him ask Hollywood to forgive Mel Gibson.

At the 25th Annual American Cinematheque Award Ceremony -- which honored the Sherlock Holmes star on Oct. 14 -- Gibson was introduced to present Downey with the prestigious achievement award. 

Gibson -- who starred opposite Downey in 1990's Air America and then directed him in 2003's The Singing Detective at a time when the actor was considered untouchable -- reportedly paid out of his own pocket to have Downey insured for the film.

During his brief tribute to Downey, Gibson said: "You are my friend. When I saw you all those years ago and got all those warnings, I just thought, 'There's nothing so much wrong with him. You're a good dude with a good heart.'"

When Downey hit the stage, he took a moment to express his gratitude to Gibson.

"I asked Mel to present this award for me for a reason. When I couldn't get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn't have to be his or anyone else's as long as it was rooted in forgiveness," he said. "And I couldn't get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table and most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly – hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I'd become a man."

Downey went on to ask for the audience's help in restoring Gibson to the artistic community.

"I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong f—ing industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He's hugged the cactus long enough."

If the audience's applause is any indication, perhaps Gibson -- who looked choked up as Downey spoke -- can have that second chance he needs.

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