Aussie screen icon and legendary prankster Mel Gibson enjoys the challenge of tackling roles that explore the dark and somewhat reckless elements of a character. So, what's the appeal?

"Talk to any kid and ask what kind of story they want to hear at night. The one with the birds and flowers ? Bambi ? or the Grimm's fairy tales where you have to face your own id. I want the nightmare," he tells Movieline. "I need that conflict, the edginess that makes you want to know what happens next."

Shying away from squeaky-clean screen heroes, Gibson has consciously made choices throughout his career to play characters with villainous leanings, and he believes audiences can relate to them. "Everybody has those dark sides," he explains. "There's something there people can understand. You say, 'Can I do this and have people understand the character, even though he's committing heinous acts?' I find that an interesting challenge."

Gibson's latest challenge is in the Revolutionary War-themed summer flick The Patriot. He plays Benjamin Martin, a veteran of the French and Indian War who is forced back into combat to protect his children. This time around, Gibson pierced the darkness of his character and got fired up about Robert Rodat's script.

"Rodat is pretty dark when he gets going, and he really displays it here. It was a really personal story that put a guy into an extraordinary situation. I love that. There are elements to the story that are shocking, and yet it has to go there to convey the character's desperation. It's kind of knuckle-dragging stuff."