When Warner Bros announced in September 2011 that they were backing a movie directed by Mel Gibson about Jewish icon Judah Maccabee, the initial reaction was shock. “Mel Gibson is directing a movie about what?!” Jewish leaders blasted the decision, understandably upset a religious hero would be realized by a man who muttered “f*cking Jews” and said “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” during his infamous 2006 DUI arrest by a Jewish cop.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, took it a step further at the time. He said, “Casting him as a director or perhaps as the star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a white supremacist as trying to portray Martin Luther King Jr. It’s simply an insult to Jews.”
The bizarre development was only exacerbated by the fact that screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) was penning the script and it would be a bloody Braveheart-esque struggle for freedom. In 166 BC, Maccabee led a revolt against Greek leadership that forbade Jewish religious practices, and I can only imagine he bellowed “FREEDOM!”
Only, the Most Intriguing Movie Ever is now officially on hold, while Warner Bros “analyzes what to do with the project,” according to the Wrap. Naturally, the fallout has been nasty, fulfilling the prophecy of a public outcry even though the movie may never even happen.
Upon learning WB had shelved the script, one of his first since retiring with a medical condition in 2001, Eszterhas blasted Gibson, WB, and anyone else in the crossfire in a nine-page letter that claims the producers never intended to make the Maccabee movie, only exploit its Jewish heroism to somehow prove Gibson is not an anti-Semite. Eszterhas clearly thinks that effort is futile. Eszterhas wrote to Gibson, ”I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make The Maccabees is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.”
Eszterhas continues, saying, ”You continually called Jews ‘Hebes’ and ‘oven-dodgers’ and ‘Jewboys.’ It seemed that most times when we discussed someone, you asked ‘He’s a Hebe, isn’t he?’ You said most ‘gatekeepers’ of American companies were ‘Hebes’ who ‘controlled their bosses.’” Gibson also said, according to Eszterhas, the Holocaust was “mostly a lot of horsesh*t” and the intention of the movie was “to convert the Jews to Christianity.” Gibson directed the controversial 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ, still the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all-time, and claims he has been developing the Maccabee project for ten years.
Warner Bros. production president Greg Silverman told Eszterhas the script had “no feeling” or a “sense of triumph,” sounding like he’s rejecting a distant girlfriend not a script. Gibson, as always, was more to the point. He said, in his own letter, “In 25 years of script development I have never seen a more substandard first draft or a more significant waste of time.” Gibson also called some details an “utter fabrication.” Eszterhas claims he has it on tape. Hug it out?
Today, The Wrap posted a review of M.C.K.B.I., the script Eszterhas delivered in February – when I do that, I’m immediately contacted by WB lawyers. Their report, before it disappears, confirms the script is extremely similar to Braveheart and the tone of Passion of the Christ (plus a comparison to The Terminator), including Judah slicing throats, snapping necks, and chopping off heads. Of course, Judah Maccabee also declares in Eszterhas’ draft, “We will be free! The day will come when we’ll be free! We will be free to pray to our God!”
There’s no doubt Eszterhas is exploiting this bitter feud for his own personal gain. He was on “The Today Show” last week expressing his outrage, as if accepting the job in the first place wasn’t a similar conflict of interest. (Ezstherhas wrote a book in 2008 titled Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, in which he blasted Gibson.) But the new rash of headlines about Gibson “hating Jews” comes inconveniently as the former A-lister is attempting to revitalize his image, and just before Gibson’s latest release, Get the Gringo. Yes, Gibson is starring in a movie with a racial slur in the title. He co-wrote it. And it is headed straight to video-on-demand.