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Warner Bros. shelves Mel Gibson Maccabee movie

By Sharon Waxman and Brent Lang

Exclusive -- Warner Bros. has put on hold a controversial Mel Gibson movie project about the Jewish Maccabee revolt in the 2nd century B.C. after reading the script by writer Joe Eszterhas, TheWrap has learned.

A spokesman for the studio told TheWrap, "We are analyzing what to do with the project."

Jewish groups were outraged after news broke in September that Gibson had reached a production deal with Warner's to direct the story of Judah Maccabee, whose victory over Greek and Syrian armies is celebrated at Hanukkah. One Jewish group called it "a moral lapse in judgment."

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Eszterhas delivered the script in late February, and Warner's has since passed on it, according to an individual close to the project. Warner production president Greg Silverman described it as lacking in "feeling" and "a sense of triumph," according to the individual.

As another individual put it, "The script didn't pass muster."

A spokesman for Gibson had no immediate comment. Eszterhas declined to comment.

Warner's has a long history of collaborating with Gibson, but the star was upset after the studio rescinded his cameo in "The Hangover Part II" when the crew protested his involvement

Also on TheWrap: Mel Gibson's Judah Maccabee Film Stirs Jewish Leaders' Ire

The project involved one of Gibson's favored themes: an underdog army fighting for freedom. In 165 B.C., Jewish leader Maccabee led his brothers in revolt against the Seleucid Empire, ruled by Antiochus Epiphanes, who had forbidden Jewish practices.

Noting his checkered history of making anti-Semitic remarks and his controversial depiction of Jews in his 2003 film "The Passion of the Christ," Jewish leaders said the choice of Gibson to direct a film about a prominent figure in their religion was insensitive.

"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," Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement after the project was announced.

The Anti-Defamation League asked Warner's to reconsider the choice of Gibson. In a statement, the group said, "Not only has Mel Gibson shown outward antagonism toward Jews and Judaism in his public statements and actions, but his previous attempt to bring biblical history to life on the screen was marred by anti-Semitism."

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The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants labeled the choice of Gibson a "moral lapse of judgment."

"Given our brutal experience, we are pained that Warner's has abandoned principle and taken this unworthy path," the group said at the time.

Gibson was detained by police in Malibu for drunken driving in 2006 and found himself embroiled in a public relations fiasco when reports surfaced that he had launched into expletive-laden anti-Semitic remarks while in custody.

It was left to Eszterhas to offer a modest defense of Gibson in a New York Times interview in February. The screenwriter noted that he had an anger problem but said he understood how to make a movie of the story of Maccabee on a "Braveheart"-like scale.

"We both saw it as Mel, maybe from his heart, wanting to do a terrific 'Braveheart'-like movie about Jewish history," said Eszterhas, who said he was comfortable working with Gibson despite his problem.

Related articles on TheWrap:
Joe Eszterhas on Mel Gibson: He Wants to Do a 'Braveheart' on Jewish History
Robert Downey Jr. Urges Hollywood: 'Forgive Mel Gibson'
5 Ways Mel Gibson Can Save His Career

Apr 11, 2012 2:03PM
How was Passion of the Christ anti-Semitic??? When we watch movies about the holocaust we don't consider them anti-German. All races, ethnicities, and cultures have a dark past somewhere, but it's just a part of human history. Let's stop trying to play the "He's picking on me!" game and just get on with our lives. Despite what you may think of Mel's personal beliefs, he is a great actor/director and has a note worthy history to prove he is a professional. 
Apr 11, 2012 2:13PM
Mel Gibson's movies are amazingly well done and thought provoking. All of them have been inspiring and moving. I do not agree with this at all, and do not feel it would be insulting to the Jewish community. I really wish people would focus more on current issues at hand and not dwell on the past when centuries have gone by, Ironically, I was just wondering when he would do another movie after re-watching The Passion. My personal life is not always exemplary- that does not mean that I do not do some amazing things. In his work he is flawless.
Apr 11, 2012 2:09PM

Hollywood actors and actresses are given passes for all sorts of behavior. Just because Mel Gibson got drunk and spouted off some stuff that offended people, have't we ALL, at some time, said something offensive? Should we then be kicked, shunned, disrespected and loathed for the rest of our lives for one action?


He is an outstanding actor and a better director. I refuse to discount his talent and his accomplishments because he got drunk and insulted some people. For Pete's sake, people even forgave and asked for lienency for the terrorists of 9-11. There are MUCH worse things in life than whether a group of people were insulted.

Apr 11, 2012 2:02PM
Let the people decide, no one has to go to a movie that they don't want to as far as I know.  If all the trash that I see in movie ads hasn't corrupted peoples minds, why should this one be any different.  If you don't like it, picket the theater or stay home.
Apr 11, 2012 2:01PM
i'm getting kind of tired of jews complaining about things.  and blacks.  and mexicans. and asians. and whites. and people. and ?????.  let the man make his movie.  we will decide if we want to go see it.  i am somewhat capable of making up my own mind.
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