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."
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Warner's has a long history of collaborating with Gibson, but the star was upset after the studio rescinded his cameo in "The Hangover Part II" when the crew protested his involvement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.
The US doesn't need an outside foreign terrorist, it has it's own hate to cripple itself.
Nobody is trying to give Christians a bad name.
They do well enough in that effort themselves.
It would appear that the Jewish leaders of today are not much different than they were 2000 years ago. At that time they called for the Crucifixion of Christ and today they are figuratively doing the same thing for Gibson because they disapproved of the movie that Mel Gibson made on the Passion of the Christ.
It would appear that the truth is something they don't want to face. Well if the shoe fits, wear it. It is history and you can't change the fact that the crucifixion and the rebellion of Judah Maccabee happened. It won't go away. What is astonishing is that they had a chance to show the heroics of a man that fought for his beliefs but their hatred of Mel Gibson, led to their discrimination against him as punishment for a film that showed what happened 2000 years ago when Jewish mob rule led their ancestors to call for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Jewish leaders of today do not what people to know what happened 2000 years ago so they say that to explain or show it is now called antisemitism instead of history and that inflames their sensibilities.
Maybe they should take a closer look at themselves and then maybe they will realize that while they are the chosen people of God He did not grant them immunity from wrong doing.