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Warner Bros. shelves Mel Gibson Maccabee movie

By Sharon Waxman and Brent Lang
TheWrap

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Warner's has a long history of collaborating with Gibson, but the star was upset after the studio rescinded his cameo in "The Hangover Part II" when the crew protested his involvement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

537Comments
Apr 11, 2012 3:16PM
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they should get over it. seriously, you didn't hear any greeks complain about meet the spartans which i find very offensive because my family is from sparta and i did not throw a fit over it. the jews shouldn't complain its not as if the movie is mocking them
Apr 11, 2012 3:15PM
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  Obviously the Jewish faith doesn't believe in forgiveness-once you cross them you are on their "****-list" forever. A little Christian charity/forgiveness might be a nice touch here.  Why not let him direct the film first (sounds like an interesting topic) and then judge it on its merits-not based on how you feel about things he said (while drunk) years ago.
Apr 11, 2012 3:14PM
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It seems to me the Jewish community wants to control creative freedom. What are they afraid of, it is Common knowledge the Jews control the financial world, They call Jesus Christ a magician and the new testament a lie. Why are they so concerned about the truth or a verified recreation of the fact. Mel Gibson should be able to express his ideas openly and any attempt to stop or prevent this is criminal.

Apr 11, 2012 3:14PM
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The day has arrived ,free speech is extinct
Apr 11, 2012 3:14PM
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The US doesn't need an outside foreign terrorist, it has it's own hate to cripple itself.

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