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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."

Bing: Gibson doing 'Lethal Weapon 5'?

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Warner's has a long history of collaborating with Gibson, but the star was upset after the studio rescinded his cameo in "The Hangover Part II" when the crew protested his involvement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 3:20PM
Mel Gibson used to be someone I admired. What did I admire? HIs work. I don't know the man, and he doesn't know me. But from all his ranting in the past few seems as if he's very troubled. From what i gather, his family, Mother/Father are rather bigoted also. So the limb doesn't fall far from the tree. But if this is the way Mr. Gibson wants to live, by walking around espousing his hatred for this that and the other, than he will pay consequences. There are just too many people in the world who are affected by his rhetoric. This is what is causing his downfall. It's a shame, cause this man has talent, but his lack of love for others is becoming his downfall. He has no one to blame but himself and perhaps his up-bringing if it was filled with negativity against others not of his race/religion. Now, as an adult, he is responsible for how "HE" chooses to live among the rest of the world. Seems he's chosen a path that will bring him pain instead of success. Hopefully, for his sake, he might take a good look in the mirror and truly see who it is staring back at him. You can't fix what you won't acknowledge.
Apr 11, 2012 3:20PM

Mortgage fraud, major criminal banking activities, Wall Street criminal investment manipulation, all recently bringing the American economy to its knees. Dan Brown garbage books and movies distorting Christian beliefs.  Anything and everything to get Christ out of Christmas.  On and On and On.


Just how much do we take before we call it enough ? 

Apr 11, 2012 3:20PM

Jews wrote most of the popular Christmas Carols and have directed and produced and starred in many Christian themed movies....But no one ever makes a stink about that...


Wouldn't this be an opportunity for Mel to make amends for past mistakes? IDK it seems very unforgiving to me to not even see what he would do with it. Make him fund it himself and see what the finishe dproduct is before you make a decision.... Just saying...

Apr 11, 2012 3:20PM

Well so much for anything worth while coming out of hollywood...I guess we will have a summer of remakes and redos to look forward to, At least when Mel Gibson directed or starred in a movie it was worth watching.



Apr 11, 2012 3:20PM
There is no antisemitism in "Passion of the Christ" ! Christ was persecuted by the Jews. The movie "Barabas" told the story long before Mel did. Hell the chosen people even refused to follow the Commandments the first time Moses brought them down from the mountain. As far as I'm concerned they are all self proclaimed profits and blasphemers. This is America and anyone has the right to make any movie they want without being denied from a culture or religion that thinks they have more God given rights than anyone else. If a movie is intended to be a documentary about a certain time and is factually based then I say let him make the damn movie. One would think that a people that were enslaved by the Egyptians and hated by the Muslims and Nazi Germans would show a little more tolerence.
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