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Warner's has a long history of collaborating with Gibson, but the star was upset after the studio rescinded his cameo in "The Hangover Part II" when the crew protested his involvement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

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.
Apr 11, 2012 3:18PM
Does Warner's really think they'll get a Oscar quality film about Judaism from an antisemitic person?

Although Gibson could do the bit about the Maccabees guerrilla operations in the mountains around Modin fairly well, I doubt he could comprehend the interchange between Mattathias and Judah during their retreat to the mountains after the slaying of the Greko Serian soldier in the temple; ditto for the Maccabee raids on the occupied Modin to both fight the oppressors and love their enslaved kin.  There is so much Jewish heritage about the escape from slavery in Babylon, formation of a nation, submission to the Ptolemies to fend off the Seleucids, loss of the Ptolemies to Antiochus and the Seleucids, the eventual overthrow of the Seleucids by the Maccabees, and the rededication of the temple that I'm thinking Warner really needs a Jewish scholar which Gibson is not.
Apr 11, 2012 3:18PM

Why is that almost every Christian Bible contains the Old Testament as well as the New Testament? Why must we consider everything we learned as children regarding the veracity of the Bible and biblical scholars to be taken as 100% accurate? Is the world really only 6000 years old?


When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, a Palestinian state was also formed. Unfortunately, this was rejected by Israel's neighbors, who, in turn, attacked Israel from all sides. Virtually all of the so-called civilized Western nations stood back, and in some instances, actually blockaded attempts to get arms to Israel. The King of Saudi Arabia (the home of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers) stated that "there are 50 million Arabs, if it takes 5 million of our sons dying to wipe out Israel, it is worth the price>"


The anti-Jewish venom of some of the posters on this blog is truly astounding but, unfortunately, not unexpected. Of course there have been crooked financiers, politicians, liars and murderers that happened to be Jewish. But in fairness, one would also have to acknowledge the contributions that Jews have made to our society as well...and they have been significant.


When an unflattering tele-movie was about to be released about former President Reagan shortly after his death, there was an uproar as to its inappropriateness (particularly considering the timing), but no one doubted the objectors' right to block its release.


And, finally, for some of you less informed imbeciles, Israel did not solicit the United States; support. In fact, until the 1967 Six Day War, France was the major supporter of Israel and its survival. It was only when the former Soviet Union signaled its interest in supporting Israel, that the U.S. took a more active roll in that country's survival. Russia then turned to supporting the Arabs leaving us we are today.


As one of the bloggers pointed out, it is in many of us to hate, to lie, to bully and to cheat. Those that do are not true Christians.


A Christian Minister




I'm tired of the same people who control entertainment industry always squashing potential TRUTHS in films................You cannot hide the truth forever!



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