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Warner's has a long history of collaborating with Gibson, but the star was upset after the studio rescinded his cameo in "The Hangover Part II" when the crew protested his involvement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

539Comments
Apr 11, 2012 3:12PM
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Political correctness strikes again. You are allowed an opinion only if it offends none the "protected groups" to wit, Jews, Negros, Women, Hispanics, Homosexuals, American Indians, Muslims, the Handicapped and any combination of the groups that would form yet another group.

Yes, the Holocaust was a terrific evil, as was the Irish Potato famine, the rape of the New World, the conquest of the Native Americans, the genocide in Darfur, Uganda, Rwanda, the Congo just to name a few of the latest. Point is evil befalls all lets acknowledge that the Jews weren't the only people to be nearly eliminated from the face of the earth.  
Apr 11, 2012 3:10PM
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I am having a hard time understanding why the portrayal of the Jewish people is controversial. The Bible is very clear in it's record of the illegal Jewish court, and they're condemning The Christ. And when Pilate tried to release him, WHO cried out for his death? I find it ironic that the Jewish faith is in denial of this, yet when those who deny the Holocaust speak out they get upset. I see no difference. The record is clear, both of these event's took place. I absolutely do not agree with Mel's hurtful outburst's, but if I am correct, one MUST forgive to be forgiven. I am pretty confident that there is room for that in BOTH faiths. Move on.

 

Apr 11, 2012 3:09PM
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To honeybadger -

 

Getting rid of religion is not the answer to the political correctness problem.  Getting rid of political correctness is the answer.  We do that by telling the truth as it is without being nasty about it.  All political correctness is, is a way for people to justify their immoral behavior and behavior that is just plain wrong by saying that if anyone disagrees with it their being bashed.  We need to call it like we see it and not be afraid of people crying "he offended me, or she offended me" like whiny babies. 

Apr 11, 2012 3:09PM
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The Jews are known around the world as whinners. I don't know if it is true or not and really don't care. That said they should have accepted Mels' apology and moved on. But no, they would rather trash a mans 40 year career for one misguided remark. If Mel was a gay murderer all would be forgiven by now. Go figure.
Apr 11, 2012 3:08PM
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anyone every think it might be a attempt to rectify previous wrong doings? Everyone deserve a second chance to make amends.  I have forgiveness for the one's who have wronged me and it makes me a much better person. People are forgiven for there sins as it states in the good book if you truly repent. WWJD?
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