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Mel Gibson’s Judah Maccabee Film Put on Hold as Screenwriter Accuses Director of Anti-Semitism

Written by on April 11, 2012 

People, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, raised their hands in protest when, back in September, it was reported that Mel Gibson would direct a historical epic centered on ancient warrior and Jewish icon Judah Maccabee. (Put two and two together, if the ensuing controversy isn’t blindingly clear by now.)

They may not have to worry any longer, though, as TheWrap reports that Warner Bros. have decided to put things on hold for the moment, reportedly because Joe Eszterhas‘ script was bereft of “feeling” or “a sense of triumph.” Gibson could take it to another studio, and the aforementioned reasons may very well be true — Eszterhas is far from a great screenwriter, if you ask me — but the man behind the words has a very different, far more personal reason, and doesn’t even want the film to hit screens.

In a furious letter, also found at TheWrap, Eszterhas claims Gibson never really wanted to make a Maccabee film — instead, his intent was to “deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism which have dogged [him], charges which have crippled [his] career.” But, worse, Eszterhas goes on to say that Gibson‘s ultimate reason for not making it would be, quite simply, because the filmmaker “hate[s] Jews.” And if he did get around to it? His intention would be “to convert the Jews to Christianity.” Oy.

There’s some personal stuff about Gibson hiring FBI agents to kill his ex-girlfriend but, somewhat back on topic — maybe I was amused by that note and just wanted to throw it in — it’s alleged that he would often use anti-Semitic slurs (“oven-dodgers” among them) and made Holocaust denials while still on his tirades. Which is to say, don’t expect these two on the red carpet if Judah Maccabee ever goes forward.

Update: Deadline has obtained Gibson‘s response to Eszterhas, which can be read below:


I have your letter. I am not going to respond to it line by line, but I will say that the great majority of the facts as well as the statements and actions attributed to me in your letter are utter fabrications. I would have thought that a man of principle, as you purport to be, would have withdrawn from the project regardless of the money if you truly believed me to be the person you describe in your letter. I guess you only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your script.

I will acknowledge like most creative people I am passionate and intense. I was very frustrated that when you arrived at my home at the expense of both Warner Brothers and myself you hadn’t written a single word of a script or even an outline after 15 months of research, meetings, discussions and the outpouring of my heartfelt vision for this story. I did react more strongly than I should have. I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms.

Contrary to your assertion that I was only developing Maccabees to burnish my tarnished reputation, I have been working on this project for over 10 years and it was publicly announced 8 years ago. I absolutely want to make this movie; it’s just that neither Warner Brothers nor I want to make this movie based on your script.

Honestly, Joe, not only was the script delivered later than you promised, both Warner Brothers and I were extraordinarily disappointed with the draft. In 25 years of script development I have never seen a more substandard first draft or a more significant waste of time. The decision not to proceed with you was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor.

I think that we can agree that this should be our last communication.


Are you disappointed Gibson’s Maccabee film is possibly dead in the water?

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