It is hard to imagine a more explosive combination than Mel Gibson and Joe Eszterhas. Both are famously volatile and outspoken. Mel Gibson is a devout Catholic, an actor, writer, and director whose many appearances in the tabloids have included a drunken rant with ugly anti-Semitic comments, a drunken rant with misogynistic and abusive comments directed at his girlfriend and the mother of his baby. Many critics also accused him of anti-Semitism in the portrayal of some of the Jewish characters in his film, “The Passion of the Christ.”
So it was a subject of more than usual interest when Gibson announced he would make a movie about one of the most famous triumphs in Jewish history in the first-ever war over religious freedom, an event that is celebrated each year at Hanukah. He was working with Eszterhas, raised Catholic, a reporter and editor turned screenwriter (“Showgirls,” “Basic Instinct”), who has received awards for his two films about anti-Semitism (“The Music Box” and “Betrayed”).
Eszterhas, who worked on the script for two years, has now quit the project and sent Gibson a nine-page memo accusing him of never having any intention of making the movie and announcing the project only to deflect the accusations of anti-Semitism. “I’ve come to the conclusion that the only reason you won’t make ‘The Maccabees’ is the ugliest one: You hate Jews.” The memo includes truly shocking descriptions of Gibson’s statements and actions, including his saying that he wanted the movie to “convert Jews to Christianity” and ugly comments and threats about Gibson’s former girlfriend.
I am sorry to see the talented Gibson apparently brought down by his demons. And I hope someone else will pick up the idea of a film about the Maccabees.