It didn’t take long for one prominent org, the Anti-Defamation League, to raise objections to the news that Mel Gibson is planning to direct a movie about Jewish hero Judah Maccabee.
The studio had no comment other than to confirm that the project is in development.
Abraham Foxman, the national director of ADL, issued a statement on Friday that they “would have hoped that Warner Bros. could have found someone better than Mel Gibson to direct or perhaps star” in the biopic.
“As a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty, Judah Maccabee deserves better. It would be a travesty to have the story of the Maccabees told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people’s religious views.
“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. Rather than listen to respected religious leaders, both Christian and Jewish, who voiced concerns then about the insensitive elements of his depiction of the last hours and crucifixion of Jesus, Gibson showed contempt for those voices and refused to make changes that might have helped turn his passion of hate into a passion of love.
“While we do not argue with Mel Gibson’s right to make this film, we still strongly believe that Warner Bros. should reconsider Gibson’s involvement in this project.”
The screenplay for the project comes from Joe Eszterhas.
Other prominent Jewish figures have weighed in as well, including the Rabbi Marvin Hier, who told CNN that the idea of Gibson doing the movie was “frankly preposterous.”
The studio had no comment, other than to confirm that the project was in development.
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been working on a Maccabee book, posted an interview with Gibson. Several years ago, he had heard that Gibson was interested in the story, and he told that to his friend Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens’ response? “You must go to Los Angeles and stop him.”
Goldberg writes, “So I did. I went to L.A. and spent an intermittently pleasant afternoon with Gibson. Obviously, I failed in my mission, but truth be told, I didn’t actually try very hard. I was so unbelievably amused to be in the presence of Hollywood’s leading anti-Semite, as well as one of my favorite actors ( “The Year of Living Dangerously” is a much-loved movie here at Goldblog), that I didn’t argue against the idea. In any case, we wound up having a surprisingly complicated theological and historical discussion, about which I will write in my forthcoming book. But I thought, given the news of the week, that I would share some of the more absurd, and enlightening, moments of this visit.”
Update: Gibson’s spokesman Alan Nierob says, “I believe their comment is directed at Warner Bros. and not my client for comment.” He adds that he knows nothing about the suggestion that Gibson would star in the movie. “Not sure why they would suggest him starring in it as it doesn’t really make any sense as the lead character of Judah Maccabee is a lot younger.”