Mel Gibson’s Maccabee pic plan stirs ire

Jewish orgs scrutinize actor's contrition, studio's vision

Some Jewish orgs have reacted with consternation to Mel Gibson’s announcement that he will make a film about Jewish hero Judah Maccabee, questioning why Warner Bros. would put such a movie into development given the controversy over Gibson’s past anti-Semitic remarks.

Gibson has the first option to direct the drama, set up at Warner and to be produced through his Icon Prods. The parties are awaiting completion of the script by Joe Eszterhas.

In a statement issued Friday, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said, that the org “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,” Foxman said in the statement.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told Variety that “to me, it is like asking (Bernard) Madoff to play the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. It is an insult.” He said Gibson had not “resolved his mistakes by making amends” for his past remarks with actions like “having a dialogue with the Jewish community,” writing op-eds or visiting a concentration camp during his travels.

Shortly after his 2006 DUI arrest, during which he made anti-Semitic slurs to sheriff’s deputies, Gibson issued an apology in which he called his remarks “despicable” and said that he was “reaching out to the Jewish community for its help.” “I know there will be many in that community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable,” Gibson said, “but I pray that that door is not forever closed.”

Hier said: “My issue is not a press release, probably written by a public relations agency. Anybody can do that. That is not what Mel Gibson should do in terms of reaching out. It is making that statement believable by deeds.”

The studio had no comment other than to confirm that the project was in development.

Gibson’s spokesman, Alan Nierob, said of the ADL’s objections, “I believe their comment is directed at Warner Bros. and not my client for comment.” Hier’s comments, he said, were “not worth a response.” He added that he has heard nothing about the suggestion that Gibson would star in the movie given that “it doesn’t really make any sense, as the lead character of Judah Maccabee is a lot younger.”

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg wrote on the publication’s website Friday that Gibson had long been interested in making the project. Goldberg, who is working on a book about Maccabee, met with Gibson to talk about the project, and the star told Goldberg that his interest stemmed from reading the Book of Maccabees as a teenager and finding the stories therein “ripping good reads.” Gibson also recounting the cinematic aspects of the story, which is the basis for the Jewish holiday of Hannukah.

Goldberg asked him about his famous outburst during the 2006 DUI arrest, and Gibson replied, “I was loaded, and some stupid shit can come out of your mouth when you’re loaded.”

Hier and Foxman also object to Gibson’s involvement for “The Passion of the Christ,” which generated a storm of protest from Jewish orgs even as it became a breakout hit at the box office in 2004.”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,” Foxman said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

  • APA Logo

    APA Sets Salary Cuts and Furloughs in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

    Following in the steps of several agencies dealing with the coronavirus, APA has informed all offices of upcoming salary cuts along with possible suspensions and furloughs for employees due to the pandemic’s economic effect on the industry. APA board of directors will make the largest financial sacrifice. The move has been made to avoid layoffs [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content