The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on Hollywood to drop plans for a Mel Gibson film about the legendary Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee after the actor and film-maker was accused of making antisemitic remarks by screenwriter Joe Eszterhas.
Deadline reports that the LA-based international Jewish human rights organisation said it was speaking out after allegations by Eszterhas, whose screenplay was turned down by studio Warner Bros earlier this week, that Gibson sabotaged his film about the famous 2nd century BC Jewish revolt because he "hates Jews". After discovering his screenplay was not being picked up, Eszterhas wrote a nine-page letter to Gibson in which he accused his former collaborator of using the project "to deflect continuing charges of antisemitism which have dogged you, charges which have crippled your career". He also cited occasions when Gibson had threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, Oksana Grigorieva, and accused the film-maker and actor of using offensive terms such as "hebes", "oven-dodgers" and "Jewboys" to describe Jews during their time working together.
A statement from the Simon Wiesenthal Center read: "In view of the outrageous antisemitic and bigoted statements recounted in Joe Eszterhas' letter to Mel Gibson, the Simon Wiesenthal Center calls upon Warner Brothers (or any other studio) to permanently shelve the Maccabee project as long as Mel Gibson is associated with the film. 'It would be an insult to Jews and a desecration to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust to go forward with the Maccabee project,' said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center."
Gibson had earlier hit back at Eszterhas, claiming the writer of Basic Instinct "only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your script" and denying most of the allegations against him. His suggestion in an open letter published by Deadline that the project might go ahead with a different screenwriter appears to have prompted the statement from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Meanwhile it appears that Gibson's latest film as an actor, the Mexico-set Get the Gringo, is going straight to view-on-demand in the US. Gibson plays a man who is convicted of a crime and sent to a tough Mexican prison, where he learns to survive with the help of a nine-year-old boy. The film was shot two years ago under the title How I Spent My Summer Vacation, but has languished in the wake of the repeated scandals surrounding the film-maker.
Photo of Mel Gibson via cinemafestival / Shutterstock.com