Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant during a drunk driving arrest continues to follow him like tin cans tied to a dog’s tail. But his dispute with writer Joe Eszterhas over his Jewish sentiments, is beginning to mushroom beyond a Hollywood pissing match.
Eszterhas fired a broadside yesterday (Apr. 12) accusing Gibson of all manner of anti-Semitic remarks while they worked on a script, ironically, for a movie about an ancient Jewish war hero, Judas Maccabee.
Eszterhas’s nine page memo (he’s a writer, right?) began circulating in Hollywood and eventually landing on the desks of Hollywood gossips, which have been trying to sort things out, amid allegations they are fanning the flames to generate audience.
Now, however, the issue has spilled over into the broader Jewish community. Rabbi Marvin Hier who runs the LA-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has spoken out against Gibson’s participation and the Center itself has taken a formal position in a statement.
“In view of the outrageous anti-Semitic 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 Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Ouch. But that’s not all.
Eszterhas’s credibility as well as sincerity are being questioned because he only raised concerns about Gibson after his script was rejected by Warner Bros. So his missive kind of begs the question: Why didn’t he quit if he was so upset about Gibson’s alleged slurs instead of waiting until his script was rejected.
On the other hand, scripts are rejected and/or rewritten as a matter of routine on film projects. So nothing unusual there, except for the fact that Eszterhas is known as a hot head with an over-sized ego. Of course, the same could be said for Gibson, who, by the way, is no dummy.
He saw his loophole and he dove right through it. “I would have thought that a man of principle, as you purport to be, would have withdrawn from the project regardless of the money if you truly believed me to be the person you describe in your letter,” he wrote in his response.
“I guess you only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your script,” he added. Bingo!
Then, Gibson goes on to damn Eszterhas’s work. Not only did he deliver the script late, Gibson claims, but he also says the writer phone in his work.
“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,” he added.
Now the ball is in Warner Bros. court. Will they go forward with the movie or shelve it? In any event, Gibson is determined to make the film. And, you know what happened the last time he took the bit in his teeth: “The Passion of the Christ.” Ka-ching!!!
Update: Eszterhas now says he has a tape of Gibson’s rant. Does everybody tape Mel? See Below