After catching serious heat from Jewish groups from practically the moment it was first announced, Mel Gibson’s in-the-works film about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee no longer has a screenwriter attached to it, stalling its progress at Warner Bros. The studio passed on screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’ script in February, EW has confirmed, and although it remains in development, no other writer has yet been hired for the project. (TheWrap first reported the news.)
The Anti-Defamation League condemned the project last fall, contending that it was insensitive for Gibson — whose career has been darkened by reported anti-Semetic remarks and allegations of domestic violence — to make a film about Maccabee, whose revolt against the Seleucid Empire is the catalyst for the holiday of Hanukkah.
Gibson’s attitude towards Judaism may come under even sharper scrutiny, thanks to some incendiary allegations made by Eszterhas, according to a report from TheWrap. In a letter purportedly sent from Eszterhas to Gibson, the screenwriter of Flashdance, Basic Instinct and Showgirls first complains that Gibson had not contacted him after Warner Bros. turned down his script. He then accuses Gibson of using the film “to deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism” against him, and that he had no intention of making the film. “I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make The Maccabees is the ugliest possible one,” Eszterhas reputedly writes. “You hate Jews.”
Ezsterhas then goes on to list a series of exchanges he allegedly had with Gibson in which the Oscar-winning director called Jews “Hebes,” “oven-dodgers,” and “Jewboys,” and calling into question the veracity of the Holocaust. The letter also alleges Gibson threatened to have ex-girlfriend Oksana Gregorieva killed.
Ezsterhas’ manager had no comment. Gibson’s rep did not immediately have a comment at press time.