In a letter to actor/director Mel Gibson, famed screenwriter Joe Eszterhas told the Hollywood star, "you hate Jews," and detailed the numerous occasions on which Gibson referred to Jews as "Hebes" and "oven dodgers" and "Jew boys." The occasion for the letter was the cancellation of the project for a planned movie about the Jewish Maccabees. Gibson had hired Eszterhas, a Catholic, to write a script for the movie, which has now been shelved by the Warner Bros. movie studio.
According to a report at The Wrap Web site, which published the letter from Eszterhas to Gibson in full, the screenwriter questioned Gibson's intentions for the film project. Wrote Eszterhas, "I've come to the conclusion that you never had, or have, any intention of making a film about the Maccabees. I believe you announced the project with great fanfare -- a 'Jewish Braveheart' -- in an attempt to deflect the continuing charges of antisemitism which have dogged you, charges which have crippled your career. I've come to the conclusion that you used me. More exactly, you used my credentials ... I've come to the conclusion that the reason you won't make 'The Maccabees' is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews."
Eszterhas, who has written screenplays for movies that dealt with anti-Semitism, "Music Box" and "Betrayed," went into detail regarding the instances in which Gibson referred to Jews in a derogatory manner, insulted the Jewish religion or questioned the veracity of the Holocaust. "You said the Holocaust was 'mostly a lot of horseshit.' You said the Torah made reference to the sacrifice of Christian babies and infants. When I told you that you were confusing the Torah with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, one of the most scurrilous anti-Semitic tracts ever written, you insisted, 'it's in the Torah -- it's in there.' (It isn't.)" Eszterhas is of Hungarian parentage and was raised in Ohio.
On April 11, Warner Bros. studios announced that the Maccabee film project was "on hold", because studio executives said they were unhappy with the script. When Gibson first proposed the film idea, Jewish groups protested, questioning why any studio would want to produce a movie from a director and actor with a known anti-Semitic past.
Gibson, who was born in the United States but raised in Australia when his parents emigrated there in the 1960s, has had several run-ins with the law in recent years, along with romantic entanglements, a divorce, and an out-of-wedlock child that have been serialized in tabloids. He is the director of the widely praised, and vilified, Passion of the Christ – a film that showed in brutal detail Gibson’s perspective on the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson is known for his anti-Semitic views, as well as his criticisms of the Catholic Church, while claiming to adhere to pre-Vatican Council II norms of faith. Mel Gibson is the father of six children and is now divorced from his Anglican wife. While Gibson was raised as a Catholic, it was last believed that he was attending a break-off sect that uses a traditional liturgy for the Roman Catholic mass at the Church of the Holy Family, in Malibu (Calif.) which is not affiliated with the local Catholic diocese.
Mel Gibson lashed back at Eszterhas, saying that the script for the Maccabees project was unacceptable. In a letter to Eszterhas, Gibson wrote "I will say that the great majority of the facts as well as the statements and actions attributed to me in your letter are utter fabrications." Gibson does acknowledge his use of forceful language, saying " I did react more strongly than I should have." But explained, "I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms."
Regarding the disputed screenplay, Gibson wrote "Not only was the script delivered later than you promised, both 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."
In his letter, Gibson addresses Eszterhas' claim that the director "hates Jews" and made anti-Semitic statements. "Contrary to your assertion that I was only developing Maccabees to burnish my tarnished reputation, I have been working on this project for over 10 years and it was publicly announced 8 years ago."
Gibson closed by writing, "I think that we can agree that this should be our last communication."
Full text of Mel Gibson's letter to Joe Eszterhas:
I have your letter. I am not going to respond to it line by line, but I will say that the great majority of the facts as well as the statements and actions attributed to me in your letter are utter fabrications. 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. I guess you only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your script.
I will acknowledge like most creative people I am passionate and intense. I was very frustrated that when you arrived at my home at the expense of both Warner Brothers and myself you hadn’t written a single word of a script or even an outline after 15 months of research, meetings, discussions and the outpouring of my heartfelt vision for this story. I did react more strongly than I should have. I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms.
Contrary to your assertion that I was only developing Maccabees to burnish my tarnished reputation, I have been working on this project for over 10 years and it was publicly announced 8 years ago. I absolutely want to make this movie; it’s just that neither Warner Brothers nor I want to make this movie based on your script.
Honestly, Joe, not only was the script delivered later than you promised, both 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.
I think that we can agree that this should be our last communication.