Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas is accusing Mel Gibson, his recent collaborator on a movie about Jewish revolt, of “hating Jews” and using him to deflect his anti-Semitic reputation.
In an explosive nine-page letter to Gibson obtained by TheWrap, the screenwriter wrote that the director of “The Passion of the Christ” never intended to make the movie about Jewish heroism, called “The Maccabees.”
Instead, Eszterhas said, Gibson announced the project “in an attempt to deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism which have dogged you, charges which have crippled your career.”
He added: “I've come to the conclusion that the reason you won't make ‘The Maccabees' is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.”
TheWrap reported earlier that Warner Bros. has put the controversial project on hold, and rejected Eszterhas's script as lacking in “a sense of triumph.”
A spokesman for Gibson had no immediate comment.
Eszterhas' letter reveals a more complex dynamic, a disturbing picture of Gibson as a man yet again out of control, inflicting frequent rages on those around him, in the grip of an anti-Semitic obsession, and possibly dangerous to those around him.
On several occasions, said Eszterhas, Gibson “was wild, crazed, and explosive.”
The April 9 letter also recounts Gibson's threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Gregorieva.
“You were raving at Oksana even after you'd reached a custody agreement over Luci,” their daughter, the letter says. “And then you were even more explicit about your threat: “I'm going to kill her! I'm going to have her killed!” You said you'd become friends with two FBI agents (or former FBI agents) and they were going to help you to kill her.”
Gibson's anti-Semitic obsession was a leitmotif of working on the film together at Gibson's homes in Malibu and Costa Rica, Eszterhas said.
"You continually called Jews 'Hebes' and 'oven-dodgers' and 'Jewboys.' It seemed that most times when we discussed someone, you asked 'He's a Hebe, isn't he?' You said most 'gatekeepers' of American companies were 'Hebes' who 'controlled their bosses.'"
The slurs continued, through their work:
“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, ... you insisted 'it's in the Torah -- it's in there!' (It isn't)."
And he said Gibson told him that his intention in making “The Maccabees” was “to convert the Jews to Christianity.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he was not surprised by Eszterhas' allegations. Hier has been a critic of Gibson's involvement in the Maccabee project since the film was announced in September.
“I was was not among those that offered any forgiveness,” Hier said. “The whole apology was a joke. It was written by a publicity agent. If he wanted to profoundly apologize, he could do it the right way. He could visit a concentration camp. He could take a course on Holocaust studies. He could write an opinion piece. He did none of that, so it comes as no surprise to me.”
Eszterhas, who declined to comment for this story, has himself lived a tumultuous life. He was at one point one of Hollywood's highest-paid, most sought-after screenwriters, writing such hits as the erotic thriller “Basic Instinct” and “Flashdance.”
He had a religious awakening after contracting throat cancer in 2001 and left Hollywood, moving back to his native Cleveland.
Eszterhas has dealt candidly with anti-Semitism in his own family, writing a book about his Hungarian father's pro-Nazi past (his father was investigated by the Justice Department for alleged war crimes). He also wrote “The Music Box,” starring Jessica Lange as the daughter of an immigrant learning that her father was a war criminal. The film was loosely based on his family.
The Maccabee project, which Eszterhas said he worked on for two years, was his first major foray back into the movie industry. And he said it was “an attempt to somewhat ease my personal paternal burden.”
After encountering Gibson's conduct, Eszterhas writes that he felt trapped, but then decided to ignore the racist remarks and write the script based on his own research.
He implores Gibson to return the script to him. With Warner rejecting the script, Gibson has the option to take it elsewhere.
Brent Lang contributed to this report