Mel Gibson's latest flick might not be helping his already shaky standing with the Jewish community.
The Oscar winner has been accused of anti-Semitism ever since the outburst following his notorious 2006 DUI, but that's not stopping Warner Bros. from greenlighting Gibson's latest pet project: a big-screen biopic about the life of biblical Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee.
So, what's the reaction to this?
The studio has confirmed it signed a deal with the actor-director's Icon Productions to oversee development of a screenplay to be written by Basic Instinct scribe Joe Eszterhas. The 55-year-old Gibson will produce the film through his Icon Productions and, once the script is completed, will decide whether to helm and possibly act in the epic.
A sort of Jewish William Wallace, Maccabee is famous for his daring revolt against the Greek-Assyrian armies, a victory commemorated each year by Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
Unfortunately, watching Gibson make a movie about the historic figure has Jewish groups seeing red, considering this is the filmmaker whose 2004 R-rated flick about Jesus, The Passion of the Christ, sparked allegations he was promulgating anti-Semitic stereotypes as the film went on its way to make $370 million in the U.S. (Incidentally, while making the media rounds for that film, Gibson didn't do himself any favors with the Jewish community when he originally expressed interest in adapting the Maccabee story).
Also taking into account Gibson's infamous July 2006 arrest when the actor ranted to cops that the "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," Jewish leaders have expressed concern over Warner's move.
"As a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty, Judah Maccabee deserves better," Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. "It would be a travesty to have the story of the Maccabees told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people's religious views."
"Not only has Mel Gibson shown outward antagonism toward Jews and Judaism in his public statements and actions, but his previous attempt to bring biblical history to life on the screen was marred by anti-Semitism," continued Foxman. " While we do not argue with Mel Gibson's right to make this film, we still strongly believe that Warner Bros. should reconsider Gibson's involvement in this project."
The ADL wasn't the only group whose passions were stirred up by the announcement.
"Mel Gibson has shown nothing but antagonism and disrespect to Jews," added Rabbi Marvin Heir, founder and dean of Los Angeles' Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. "Casting him as a director or perhaps as the star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a white supremacist as trying to portray Martin Luther King Jr. It's simply an insult to Jews."
Heir added that Warner Bros. also made a foolish business decision since not a lot of Jews are going to support the film given Gibson's participation.
After the anti-Semitic remarks, the erstwhile Braveheart star's stock in Hollywood dropped precipitously. Gibson apologized, calling his comments a "moment of insanity" and asked to meet with various Jewish leaders to ask forgiveness, but Heir said he's yet to demonstrate proper remorse, either by writing a public editorial or paying a visit to a Holocaust camp.
"Nobody would say a person doesn't deserve another chance. There's no question about that," he said. "But he has not shown any of that evidence at all."
Despite earning accolades for his performance in The Beaver this year, Gibson's latest comeback died a quick death at the box office. He returns to theaters later this year in How I Spent My Summer Vacation.