Mel Gibson is developing a film about Judah Maccabee, a hero of the Jewish faith who is celebrated on Hanukkah.
This is the same Mel Gibson who, after he was pulled over for driving under the influence, hurled anti-Semitic slurs at a police officer and accused Jews of being responsible for all the world’s wars.
Needless to say, people are upset.
The Anti-Defamation League released a statement asking Warner Bros., which is producing the film with the actor, to “reconsider Gibson’s involvement in this project.”
“As a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty, Judah Maccabee deserves better. 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,” the statement reads. “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.”
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants called Warner Bros.’s choice a “moral lapse of judgment and an expression of indifference to the struggle against hate and bigotry.”
“Holocaust survivors are aghast that a major Hollywood studio would join with Mel Gibson in this venture and view it as an affront to all victims of anti-Semitism, intolerance, and sexism,” a statement from the group said. “Given our brutal experience, we are pained that Warner Bros.has abandoned principle and taken this unworthy path.”
Gibson gave an interview a few years ago on the subject to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, when he first stated interest in doing a film on Maccabee:
I just read it when I was teenager, and it's amazing. It's almost like — here, he grabbed my digital recorder, held it to his mouth, and spoke in a portentous movie-announcer voice — "They profaned his Temple. They killed his father. They . . . all kinds of stuff. In the face of great odds for something he believed in" — here he switched out of movie-announcer voice — "Oh, my God, the odds they faced. The armies they faced had elephants! How cinematic is this! Even Judah's dad — what's his name? Mattathias? — you kind of get this guy who more or less is trying to avoid the whole thing, but he just gets to a place where [he] had enough, and he just snapped!
Goldberg, who is writing a biography of Judah Maccabee, asked Gibson about the rant and his accusation of warmongering. He responded, “That day they [the Israeli Defense Forces] were marching into Lebanon. It was one of those things. It was on the news.”
Warner Bros. has yet to respond to the controversy, so it’s not clear whether the studio will change its mind. Indeed, even the ADL recognizes Gibson’s right to make any kind of film he wants. But it’s safe to say that the ire many have toward the project will not fade with time.
This post originally stated that Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Mel Gibson was recent. It is from a few years ago.