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Gibson's Maccabee film comes under fire

JoeEszterhas.jpg...as does Mel Gibson himself and from a strange source, the writer of the script for the Judah Maccabee no less, just after his script was refused by Gibson and Warner Bros.

It does sound a bit suspect, and more on that later, but the word is that the first stab at the script has been dropped and everyone's saying that the project is now on hold. It's as though no other film ever had its first draft refused.

However this isn't any other project, it's Mel Gibson's ten year idea to direct a film about the biblical story of Judah Maccabee, and it's Gibson and all the media hype he carries with him so it's big news and big rumour too.

It seems that the writer of the script has bought into all of the hype too as he, well let me step back a little first.

Joe Eszterhas was chosen as the writer for the Judah Maccabee and meeting with Mel Gibson, presumably a number of times, he took in Gibson's ideas and vision for the story, then he went away to write it.

Apparently, looking at the story in The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, some fifteen months later he hadn't produced anything and Gibson was slightly miffed. Fast forward a little longer and he's delivered what Warner Bros. and Gibson think is a pretty poor and stock script that they've rejected. Cue fireworks.

Eszterhas then writes a nine page letter to Gibson and, presumably just by complete luck and not a career saving, attention grabbing move, a media outlet. The letter says that Gibson uttered outrageous anti-Semitic comments during their collaboration on the script and that he was appalled and outraged by it all.

Still, he went off and continued the collaboration, took ages to produce a script that neither the studio nor director liked and so decided not to use.

It all seems a little odd doesn't it? As Gibson points out in his response:

"...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 I would have thought that a man of principle, as you purport to be, would have withdrawn from the project regardless of the money if you truly believed me to be the person you describe in your letter.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."

He goes on to explain that he did have a strong outburst at the writer when, after fifteen months of research and discussions, he arrived at Gibson's home and had produced nothing. Then when the final script arrived he said:

"...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."

Ouch. Now the reason I haven't referred to Joe Eszterhas' side of the argument is that it does sound rather odd. In fact it sounds so over the top that if this really were the man that the studio had hired to direct a huge production you'd wonder why they didn't drop the director and keep the writer, after all they are more than willing to drop great projects and fire out standard CG 3D fare just to make money, or avoid taking risks and losing any.

Eszterhas says things such as...actually I did quote something and then decided against it as the comments go on in a very anti-religious way and while I'm not religious I don't believe in deliberately inflammatory comments which the quotes from this letter clearly are. It's a hell of a rant which frankly goes further than this film and starts addressing issues outside Gibson as a director and much further than you would expect.

Suddenly it's turning personal and very angry; it reads spiteful and from a man scorned and when he pleads that Gibson return to the script to work on it with him you wonder how any sane person could accept that offer after attacking them so personally in public in this way. After all, Eszterhas could have just talked with Gibson and tried to iron out their differences, or walked away from the project and left it as another "first draft writer moves on" story.

If you want to you can read those comments over at The Wrap with Gibson's response over at Deadline, however here's what you should read, and here's what should have been the story.

Joe Eszterhas' has delivered a first draft of the Judah Maccabee script for Warner Bros. and Mel Gibson who are looking for other writers to work on that draft.

Instead Eszterhas has made it public and personal and suddenly all very distasteful. I wonder if his nine page rant has hurt his own career and standing more than just leaving the project?



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