In what’s sure to be a controversial development, Deadline is reporting that Warner Bros. has set up an as-yet-untitled historical drama being co-written by Mel Gibson and Joe Eszterhas. The controversial part? It’s about a Jewish guerrilla leader who’s celebrated by Jews every year on Hanukkah.
The leader in question is Judah Maccabee, who with his father and four brothers led a successful rebellion against the Greek-Syrian Selecuid Empire in the second century BCE to regain control of Judea. Following the triumphant revolt, Jewish religous practices were reasserted in the region after being banned by its former rulers.
Gibson will collaborate on the script with Eszterhas while also exercising a first option to direct. Whether or not he takes the helm, he’ll be serving as a producer on the project through his company, Icon Productions.
Gibson has reportedly desired to put a Maccabee biopic together for years, though with recent controversies – including a notorious anti-Semitic rant during a drunk driving arrest in 2006 – he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the Jewish community. In other words, the commercial viability of the project seems questionable.
The actor/director originally came to major blows with Jewish audiences during the run of his blockbuster 2004 religious film “The Passion of the Christ”, which depicted the final few hours of Jesus Christ in graphic detail. Critics asserted Gibson had intentionally painted the film’s Jewish characters in a negative light and subsequently labeled the film as anti-Semitic.
Speaking of commercial viability, “The Beaver” – Gibson’s most recent film – flopped back in May with less than $1 million in domestic receipts. His last directorial effort “Apocalypto” was more successful, grossing over $120 million worldwide on a reported $40 million budget.
As for the reclusive Eszterhas, his last screenwriting credit was on the 2006 film “Children of Glory”, which commemorated Hungary’s 1956 Revolution. Earlier in his career he was one of the most sought-after scribes in Hollywood, with credits including “Flashdance”, “Jagged Edge”, “Basic Instinct”, and “Showgirls”.