Gibson and Eszterhas

Last night, web-based Hollywood rag The Wrap published a nine page screed from famed screenwriter Joe Eszterhas originally sent to Mel Gibson. In it he calls out the one-time hunk as a rage-filled phony and a blatant anti-Semite. Here we go again.

Eszterhas and Gibson had been collaborating on a project called The Maccabees, an epic about the famous Jewish warriors who rose up against the Seleucid Empire and whose Hanukkah story has been overshadowed by dreidels and latkes (some legacy). It was to be the “Jewish Braveheart.” This week, it fell apart, and then Eszterhas sent his lengthy side of events.

The whole letter is a little mind-blowing. It’s easy to brand Gibson an anti-Semite both due to the inflammatory angle he took in The Passion of the Christ and the spittle-ridden outburst at a Jewish Malibu police officer in 2006. Still, with all of his defenders who have come forward, notably Jodie Foster last year, it seems only fair to think he is a troubled, impassioned artist, not a raving lunatic.

Only it looks like he actually is out of his mind.

Eszterhas’s letter is a doozy. He accuses Gibson, point blank, of hating Jews. He says the only reason he started the Maccabee project was a sort of public penance for his wrong-doings:

I’ve come to the conclusion that you never had, or have, andy intention of making a film about the Maccabees. I believe you announced the project with great fanfare – a “Jewish Braveheart” – in an attempt to deflect charges of anti-semitism which have dogged you, charges which have crippled your career.

I’ve come to the conclusion that you used me. More exactly, you used my credentials: The two films which I’ve written condemning anti-semitism (Betrayed and Music Box); the Lifetime Achievement Award I received from the Emanuel Foundation for writings about the Holocaust in Hungary; the fundraiser I did for the Anti-Defamation League in Los Angeles, an organization which has been highly critical of you.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make “the Maccabees” is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.

And that’s just the first page! Wait until you hear some of his stories:

Let me remind you of some of the things you said which appalled me. 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?” or “Is he a Hebe?” You said most “gatekeepers” of American companies were “Hebes” who “controlled their bosses.”

“Hebe” and “Jewboy” are kind of low-rent epithets (at least he didn’t go full “kike”), but “oven-dodger” should give anyone pause. Put simply, what the fuck, Mel? Back to Eszterhas:

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, one of the most scurrilous anti-semitic tracts ever written, you insisted “it’s in the Torah – it’s in there!” (It isn’t).

[…]

Perhaps most dusturbing, as I wrote the script, was a comment you made to me in your Malibu house. It came out of the blue, while you were plauing on the living room floor with your little girl, Luci. “What I really want to do with this movie,” you said, “is to convert the Jews to Christianity.

The crazy thing? Gibson only gets nuttier the deeper you get into the letter. The anti-Semitism is, at this point, old hat. It’s the other bits that illustrate an actual, real-life madman. Like the time he told Eszterhas’s fifteen year-old son that he’d like to “fuck her (Oksana [Grigorieva, ex-girlfriend and mother of his child]) in the ass and stab her to death while I’m doing it.”

Or his thoughts on John Lennon: “I’m glad he’s dead. He deserved to be shot. He was fucking messianic. Listen to his songs! Imagine. I hate that fucking song. I’m glad he’s dead.”

Or the Costa Rican vacation during which Eszterhas’s son slept with a butcher’s knife under his pillow for fear of a wandering, raving Mel Gibson wandering the grounds.

Separately, these nodes are all just the unfortunate uncensored ramblings of, well, a middle-aged has-been. Together, however, they paint the picture of a deeply troubled human being. Gibson’s rage and anti-Semitism isn’t funny anymore; it’s just sad. We’re all waiting for him to make amends; for goodness sake we want to be able to watch Lethal Weapon unapologetically again! But it’s clear that he isn’t going to. He is, as his critics have said all along, an anti-Semite.

Shortly after The Wrap published Eszterhas’s letter, Gibson responded in kind over on Deadline (where April fool Mike Fleming took the opportunity to throw barbs at the competing site’s coverage of the letter):

I will acknowledge like most creative people I am passionate and intense. I was very frustrated that when you arrived at my home at the expense of both Warner Brothers and myself you hadn’t written a single word of a script or even an outline after 15 months of research, meetings, discussions and the outpouring of my heartfelt vision for this story. I did react more strongly than I should have.

[…]

Honestly, Joe, 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.

Gibson sidesteps apoligizing for his anti-Semitism, or even acknowledging it. Instead he rails against Eszterhas’s inadequacy as a writer, painting the lengthy letter as the scrawlings of a disgruntled employee.

At issue now is what happens to the script, since Gibson owns the rights to the project, including the work that Eszterhas has done. Maybe he did write a great film, a tale of Hebraic heroism on a scale not seen since Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. Now it may never see the light of day.

I say return the script to Eszterhas and let him shop it around. Now that the bad blood has been aired, what could Gibson really have against the screenwriter anyway? He’s not even a “Hebe.”