Pull Up a Seat for the Great Joe Eszterhas vs. Mel Gibson Maccabee Feud of 2012
There was a time when the Judah Maccabee project (AKA the Jewish Braveheart) that Joe Eszterhas was penning for Mel Gibson seemed only modestly distasteful given Gibson's notorious penchant for making anti-Semitic remarks. Then Eszterhas turned in his script, Warner Bros. put the project on hold, and the real dramatic bloodbath began. Last night, Eszterhas penned a nine-page letter excoriating Gibson for ignoring his draft, accusing him of never intending to make the film in the first place and detailing a series of lurid, bigoted outbursts he and his family allegedly witnessed Gibson making during their collaboration -- a letter leaked to The Wrap and available in all of its bone-chilling glory, naturally.
In his letter Eszterhas claims to have witnessed numerous offenses during his time collaborating with Gibson, whom he insists never intended to actually make the Maccabee movie. Rather, the screenwriter claims, Gibson used the project as a means of doing damage control on his sullied public image, all the while still using anti-Semitic slurs and violent hate speech around Eszterhas and his family during visits and meetings.
Below, choice snippets from Eszterhas's memo (read the full letter here). First came Eszterhas's accusation of professional and personal misconduct ...
"I’ve come to the conclusion that you never had, or have, any intention of making a film about the Maccabees… I’ve come to the conclusion that you’ve used me. More exactly, you used my credentials."
And next, accusations of Gibson using unfortunate Jewish slurs...
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.” You said the Holocaust was “mostly a lot of horseshit.
And then, according to Eszterhas, things got ugly...
You kept raging about your ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, Luci’s mother, whom you always referred to as “that cunt” and “that fucking bitch.” You acted out for me the scene where you hit her. But you said you’d “just slapped her a little bit.” After you slapped her, you said, she grabbed Luci and went running “hysterically” down the hillside behind your house in the pitch dark.
You were raving at Oksana even after you’d reached a custody agreement over Luci. “I want that cunt gone!” you screamed. “Gone! Gone! Gone! I will not share Luci with her!” And: “I’m going to get rid of her. No one will ever know… And then you were even more explicit about your threat: “I’m going to kill her! I’m going to have her killed!”
And after that, things got even uglier. Despite witnessing Gibson lose it one night at his own dinner party, Eszterhas brought his wife and son to visit Gibson's house in Costa Rica. There, Eszterhas says, Gibson went on a rampage in his own house, shouting and frightening his guests, telling grisly fantasies about his ex to Eszterhas's fifteen-year-old son, and driving off solo into the night. In other words: Screw the Maccabee flick, turn this into your next sordid melodrama, Joe!
You live in extreme isolation from the real world. You don’t read newspapers or magazines, you never have the TV on except to watch movies -- often your own. … I worry for you and those around you. I know there are as many guns around your house as crucifixes.
The full Eszterhas letter is a real must-read, full of details that are tough to believe. But responding with his own letter (posted at Deadline), Gibson had a few rebuttals to make -- along with the suggestion that Eszterhas's Maccabee script just simply wasn't up to snuff.
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.
[The Wrap, Deadline]