Dedicated student of Jewish military history Mel Gibson will finally put that knowledge to work for Warner Bros., signing on to produce and possibly direct or star in a film about Jewish hero Judah Maccabee—one of the most famous Jews responsible for one of the most famous wars in the world. Gibson has been hoping to tell the story of Maccabee’s revolt against the Seleucid Empire—which made Maccabee one of Judaism’s most revered figures, and inspired the holiday of Hanukkah—for over a decade, and what better time than right now, considering the Jews already kind of hate him? It’s like a double jeopardy, nothing-left-to-lose, nowhere-to-go-but-up sort of thing. In that spirit, Joe Eszterhas will handle the screenplay, presumably bringing the same sensitivity toward Jewish subject matter that he did to films like Betrayed and Music Box, and to a lesser extent, the Holocaust allegory Showgirls.
Not surprisingly, various Jewish leaders have already expressed dismay at the idea of seeing one of their most sacred stories in the hands of the director of The Passion Of The Christ, and a man so closely associated with his past vitriol against the Jews that “mel gibson anti semitic” is an automatically suggested Google phrase—a general state of alert perhaps best heralded by Deadline’s Nikki Finke’s subtle deployment of a giant Star of David as some sort of Jewish Bat-Signal. “Casting him as a director or perhaps as the star of Judah Maccabee is like casting [Bernie] Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a white supremacist as trying to portray Martin Luther King Jr,” says Rabbi Marvin Heir, founder and dean of Los Angeles's Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance. “It's simply an insult to Jews."