Eszterhas: Mel Gibson Spewed Anti-Semitism, Talked of Killing Ex
By Josh Levs, CNN
Editor’s note: This story contains offensive language.
Mel Gibson frequently spews “looney, rancid” anti-Semitism, has talked about killing his former girlfriend, and is prone to hate-filled diatribes slamming everyone from John Lennon to Walter Cronkite, according to a screenwriter who has been working with him.
Joe Eszterhas, who wrote a screenplay about the Jewish hero Judah Maccabee for Gibson, recounts numerous alleged incidents in detail in a nine-page letter to Gibson published by the website thewrap.com.
In a letter replying to Eszterhas, Gibson denies the allegations, saying most of the claims are fabricated.
Gibson’s letter says Eszterhas “only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your (Eszterhas’) script.”
Gibson, in his five-paragraph response, says he won’t respond “line by line,” and that the decision not to proceed with Eszterhas “was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor.”
A spokesman for Gibson, Alan Nierob, gave CNN a copy of the letter and said Gibson will have no further comment at this time.
Warner Bros. has put the controversial Maccabees project on hold, the Los Angeles Times reported. The company — which like CNN is part of Time-Warner — did not immediately return a call and e-mail from CNN Thursday morning.
Eszterhas writes in his letter, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make ‘The Maccabees’ is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.” He recounts Gibson repeatedly using derogatory epithets for Jewish people.
Allegations of anti-Semitism are nothing new for Gibson. Concerns that arose among some Jewish groups over his handling of the story of Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ” in 2004 were replaced by widespread condemnations two years later when Gibson was arrested on a drunk driving charge. According to a police report, he asked the arresting officer if he was Jewish and said, “F***ing Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”
Gibson later apologized without acknowledging specific remarks.
Eszterhas is a veteran of the industry, having penned such titles as “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls.”
In his letter, he writes that he hoped Gibson viewed the Maccabees project “as a kind of penance/apologia” — a claim Gibson denies in his response.
Eszterhas says that soon after he began working with Gibson on it, he became “increasingly worried that I’d made a grave mistake by hooking up with you.”
It was not immediately clear how thewrap.com obtained Eszterhas’ letter.
In discussing Jewish people, Gibson regularly used the terms “Hebes,” “oven-dodgers,” and “Jew-boys,” Eszterhas alleges. “You said most ‘gatekeepers’ of American companies were ‘Hebes’ who ‘controlled their bosses.'”
“You said the Holocaust was ‘mostly a lot of horsesh*t,’ ” the letter says, adding that Gibson made various false accusations, including that the Torah refers to sacrificing Christian babies.
Gibson called Pope John Paul II “the anti-Christ” and “the devil,” the screenwriter alleges.
“You kept raging about your ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva,” mother of their young daughter Luci, the letter alleges, saying Gibson referred to her with sexist epithets. “You acted out for me the scene where you hit her. But you said you’d ‘just slapped her a little bit.’ ”
Eszterhas claims in the letter Gibson explicitly said, ” ‘I’m going to kill her! I’m going to have her killed!’ ”
Addressing Gibson, he says in the letter, “You said you’d become friends with two FBI agents (or former FBI agents) and they were going to help you to kill her.”
A spokesman for Grigorieva did not immediately respond to a call from CNN Thursday.
Eszterhas recounts times that he, his wife, and his 15-year-old son felt endangered in Gibson’s presence.
The teen taped one of Gibson’s outbursts on his iPod, Eszterhas says.
Gibson once told the 15-year-old that he wanted to perform a sex act on Grigorieva and “stab her to death while I’m doing it,” Eszterhas alleges.
“How can you share a loop from the pornographic snuff film which obviously plays in your head … with a child?” the letter asks.
The bitter battle between Gibson and Grigorieva reached a financial and custody settlement last year. Gibson pleaded no contest to a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery.
Racist and sexist rants against her by Gibson were recorded and leaked to radaronline.com.
Eszterhas also quotes Gibson as saying John Lennon “deserved to be shot,” and that he hated Walter Cronkite, who appealed “to stupid people.”
At one point, Gibson wrote Eszterhas a note apologizing for one of his outbursts, saying, “I have a vast reservoir of rage-filled puss that from time to time spills out” and that “the devil seems to afflict me thru anger and my tongue,” Eszterhas says.
In his response letter, Gibson says “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 will acknowledge like most creative people I am passionate and intense,” Gibson adds.
He said he was frustrated at Eszterhas’ failure to produce a script in timely fashion.
“I did react more strongly than I should have. I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms,” he says in the letter.
Eszterhas insists he was diligent and produced a script that received high praise.
But Gibson writes, “In 25 years of script development I have never seen a more substandard first draft or a more significant waste of time.”
Eszterhas could not be reached immediately on Thursday.
When plans were announced last year for Gibson to helm a movie about the Maccabees, Jewish leaders assailed the idea.
“I think it’s, quite frankly, preposterous,” Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles told CNN in September. “Judah Maccabee is one of the greatest heroes in Jewish history. Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite. … I don’t know what Warner Bros. was thinking.”
Maccabee was a Judean priest who commanded the resistance to Greek forces around 165 BC. Hanukkah celebrates the story of the Maccabees.
“Casting him as a director or star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Bernie Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Hier said at the time.
A representative for Gibson, who asked not to be identified at the time, said, “It’s an amazing story that should be told cinematically” and that there were no plans for Gibson to act in the film, although he might direct.
In his letter, Eszterhas says he believes Gibson is in need of medication and “extensive psychiatric counseling.”
“You live in extreme isolation from the real world,” Eszterhas wrote. “You don’t read newspapers or magazines, you never have the TV on except to watch movies — often your own. You rarely go out. Even the church where you worship, built at your own personal expense, is attended only by family and friends. The priest there is your hire and works for you, not God. You are truly extraordinarily and uniquely self-absorbed in a town where self-absorption is common.
Noting that “there are as many guns around your house as crucifixes,” Eszterhas wrote, “I worry for you and those around you.”