Gibson's Maccabee Movie Latest Twist In Star's Tortured History With Jewish Community
Gibson has been wrestling with charges of anti-Semitism for years.
Mel Gibson's decision to make a biopic of the Jewish religious icon Judah Maccabee is the latest twist in the star's long, tortured history with the Jewish community.
The beginning of the strained relations dates back to the moment Gibson announced in 2002 that he was writing and directing a film about the final 12 hours of Jesus' life, then titled The Passion. Though Gibson had previously run afoul of the gay and lesbian community when he was accused of making homophobic comments in 1991 and was known to be a staunchly conservative Catholic in his faith, he was a largely uncontroversial figure in Hollywood. But during filming of the Passion in Italy, Jewish leaders began to raise concerns about how the Jewish people would be portrayed in the film. Members of the Anti-Defamation League reached out to Gibson with their concerns, but the star rebuffed them.
In a May 2003 interview with National Catholic Reporter Jesuit Fr. William J. Fulco, who translated the script into Aramaic and Latin, assured the nervous Jewish community, "In no way do I experience it as offensive to Jews or anyone else."
But as Gibson began to screen the film to selected Catholic and Jewish leaders, accusations of anti-Semitism sounded louder and louder in the media. Unhappy with the film's tone towards the Jewish people and their culpability in the crucifixion of Jesus, leaders such as New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind
Eventually, Twentieth Century Fox passed on picking up the film, now titled The Passion of the Christ and it was distributed by indie company, Newmarket Films.
When Gibson finally began screening the movie for journalists, he addressed the charges of anti-Semitism head-on. In this interview with the Australian film outlet Urban Cinefile, he said, "My detractors have been saying, ‘oh, he’s saying there is a blood curse on all Jews for all times’ and that’s not true. The church never taught that and indeed I understand that there are fears about it and I wanted to quell any legitimate fears. I believe every line of the gospel but it’s hard to explain the theological nuances of every line because they’re vast. It’s not about the blame game and I don’t want my critics and detractors to say that I’m making it about the blame game. I want it to be about Jesus and his sacrifice."
The film came out to mixed critical, but huge commercial success. Gibson, who had self-funded the movie, became a very wealthy man.
But on July 28, 2006, Gibson was picked up for a DUI in Malibu. According to arresting officer James Mee, the actor was quoted as saying, "F---ing Jews… the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."
Gibson admitted to making anti-Semitic statement, apologized to the public and asked to meet privately with Jewish leaders to make amends. He also entered an alcohol rehab program.
However, Gibson's words continued to come back to haunt him. In 2010, actress Winona Ryder told GQ Magazine that 15 years earlier, she'd encountered an drunk Gibson at a Hollywood party, who found out she was Jewish and referred to her as an "oven dodger."
Gibson has since gone on to be caught making violent, sexist, racist threats against his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva in a series of taped phone messages released to the press in 2010.