Mel Gibson Explains His Judah Maccabee Interest

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“Atlantic” writer Jeffrey Goldberg recounts his years-old discussion with the star about what attracted him to the iconic Jewish religious story.

Now that word is out that Mel Gibson is making a biopic about Jewish religious leader Judah Maccabee, members of the media are no doubt clamoring to get the star's first thoughts on the project.

Lucky for Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg, he got the actor-writer-director talking about the Maccabee movie years ago. And today, he posted some of that interview on the Atlantic's website.

Goldberg, who himself has been working on a Maccabee biography, flew out to Los Angeles a few years ago (he doesn't say exactly what year) at the urging of writer Christopher Hitchens to try to talk Gibson out of making the movie, which he had mentioned publicly a few times. (Hitchens is a noted atheist and argues that without the success of Maccabee's revolt against the ancient Greeks, there would be no Christianity.)

Goldberg admits that Gibson is one of his favorite stars, and his mission of intervention turned instead into a discussion of Gibson's fascination with the character and a few circumcision jokes.

Gibson traces his interest in in Maccabee back to his teenage years, when he first read the story. And now he can't help but see the inherently cinematic aspects of the tale.

Goldberg writes, "'It's almost like' -- here, he grabbed my digital recorder, held it to his mouth, and spoke in a portentous movie-announcer voice -- 'They profaned his Temple. They killed his father. They... all kinds of stuff. In the face of great odds for something he believed in' -- here he switched out of movie-announcer voice -- 'Oh, my God, the odds they faced. The armies they faced had elephants! How cinematic is this!'"

The star waves off any assertion that he's doing the project for money. He says, "If you're looking to make money out of this, forget it. Even Braveheart didn't make much money."

The conversation then descends into a protracted discussion of circumcision, which leads to Goldberg falling for a Gibson joke about foreskins as eyelids. "I can't believe I just walked into that one," Goldberg says.

"Me either, "Gibson replies.