Mel Gibson vs. Joe Eszterhas in the Court of Public Opinion

Mel Gibson Joe Eszterhas Split - H 2012
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Mel Gibson Joe Eszterhas Split - H 2012

The "Basic Instinct" screenwriter allegedly has recordings of the Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker making hateful statements about Jews, John Lennon and his ex-wife.

The public battle between Joe Eszterhas and Mel Gibson intensified Thursday after Eszterhas made a statement to TMZ that he possesses tapes that may include recordings of the multihyphenate making violent comments about a number of people. Following the release of a letter obtained by The Wrap this week, Eszterhas threatened to release the materials, in which Gibson allegedly said that John Lennon “deserved to be shot,” called William Morris Endeavor chairman Ari Emanuel “a c--t Jewboy” and wanted to perpetrate acts of extreme violence against his ex-wife Oksana Grigorieva.

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Gibson and Eszterhas originally teamed up to tell the story of Judah Maccabee, who was considered one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history. Warner Bros. signed a deal with Gibson in September to put the project into production pending approval of the script. After Eszterhas submitted his first draft of the script in late February, Warner passed on it, and neither he nor Gibson offered public statements about the film.

But in a nine-page letter he sent to Gibson dated April 9, Eszterhas said he was disappointed that the filmmaker didn’t have “the decency to respond” to his script. Additionally, the screenwriter detailed a number of conversations in which Gibson allegedly makes hateful statements about his ex-wife and a variety of other industry figures.

Gibson subsequently responded with a letter of his own, in which he apologized for his behavior and denied that he was anti-Semitic but blamed Eszterhas’ script for Warner Bros.’ decision and suggested the writer only had a problem after the studio rejected his script. Eszterhas’ comments to TMZ exacerbate the evolving conflict as he claims not only to have much of Gibson’s behavior recorded but indicates that others who allegedly witnessed the filmmaker’s rant are willing to come forward and speak publicly about his behavior.

In the meantime, Warner Bros. has put the project on hold. Gibson’s decision to make the film in the first place generated significant controversy, with one rabbi writing an opinion piece for The Hollywood Reporter saying the studio's executives should be ashamed to be in business with Gibson on a Maccabee project. Gibson and Eszterhas’ feud likely will delay the project further, if the studio is still interested in working on it at all.