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Move Over, Mel Gibson: New Judah Maccabee Project in the Works (Exclusive)

The Bruce Nash-produced project will compete with Warner Bros.' take on the story.

FILM: Hanukkah hero Judah Maccabee
APIC/Getty Images
Judah Maccabee

The war for Hanukkah is on. Or Hollywood's version of it anyway.

Producer Bruce Nash (Modern Marvels) is pulling together a version of the Hanukkah origin story for a potential feature or TV miniseries. News of the project comes just three weeks after Warner Bros. acknowledged that it is developing a Judah Maccabee/Hanukkah movie with actor-writer-director Mel Gibson and Basic Instinct screenwriter Joe Eszterhas.

Gibson's involvement in the WB project as a producer (and possible star and/or director) provoked immediate recriminations from some in the Jewish community because of his record of making anti-Semitic remarks. The Hanukkah story is a pillar of Jewish history and describes the successful rebellion that liberated the Second Temple in Jerusalem from the Greek occupier Antiochus. Judah Maccabee, who became known as "The Hammer" after leading the fight, instituted Hanukkah -- the "Festival of Lights" -- to celebrate the triumph. Jewish leaders strongly indicated their displeasure with Gibson's desire to appropriate such a treasured cultural milestone.

That antipathy could provide an advantage for Nash's project, which, unlike the Gibson effort, already has a finished script by Scott Abbott, who wrote the HBO movie Winchell and co-wrote Introducing Dorothy Dandridge for the cable network. Nash and Bob Kosberg would produce along with Maura Dunbar of Odyssey Networks, where Nash originally developed the project and which provided initial financing.

While Christmas has been represented extensively in TV and film -- most recently in the Catherine Hardwicke-directed The Nativity Story -- Hanukkah has yet to claim its own holiday classic. The Nash-Abbott version is clearly counting on the support of those in the industry who want to provide a take on Hanukkah that doesn’t involve Gibson -- or his eight crazy nights.

Email: Jay.Fernandez@thr.com