For two decades, Mel Gibson was at the top of the Hollywood tree. Building on his successes as an actor, he won an Oscar in 1996 for directing Braveheart and routinely commanded salaries of more than $20 million.
But allegations of domestic violence and anti-Semitism in recent years have rocked the American star's career. And now, incendiary new claims from a scriptwriter have re-ignited that scandal in dramatic fashion.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Warner Bros was shelving The Maccabees, a film about the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid Empire in Judea in the second century BC that was to have been directed by Gibson.
A nine-page letter to Gibson from writer Joe Eszterhas detailed opinion on why the plug was pulled: "I have come to the conclusion that the reason you won't make The Maccabees is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.
"I believe you announced the project with great fanfare – "a Jewish Braveheart" – in an attempt to deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism which have... crippled your career" he said, alleging that Gibson never intended to make the film.
Eszterhas worked on the script for two years and sent it to Warner Bros in February, but was told it had "no feeling" and "no sense of triumph".
The letter paints a lurid picture of Gibson, saying he "continually called Jews 'Hebes' and 'oven-dodgers' and 'Jewboys'," and described the Holocaust as "mostly a load of s***". It also claims the writer almost quit when Gibson allegedly proclaimed: "What I really want to do with this movie is convert the Jews to Christianity."
In his response, Gibson claimed that the only reason the project was dropped was that the delivered script was of poor quality.
He said: "I have been working on this project for over 10 years. Both Warner Brothers and I were extraordinarily disappointed with the draft."
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