When it was announced that Mel Gibson was teaming with writer Joe Eszterhas for a biblical epic about Jewish historical figure Judah Maccabee, we more or less assumed that it would mean the death of his long-gestating Viking epic, which was originally supposed to team Gibson with William Monahan, Graham King and Leonardo DiCaprio. Monahan even confirmed late last year that he never wrote a word for the project and that, as far as he knew, it never went past the announcement. Well, it looks like throughout all his recent struggles, Gibson never gave up on his Viking dreams.
At a recent American Cinematheque Q&A [via L.A. Times] after a screening of “Mad Max,” Gibson revealed that he’s “got a couple of things on the boil, a couple of projects that I’m writing. I just got a second draft of something I’m really excited about today.” Questioned whether it was his Judah Maccabee project, Gibson surprisingly replied — to the delight of the crowd — that “it’s actually a Viking thing. Vikings, as you know, are very unsympathetic characters and these guys will be bad. I sort of hooked up again with Randall Wallace, who did the script on ‘Braveheart.’ Yeah, it’s pretty good. It’s called ‘Berserker.'”
Questioned whether the Vikings will have horns on their hats as is the typical stereotype, Gibson said “they did not have horns. No, I don’t think they had horns. They’re going to look real.” He continued, “They’re not going to be running around like the ’50s,” referencing Richard Fleischer‘s 1958 pic ‘The Vikings‘ starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. “I want to make something real and visceral.”
Gibson also later confirmed that the team on board the earlier iteration of the project (King, DiCaprio, Monahan) was pretty much gone, adding that “things begin and people wander off and do their thing and I do my thing. I just took my stuff and wrote it with Randall. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess.” No word on if the plan to film the whole project in the defunct Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon languages is still going ahead but, either way, we’ve definitely got fingers crossed that Gibson can make it all happen.
The Q&A also touched on George Miller’s latest ‘Mad Max’ film, which Gibson more or less confirmed as the same feature film he was going to star in with Miller in the early ’00’s — as we previously reported. He did, however, interestingly add that he had met his replacement, Tom Hardy, some time ago. “I like that kid [George’s] got, Tom Hardy. He’s a very interesting actor. He reminds me of one my sons a bit but I had lunch with him, he’s a firecracker. It’ll be good. He was already cast [at the time], he just wanted to check in. I don’t know, maybe it was like ‘Is it okay?’ I was like ‘Sure, it’s fine. Have a ball, knock yourself out. I got better things to do.'”
As for his Judah Maccabee project? “I’m working with Joe Eszterhas on that. That’s from the last two books of the Old Testament, which is like; [turns to audience] just read it some time. Maccabee 1 and 2. Just read it, it’s like a Western. It’s an amazing story. It’s heroic beyond belief. The entire might of the Seleucid Empire, which was Persia, their whole objective at the time was to wipe Judea off the map and they almost did it except for this little hold out that miraculously grew and wanted it all back again.”
All in all, it certainly sounds like Gibson has plenty on his plate with the two histrorical epics and, if the reception from the crowd at the Q&A are any indication, it seems like his troubled times are behind him. Forgive and forget, Leo?