“Hey, let’s give Mel Gibson a bunch of money to make a period based, swords-and-sandals epic about a pivotal moment in Jewish history!”….that’s not a sentence you’ll be hearing at Warner Bros. now or probably anytime soon, as the studio has put the brewing epic movie on hold. Can’t say we’re shocked.
First announced last fall, the film was penned by Joe Eszterhas (“Basic Instinct,” “Jade“) and would have told the story of Maccabee, who led a Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies that conquered Judea in the second century B.C. “[It’s] from the last two books of the Old Testament, which is like; just read it some time. Maccabee 1 and 2. Just read it, it’s like a Western,” Gibson enthused just a couple of months ago. “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.”
And normally, this would be all fine and dandy for anybody else, but this is Mel “sugar tits” Gibson we’re talking about and naturally the news of this project drew the ire of Jewish groups who denounced that WB was even considering the project. “Casting him as a director or perhaps as the star of ‘Judah Maccabee’ is like casting Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said hyperbolically. But we get where he’s coming from.
Well, it seems WB are rethinking the whole thing. The Wrap reports that they’re placing the blame on the script by Eszterhas for not having “a sense of triumph” which seems a bit dubious as, no matter what you think of his work, lacking in emotions is not something the writer struggles with. They are apparently “analyzing what to do with the project” but we’d guess this is a smokescreen for the basic fact that this was a horrible idea from day one, and that Gibson as much he’s trying, is still somewhat of a pariah at the moment and moving forward with a big epic that will just court controversy doesn’t make any business sense at all.
So what will Mel do next? He’s still got his Viking movie “Berserker” in the works that has a script from Randall Wallace, though he lost his lead in Leonardo DiCaprio in the wake of the whole drunken/racist/sugar tits debacle. But we’d be surprised if that got moving at the studio for the very same reason. Gibson is still on the outs with Hollywood, and as long as that’s the case, he’ll need to rely on the help of friends or indie financing to stay in the movie game.