Joe Eszterhas, Mel Gibson fight to the death
Internet keywords like "Mel Gibson" and "anti-Semite" are back in the news again, with word that screenwriter Joe Eszterhas wrote a blistering, nine-page letter to Mel Gibson accusing him of hating Jews and recounting how Mel wanted to have baby's mama Oksana Grigorieva killed. So they're probably not going to work together again, we're guessing.
In the letter, which has been reproduced by TheWrap.com, Eszterhas accused Mel of saying he was going to make The Maccabees to celebrate Jewish heroism, but never intended to really do it, only announcing the project "in an attempt to deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism which have dogged you, charges which have crippled your career." Then Joe wrote,"I've come to the conclusion that the reason you won't make The Maccabees is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews."
Never mind that Warner Bros. put the movie on hold, saying Ezsterhas' script lacked "a sense of triumph," according to the site. The April 9 letter started picking at bigger scabs, however. He recounts how Gibson threatened Grigorieva with their daughter Lucia's life, allegedly shouting "I'm going to kill her! I'm going to have her killed!" Then he started in on what Gibson was like to work with.
"You continually called Jews 'Hebes' and 'oven-dodgers' and 'Jewboys.' It seemed that most times when we discussed someone, you asked 'He’s a Hebe, isn’t he?' You said most 'gatekeepers' of American companies were 'Hebes' who 'controlled their bosses,' " Eszterhas wrote. "You said the Holocaust was 'mostly a lot of horses---.' You said the Torah made reference to the sacrifice of Christian babies and infants. When I told you that you were confusing the Torah with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, ... you insisted 'it's in the Torah -- it's in there!' (It isn't)."
Gibson responded with a (much shorter) letter of his own, calling most of the accusations "utter fabrications" and positing the problems are Joe's own, Deadline.com recounts.
"I would have thought that a man of principle, as you purport to be, would have withdrawn from the project regardless of the money if you truly believed me to be the person you describe in your letter," Mel wrote. "I guess you only had a problem with me after Warner Brothers rejected your script."
Interestingly, Gibson does own up to some of the comments, which he contends were made after Eszterhas "hadn't written a single word of a script or even an outline after 15 months of research, meetings, discussions and the outpouring of my heartfelt vision for this story." But Mel says he apologized for that.
"I did react more strongly than I should have," Mel says. "I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms."
Saying Joe's Maccabees script was the worst first draft he'd seen in 25 years isn't much of an apology, but he hopes they'll never talk again. That does sound like it would be best.
[Photo: Joe in 2004. AP]