Mel Gibson is reportedly making a movie about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee.
The actor, who has been labeled an anti-Semite following a number of hateful comments in the past, will team with screenwriter Joe Eszterhas for the historical work, according to Deadline New York. Eszterhas is best known as the writer of Basic Instinct and Showgirls.
Judah Maccabee was the 2nd century BCE general who led the Hebrew revolt against King Antiochus of the Seleucid Empire in modern-day Israel. The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the Maccabean army's military feats.
Gibson's Icon Productions will produce the film, and Gibson gets the first option to direct the movie. If made, it won't be Gibson's first biblical piece; he is also well-known for his controversial film The Passion of the Christ.
Gibson was criticized for being anti-Semitic following a 2006 alcohol-fueled tirade, as well as for his depiction of Jews in The Passion.
The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world, Gibson shouted at police officers who arrested the star in Malibu, Calif., for driving under the influence.
Gibson has also been criticized for making unsavory comments about homosexuals, and for his father's belief that the Holocaust never happened.
Entrusting a story of Jewish pride and heritage to the team of Gibson and Eszterhas is sort of like asking a rabbi to prepare a dish of bacon-wrapped scallops; it’s a terrible idea, writes Grantland's Andy Greenwald.
Production of the Maccabee movie hasn't yet started, but it has already angered activists and Jewish leadership.
“Judah Maccabee deserves better. He is a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty. It would be a travesty to have his story told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people’s religious views,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Mel Gibson has shown nothing but antagonism and disrespect to Jews, Rabbi Marvin Hier told the industry trade paper. First of all there were the anti-Semitic remarks he made, his portrayal of Jews in The Passion of Christ... He’s had a long history of antagonism with Jews. 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, or a white supremacist as trying to portray Martin Luther King Jr. It's simply an insult to Jews.