Five years after Mel Gibson launched into a drunken, anti-Semitic tirade, he has a new movie in the works: An action flick about the life of second-century Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, whose triumph over a tyrannical ruler is celebrated at Hanukkah.
The Los Angeles Times reported Gibson's production company has inked a deal with Warner Brothers for a movie on Maccabee's life. Gibson will decide whether to direct it once the script is finished, and "has not ruled out the possibility that he could act in the film."
Gibson's camp described the movie as having similar themes to "Braveheart" and "The Patriot."
According to the Times, Maccabee "has fascinated" Gibson for years, and at one point he considered doing the film as a follow up to 2004's "The Passion of the Christ."
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg recalled speaking with Gibson a few years ago about his interest in the Maccabee story:
"I just read it when I was teenager, and it's amazing. It's almost like" -- here, he grabbed my digital recorder, held it to his mouth, and spoke in a portentous movie-announcer voice -- "They profaned his Temple. They killed his father. They... all kinds of stuff. In the face of great odds for something he believed in" -- here he switched out of movie-announcer voice -- "Oh, my God, the odds they faced. The armies they faced had elephants! How cinematic is this! Even Judah's dad -- what's his name? Mattathias? -- you kind of get this guy who more or less is trying to avoid the whole thing, but he just gets to a place where had enough, and he just snapped!"
The screenwriter, Joe Eszterhas, is best known for writing "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls." He was awarded the Emanuel Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 for his writings about the Holocaust in Hungary.
Gibson's announcement was met by outrage by some leaders in the Jewish community.
"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 of the Anti-Defamation League told the Hollywood Reporter.
Rabbi Marvin Hier told the publication, "Mel Gibson has shown nothing but antagonism and disrespect to Jews." In separate remarks, he told CNN, "Casting him as a director or star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Bernie Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission."
Gibson has called his infamous alcohol-infused anti-Semitic rant "a moment of insanity" and "public humiliation on a global scale." He made news last summer after he was recorded berating his girlfriend and making a series of racist, violent and misogynistic remarks.