I have learned that, because of his DUI anti-Semitic slurs, ABC canceled development with Mel Gibson’s television production company on a non-fiction TV mini-series about the Holocaust that was still in the early pre-script stage. The deal had been announced late last year based on the self-published 1998 memoir of Flory A. Van Beek, a Dutch Jew whose gentile neighbors hid her from the Nazis but who lost several relatives in concentration camps, titled “Flory: Survival in the Valley of Death.” Gibson was not expected to act in the 4-hour mini-series, nor was it certain that his name would even be publicly attached to the final product. But Quinn Taylor, ABC’s senior vice president for movies for television, had said at the time the project was announced that the attention-getting value of having Gibson attached was a factor in greenlighting the Holocaust project. After the huge success of his The Passion of the Christ, networks and studios sought out Gibson and his Icon production company because they felt he’d reached a previously untapped spiritual audience for Hollywood entertainment. But the attention-getting value of having Gibson attached to the Holocaust project post-DUI arrest is what got the project killed at ABC.
(UPDATE: *In Tuesday’s New York Times and Los Angeles Times, ABC did not connect the project’s termination to Gibson’s remarks.*)
But I’m told by sources close to Gibson that the decision was totally ABC’s, that it was because of his DUI anti-Semitic tirade, and that Gibson and his people didn’t challenge it. This is the first piece of business lost by Gibson because of his blurting out anti-Semitic slurs during his DUI arrest. Earlier today, in an exclusive interview with me, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called on Gibson to to drop plans to produce the Holocaust mini-series for ABC. “It seems inconceivable that he should, given these circumstances, make a film about the Holocaust. That would be like getting somebody that has a past association with the KKK to do a film on African-Americans. The African-Americans would be up in arms. That’s the way Jews feel. If you don’t like the Jews, don’t do a film about the central issue of modern Jewish history, the Holocaust. It’s insensitive to their feelings, especially if you don’t like them. That’s why I think he should drop out. This is not a film he could do.” I’ve also learned that, even though Disney is the parent company of ABC, the movie division’s Buena Vista arm will still distribute Gibson’s action epic Apocalyptic in December as planned because of the loyalty felt by top executives John Cook and Oren Aviv to Gibson.