UPDATE: Reports of a nasty memo from Joe Eszterhas to Mel Gibson have surfaced, one filled with a summary of salacious and anti-Semitic statements that Eszterhas alleges Gibson uttered while they worked on the Maccabee script together. Deadline is not going to repeat the verbiage, because Eszterhas’ account doesn’t pass our sniff test. Here’s one reason why: If Eszterhas really heard all the hateful things he says Gibson told him, then why didn’t the brash Hungarian quit the project instead of tolerating the slurs? And then only speak out after his script gets rejected by Warner Bros? Gibson has made no immediate comment.
EARLIER, 2:23 PM: I’ve confirmed reports that Warner Bros isn’t crazy about the script received from Joe Eszterhas telling the heroic story of Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee. This is the project that Mel Gibson wants to direct — the one Deadline revealed back in September when the studio stepped up and shocked Hollywood because of Gibson’s past problems with the Jewish community. I’m told the studio didn’t like the script and hadn’t rejected Gibson, and that Warner Bros is reportedly “deciding what to do”. Given the frenzy of critical stories that followed Deadline’s original story, I would have been surprised if the studio had the stones to make the project, and this might give the studio an easy out. The question will be how badly Gibson wants to make the movie now: his Icon was part of the original deal, and he certainly has the wherewithal to make the passion project himself. He did after all score record grosses for the last religious-themed project he funded after it was turned down: The Passion Of The Christ.
The Maccabee script tells the story of how Judah teamed with his father and four brothers to lead the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies that had conquered Judea in the second century B.C. Gibson has long wanted to do direct this, but the maverick has to decide whether past baggage will alienate too much of the core audience to make it worthwhile. Gibson is readying the VOD launch of Get the Gringo, the movie he stars in, co-wrote and financed that will bypass a theatrical run and test the viability of the multi-platform strategy that was the talk of the last Sundance Film Festival. Gibson made deals for the film to bow May 1 on DirectTV for $10.99 per viewing, and then follow with a day and date VOD and DVD release through Fox. Here’s a trailer for a movie that seems a close cousin to his B movie classic Payback: