No Winner in a Fight Between Joe Eszterhas and Mel Gibson

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Players: Mel Gibson, actor who will never live down his DUI incident in 2006; Joe Eszterhas, the screenwriting mastermind who brought you Basic Instinct and Showgirls, who will not let Gibson live down his anti-Semitic comments

The Opening Serve: Mel Gibson's Maccabee project has garnered a fair share of attention ever since it was announced that Mel Gibson, the guy who used to be known as Mad Max but is now known as the guy who said those really misogynistic and anti-Semitic things on that fateful night in 2006 and his widely-criticized film The Passion of the Christ, said he was going to produce a movie about the Jewish Maccabee revolt in 2nd Century B.C. Yes, all that really happened. Fast forward to Wednesday, when Warner Bros. announced that it was passing on Joe Eszterhas's script. Those in the know told The Wrap's Sharon Waxman that Eszaterhas's script didn't pass the muster, but Eszterhas thought differently and expressed those to Gibson (in a very, very public letter).  "Let me remind you of some of the things you said which appalled me," Eszterhas wrote. "You continually called Jews 'Hebes' and 'oven-dodgers' and 'Jewboys.'  ... You said the Holocaust was 'mostly a lot of horseshit.'" Eszterhas added, "I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make The Maccabees is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews." You can read the full letter here

The Return Volley: Since the news broke on Wednesday, Eszterhas has gotten the not-afraid-of-a-spat Anti-Defamation League on his side to condemn Gibson. "Jewish history will be better off without Mel Gibson playing Judah Maccabee," one Rabbi told The Wrap. Gibson responded on Wednesday with a letter of his own. "I would have thought that a man of principle, as you purport to be, would have withdrawn from the project regardless of the money if you truly believed me to be the person you describe in your letter," wrote Gibson. "In 25 years of script development I have never seen a more substandard first draft or a more significant waste of time. The decision not to proceed with you was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor. I think that we can agree that this should be our last communication." You can find the full letter here. Eszterhas responded in a Today Show appearance, and is claiming he has tapes of Gibson's anti-Semitic rants. 

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What They Say They're Fighting About:  Eszterhas's script and the reason it was rejected. They're blaming this on two different things. Gibson and whoever The Wrap spoke to at Warner Bros. say Eszterhas's script was just bad. Terrible even. Like, badder than 25 years of bad. Eszterhas says his script was rejected because Gibson never had any real intention to go forward with the movie---and that it was something of a way to deflect his bad press. 

What They're Really Fighting About: Their images and their pride. Getting your script rejected can't be a good feeling, so why not release a leaky letter that would implicate the people in charge (especially when one of those people in charge has had his very embarrassing anti-Semitic rants on record). Regardless of whether or not everything in the letter is true, Eszterhas is attempting to save face. At the same time, Gibson still can't shake what happened in 2006 off of his record. What's left of his image is at stake here, too. 

Who's Winning Now: It's sort of a battle between loathsome vs. loathsomer (is that a word?). And as much as it pains us, we're going to go with Gibson on this one. He has a point. If we're to take everything that Eszterhas wrote as true, then Gibson's pretty despicable. But if that's so, what does that make Eszterhas for working with him so long? Why didn't he quit the project altogether?  Why only release the letter after your script is being rejected?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.