The pitch for the newly announced satirical fiction film Rothchild, a comedy set in the world of the ultra-wealthy about a forgotten son trying to inherit the money of his influential family, already sounds like an elaborate piece of trolling. The real-life Rothschild family, a Jewish and European banking dynasty, has for centuries been the subject of anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories, fables revolving around their alleged control of world finances. The film that’s up for sale at this year’s Cannes Marché du Film, a movie marketplace where a majority of the industry’s business is done, has dropped the s from the family’s name, but the title is still loaded. Even more bizarrely: Mel Gibson is attached to star.
Gibson’s involvement is hard to interpret as anything but a whole other level of provocation, a ludicrous addition to a project that already sounds potentially offensive. The actor and director’s reputation has recovered in Hollywood despite numerous scandals, including a drunk-driving arrest, a racist phone call to an ex-girlfriend in which he drunkenly admitted hitting her, and a plea of “no contest” to a charge of battery. Despite all that, Gibson was nominated in 2017 for an Oscar for directing Hacksaw Ridge and was recently hired by Warner Bros. to direct a remake of The Wild Bunch. But Gibson’s history of anti-Semitic remarks makes him a particularly baffling choice for a project titled Rothchild. (A representative for Gibson stated that the film has no connection to the real-life Rothschild family.)