The filmmaker and Joe Eszterhas erupt in a war of words that opens some old wounds

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 12, 2012 11:30 AM
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty; LA Times/Retna

Proving once again that the pen is mightier than the sword, a Hollywood feud of nearly Biblical proportions seems to be developing between Mel Gibson and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas over what was to have been Gibson’s movie about Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee.

In a scathing, single-spaced, nine-page letter from Eszterhas to Gibson, dated April 9 and obtained by, the writer alleges that Gibson never intended to make the movie and, furthermore, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make ‘The Maccabees’ is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews,” Eszterhas writes.

The letter also states that Eszterhas (whose screenwriting credits include Basic Instinct and Showgirls) was prepared to write “the Jewish ‘Braveheart,’ ” and he ticks off various ugly epithets that he claims Gibson used to describe Jews. His message also alleges Gibson threatened the life of his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Gregorieva. reports that in February Warner Bros. passed on Eszterhas’s script, which Gibson was planning to produce, despite the actor-filmmaker’s troubling history regarding anti-Semitic comments he has made over the years, and for which he has subsequently apologized.

Gibson did respond Wednesday night in an open letter to the screenwriter, which was also published in the Los Angeles Times and sent to PEOPLE.

“The great majority of the facts as well as the statements and actions attributed to me in your letter are utter fabrications,” Gibson writes. “Honestly, Joe, not only was the script delivered later than you promised, both Warner Brothers and I were extraordinarily disappointed with the draft.”

“The decision not to proceed with you was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor,” Gibson’s response continues. “I think that we can agree that this should be our last communication.”

Gibson also said, “Contrary to your assertion that I was only developing Maccabees to burnish my tarnished reputation … I absolutely want to make this movie; it s just that neither Warner Brothers nor I want to make this movie based on your script.”

With reporting by ELIZABETH LEONARD