LOS ANGELES – Urgent message to Mel Gibson, from the rest of the planet: Get help. Major help. Now. The scandal-plagued Hollywood actor-director is caught up in a new brouhaha, this time involving his alleged behaviour towards screenwriter Joe Eszterhas
On Wednesday, entertainment-news website The Wrap leaked a confidential nine-page letter to Gibson from Eszterhas, who is known for having written the movie hits Flashdance, Jagged Edge and Basic Instinct. Dated Monday, the letter berates Gibson for numerous antisemitic and misogynistic remarks and random violent rages that Eszterhas and his family claim to have witnessed while the writer was working with Gibson on a since-shelved film.
Eszterhas was writing a screenplay for Gibson, The Maccabees, based on the story of a Jewish rebel army's revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the second century BC. The movie was intended to be a “Jewish Braveheart”. According to the letter, Eszterhas and his wife, Naomi, visited Gibson at his home in Malibu, California, during which visit Gibson launched into a tirade of verbal abuse at a friend and a visiting priest, which rage continued after he kicked them out. Later, Eszterhas brought his wife and teenage son to Costa Rica to visit Gibson at his remote villa there. Gibson terrorized them with more wild, out-of-control rages during this visit, often ranting violently about ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva – even threatening to have her killed.
"Mel shared with [my son] a pornographic scenario that I can only call sexual butchery, [about which] he fantasized in terms of Oksana,” Eszterhas told NBC's Today yesterday. “To put that imagery in a fifteen-year-old boy's head, I think, is heinous; I think it's vile, and I think it's unforgivable."
Eszterhas notably accuses Gibson of repeated antisemitic slurs as well. At one point, Gibson allegedly admitted that the only reason he wanted to make The Maccabees was “to convert the Jews to Christianity”.
“I've come to the conclusion that the reason you won't make The Maccabees is the ugliest possible one,” Eszterhas states early on in the letter. “You hate Jews.”
In reply, Gibson sent a letter to both Eszterhas and the Los Angeles Times, which the paper published on Wednesday, calling most of the writer's accusations “utter fabrications” and insisting that both he (Gibson) and Warner Brothers rejected Eszterhas' script only because it was “substandard”.
“I will acknowledge [that] like most creative people, I am passionate and intense,” Gibson wrote. “I was very frustrated that... you hadn’t written a single word of a script or even an outline after fifteen months of research, meetings, discussions and the outpouring of my heartfelt vision for this story. I did react more strongly than I should have.”
Eszterhas has responded to this with a claim that his son, Nick, had secretly taped some of Gibson's more outlandish statements in Costa Rica. “He should be very careful calling me a liar,” he told The Wrap on Thursday. “There were at least four other people present when he exploded in that rage. Naomi also witnessed things he said about killing Oksana and his constant antisemitic remarks.”
If Eszterhas released Nick's audio recording publicly, it wouldn't be the first time Gibson's outbursts have been made public, of course. Grigorieva's secret recordings of Gibson's screaming verbal abuse, threats and racial slurs over the phone were leaked online in mid-2010. But Eszterhas has not decided what to do with the recording, according to the L.A. Times.
Explaining to The Wrap why he stayed on the project so long in spite of Gibson's frightening behaviour, Eszterhas said: “I didn’t withdraw from the project because I love the project. It’s a great, heroic story. I felt trapped. It was a project initiated by Mel. I couldn’t legally or morally take it from him and write it as a spec script.”
Gibson, 56, became a superstar in the 1980s via his roles in the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon movie series. He won an Academy Award for directing Braveheart in 1996, but his reputation has suffered enormously in the past several years due to his bizarre behaviour in his private life.
As far as The Maccabees is concerned, The Associated Press yesterday quoted Warner Brothers spokesman Paul McGuire as saying that the studio is “analyzing what to do with the project”.