Mel Gibson to film story of Jewish hero Judah Maccabee

Mel Gibson on set of The Passion of Christ

Mel Gibson on set of The Passion of Christ

Mel Gibson has already taken on Christmas, and is now set to turn his attention to the Chanucah story.

The actor, who was famously arrested for drink driving and launched into a tirade about Jews, is to bring the story of Judah Maccabee to the big screen.

The as yet unnamed drama will be written by Basic Instinct screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and Mr Gibson. It will follow the story of the legendary Jewish warrior, who along with his father and brothers led the Jews in a revolt against the Greek conquerors.

Mr Gibson’s previous biblical outing, The Passion of the Christ, was told in Aramaic, but there is no word yet whether the new film will feature any ancient languages.

Mr Gibson has a track record of playing maverick fighters; one of his most notable roles was that of Scottish rebel William Wallace in Braveheart.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre Museum of Tolerance, said Mr Gibson should not be cast in the film or involved in it in any way.

"He has shown nothing but antagonism and disrespect to Jews," said Rabbi Hier. "There were the antisemitic remarks he made, his portrayal of Jews in The Passion of Christ.

"He's had a long history of antagonism with Jews. Casting him as a director or perhaps as the star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a white supremacist as trying to portray Martin Luther King Jr.

"It's simply an insult to Jews."

The Anti-Defamation League also expressed regret that "someone better" could not be found to film the story.

"As a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty, Judah Maccabee deserves better," said national director Abraham Foxman. "It would be a travesty to have the story of the Maccabees told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people's religious views.

"Not only has Mel Gibson shown outward antagonism toward Jews and Judaism in his public statements and actions, but his previous attempt to bring biblical history to life on the screen was marred by antisemitism," he added.

"While we do not argue with Mel Gibson's right to make this film, we still strongly believe that Warner Bros. should reconsider Gibson's involvement in this project."

Last updated: 3:37pm, September 9 2011