Mel Gibson’s attitude toward the Jewish community has come under scrutiny once again after a Hollywood screenwriter accused him of hating Jews.
In a nine-page letter, Joe Eszterhas, who had written a script for a film about the triumph of the Maccabees – in which Mr Gibson was due to star – alleged that the actor had only agreed to the role "to deflect continuing charges of antisemitism which have dogged you, charges which have crippled your career".
Mr Gibson, who was famously arrested for drink driving and launched into a tirade about Jews, was set to play Judah Maccabee and direct the film, a casting decision that enraged Jewish organisations when it was announced in September.
But the project has been abandoned by Warner Bros. Mr Ezterhas, whose credits include Basic Instinct, said in a letter to the actor, published by The Wrap, that he had come to the conclusion “that the reason you won't make The Maccabees is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews."
Claims made in the letter include that Mr Gibson referred to the Holocaust as “mostly a lot of horseshit", used offensive terms including “Jewboy” and “Hebe”, and said that “the Torah made reference to the sacrifice of Christian babies and infants”, an age old blood libel against Jews. He also said that Mr Gibson spoke of a “Jewish / Masonic conspiracy to destroy the Catholic church”.
According to Mr Eszterhas, he was told by Gibson that he wanted the film "to convert the Jews to Christianity". The writer accused Mr Gibson of “using” his pro-Jewish credentials and complained that he had in the past defended him against accusations of antisemitism.
“I was hoping that the power of the story would overcome your antisemitic prejudices,” he added. “My great misfortune is that I have written [a] script for a man who hates Jews.”
Mr Gibson denied the accusations, telling industry website Deadline that they were "utter fabrications" and that the script had not been of an acceptable standard.
"I absolutely want to make this movie,” he said. “The decision not to proceed with you was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor."
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the remarks would be surprising “if not for the fact that it fits nicely into a pattern of a serial offender, a serial hater, a serial bigot”.
He said: “Had these allegations been made against any other actor, we would be sceptical, and certainly one could chalk them up to the words of a disgruntled screenwriter. But with Mel Gibson they follow a distinct pattern of antisemitic conduct.”