September 9th, 2011
02:50 PM ET
For his next project, Mel Gibson is setting his sights on a film about a Jewish hero, according to Deadline.
The embattled actor, who's come under fire for making anti-Semitic remarks, has teamed up with Warner Bros. to create a movie about Judah Maccabee, a famed warrior in Jewish history. (Warner Bros. is owned by the same parent company as CNN.)
Gibson is set to produce the film through his Icon Productions company, and will decide on whether to direct the feature after the script is completed. Joe Eszterhas ("Basic Instinct," "Showgirls") is attached to pen the script, which, according to Deadline, will also have input from Gibson.
Update, 2:47 p.m.: A rep for Gibson tells CNN that "there are no plans at this stage for Mel to be in the film. He is way too old to play the lead character."
The rep adds that the "finished script will determine whether he directs or not but the studio would obviously prefer he direct than not. It's an amazing story that should be told cinematically. As you can see from 'Braveheart,' 'Passion of the Christ' and 'Apocalypto,' they are all great stories that translate beautifully on the big screen with such a visual film maker as Gibson."
The untitled film revolves around Maccabee, who, along with his father and four brothers, led a victory against the Greek-Syrian armies in the second century B.C. The historic revolt is celebrated during Hanukkah.
Reports suggest that Gibson has had his eye on this project for a while, but the news of his deal with Warner Bros. has drawn criticism.
In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said, "Judah Maccabee deserves better. He is a hero of the Jewish people and a universal hero in the struggle for religious liberty. It would be a travesty to have his story told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people's religious views."
Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles tells CNN that he doesn't "know what Warner Bros. was thinking" with the move to collaborate on this project with the actor.
"I think it's quite frankly preposterous," Hier said. "Judah Maccabee is one of the greatest heroes in Jewish history. Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite. He has made anti-Semitic remarks in the past....My anger with Mel Gibson is he has never made efforts to fix his past mistakes.” Hier adds that he would have no problem with Gibson becoming involved in a Maccabee movie if he'd made amends for past remarks.
In response to the critics, Gibson's rep tells CNN, "They do have the freedom of expression, which we all welcome don't we."
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