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September 15, 2011 8:27 pm

Mel Gibson to Make Film on Jewish Hero

avatar by Daniel Vahab

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Mel Gibson at the 2011 Cannes film festival. Photo: Georges Biard.

A film on Judah Maccabee, the Jewish hero who led a revolt against the Greek-Syrians for control of the temple in Jerusalem, is reportedly being made by Mel Gibson’s production company, Icon Productions, along with Warner Bros. The story is commemorated in the celebration of Hanukkah or the “Festival of Lights.”

However, The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that the news wasn’t news to him. This is because he had known of Gibson’s “interest” in the Judah project from the journalist’s research on him for a forthcoming biography. Goldberg recalled an interview a few years back with Gibson.

According to Goldberg, Gibson wasn’t interested in making the picture for the “money”; rather, Gibson’s doing it because the Maccabee stories are “ripping good reads.”

Additionally, Gibson appeared to admire the courage of the Maccabees, saying:

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“It’s almost like . . . they profaned his Temple. They killed his father.  In the face of great odds for something he believed in. The armies they faced had elephants! Even Judah’s dad—what’s his name? Mattathias?—you kind of get this guy who more or less is trying to avoid the whole thing, but he just gets to a place where he had enough.”

Goldberg’s account of Gibson’s interest in the Maccabee story is complemented by The Los Angeles Times, which reported that Gibson has been “fascinated” by the “hammer” (the Hebrew term for Maccabee) for several years and even once “considered this as a follow-up project to ‘The Passion of the Christ’ in 2004. Gibson’s camp describes the film in terms that resonate with past Gibson projects, such as ‘Braveheart’ or Roland Emmerich’s ‘The Patriot.'” Both films of Gibson, like the Maccabee story, portray a martyr of some kind.

Perhaps Gibson also feels the film is a way for him to seek redemption from Hollywood and the Jewish community at large for his antisemitic comments.

But Jewish leaders have expressed their outrage at the news. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in a statement said: “Casting [Mel Gibson] as a director or perhaps as the star of [a film about] 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.”

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