The story: Mel Gibson is — surprise, surprise — once again courting controversy. Deadline Hollywood reports that Gibson, widely reviled for his drunken 2006 tirade against Jews, is working with Warner Bros. and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct) to bring the story of the second-century-B.C. Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, who led the revolt against the Greco-Syrian empire, to the big screen. Gibson will produce — and possibly star in and direct — the film. "This subject matter is a decided departure for the filmmaker famous for directing The Passion of the Christ," says Mike Fleming at Deadline, though Gibson has reportedly been interested in the story for years.
The reaction: Casting Gibson as "Judah Maccabee is like casting [Bernie] Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a white supremacist trying to portray Martin Luther King Jr," says Rabbi Marvin Heir in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. Yes, it is strange, says John Young at Entertainment Weekly. But it sounds like this is happening, so "hold onto your yarmulkes!" Well, maybe it's just a last-ditch effort, says Sean O'Neal at The Onion's A.V. Club. "The Jews already kind of hate him," so perhaps this is "like a double jeopardy, nothing-left-to-lose, nowhere-to-go-but-up sort of thing."