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'Maccabees' screenwriter levels anti-Semitic charges at Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson© Pool New / Reuters / REUTERS

It turns out Mel Gibson's movie about biblical Jewish hero Judah Maccabee has hit a bit of a snag.

"You hate Jews," "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls" scribe Joe Eszterhas, tasked with writing the since-rejected screenplay for Gibson's latest passion project, accuses the reputation-challenged star in a memo obtained by the Wrap.

In the nine-page letter, Eszterhas states that Gibson pitched the "The Maccabees" solely "to deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism which have dogged (him), charges which have crippled (his) career," and then made anti-Semitic remarks throughout the writing process.

Not surprisingly, Gibson fired back just hours later, calling Eszterhas' claims "utter fabrications."

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"I will acknowledge like most creative people I am passionate and intense," Gibson replies in a letter obtained by E! News. "I was very frustrated that when you arrived at my home at the expense of both Warner Brothers and myself you hadn't written a single word of a script or even an outline after 15 months of research, meetings, discussions and the outpouring of my heartfelt vision for this story. I did react more strongly than I should have. I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms."

In his letter, Eszterhas claimed that Gibson continually referred to Jews in front of him as "Hebes," "oven-dodgers" and "Jewboys"; called the Holocaust "mostly a lot of horse(expletive)"; and said his intention with "The Maccabees" -- a controversy magnet the moment it was announced--was "to convert the Jews to Christianity."

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Gibson, who wrote that he refused to address Eszterhas' missive line-by-line, also wrote: "Contrary to your assertion that I was only developing 'Maccabees' to burnish my tarnished reputation, I have been working on this project for over 10 years and it was publicly announced 8 years ago. I absolutely want to make this movie; it's just that neither Warner Brothers nor I want to make this movie based on your script."

The actor-director maintained that both he and the studio were "extremely disappointed" with Eszterhas' draft -- which Eszterhas claims he spent two years researching and writing.

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The writer, who also penned the war-crimes trial drama "The Music Box," is asking Gibson to return his script, which could be shopped elsewhere since Warner Bros. rejected it.

But all is not lost.

"We are analyzing what to do with the project," a studio rep tells E! News.

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