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Mel Gibson's work on Jewish film 'frankly preposterous,' rabbi says

By Alan Duke, CNN
Mel Gibson's involvment in a planned a film about Judean priest Judah Maccabee has sparked some outrage.
Mel Gibson's involvment in a planned a film about Judean priest Judah Maccabee has sparked some outrage.
  • Gibson is working on a film about Jewish icon Judah Maccabee, his rep says
  • It's like casting Bernie Madoff to be the SEC chief, Rabbi Marvin Hier says
  • "Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite," Hier says
  • "They do have the freedom of expression," Gibson rep says of critics

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Mel Gibson will not have an acting role in a movie about Jewish historical icon Judah Maccabee, although he may direct the film, Gibson's representative said Friday.

The possibility of Gibson's involvement in the Warner Bros. Studios production brought harsh reactions from some Jewish leaders in the United States, including Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

"I think it's, quite frankly, preposterous," Hier told CNN on Friday. "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. I don't know what Warner Bros. was thinking."

Maccabee was a Judean priest who commanded the Judean resistance to Greek forces around 165 BC.

"Casting him as a director or star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Bernie Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission," Hier said.

Gibson's representative, in an email exchange with CNN on Friday, said, "There are no plans at this stage for Mel to be in the film." The rep asked not to be identified.

"He is way too old to play the lead character," his rep said. "(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."

Gibson's rep pointed to his work on "Braveheart," "Passion of the Christ" and "Apocalypto" as "all great stories that translate beautifully on the big screen with such a visual filmmaker as Gibson."

Hier disagreed, saying that "The Passion of the Christ," which Gibson produced and directed, depicted every Jew, with the exception of Jesus, as a "tyrant, buffoon, or an idiot."

Hier alluded to Gibson's infamous rant after his arrest on a drunken driving charge in 2006. The sheriff's arrest report said the actor asked the deputy if he was a Jew and said, "F---ing Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."

"My anger with Mel Gibson is he has never made efforts to fix his past mistakes," Hier said. He said he would have no problem with Gibson becoming involved in a Maccabee movie if he had made amends for what he did.

"They do have the freedom of expression, which we all welcome, don't we?" Gibson's representative said in response to the criticism.

CNN's Jennifer Wolfe and Matthew Carey contributed to this report