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Gibson denies 'Passion' is anti-Semitic

Mel Gibson, right, directs Jim Caviezel on the set of Gibson's movie,
Mel Gibson, right, directs Jim Caviezel on the set of Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ."

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Mel Gibson
Diane Sawyer

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Actor Mel Gibson denies in an ABC television interview to be aired on Monday that either he or his controversial new film, "The Passion of the Christ," is anti-Semitic as some critics have claimed in the heated run-up to its opening.

In an interview with Diane Sawyer to be shown on a special Monday night edition of "Primetime," Gibson also defends the extreme violence in his film about the last 12 hours in the life of Christ, saying it was necessary to push the audience "over the edge" so that it could feel the enormity of Christ's sacrifice.

The film, which opens February 25, has stirred passions and controversy for months, with many critics speculating on Gibson's motives for making it. He is a member of a traditionalist Catholic sect that opposes some recent Vatican reforms, including saying the mass in English.

With many Jewish leaders fearing the film will revive debate on whether the Jews were to blame for Christ's death, Sawyer asked the Oscar-winning actor and director, "Who killed Christ?"

Gibson replied, "The big answer is, we all did. I'll be first in the culpability stakes here, you know."

Asked if he was anti-Semitic, Gibson said, "No, of course not. And here's the other thing. For me, it goes against the tenets of my faith, to be racist in any form. To be anti-Semitic is a sin. It's been condemned by one Papal Council after another. There's encyclicals on it, which is, you know -- to be anti-Semitic is to be un-Christian, and I'm not."

Particular kind of evil

Asked his view on the Holocaust, Gibson, who had been criticized for comparing it to other wartime atrocities in a previous interview, said, "You know, do I believe that there were concentration camps where defenseless and innocent Jews died cruelly under the Nazi regime? Of course I do. Absolutely. It was an atrocity of monumental proportion."

Sawyer then asked, "Are you looking into the face of a particular kind of evil with the Holocaust?"

To which Gibson replied: "You're looking -- yes. What's the particular evil? I mean, why do you need me to tell you? It's like, it's obvious. They're killed because of who and what they are. Is that not evil enough?"

Gibson said his film "is not about pointing the fingers. It's not about playing the blame game. It's about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. It is reality for me. I believe that. I have to. For my own sake, so I can hope, so I can live."

Gibson said the film "is my version of what happened, according to the Gospels and what I wanted to show, the aspects of it I wanted to show."

He added that the film is "very violent, and if you don't like it, don't go, you know? That's it. If you want to leave halfway through, go ahead. You know, there's nothing that says you have to stay there.

"I wanted it to be shocking. And I also wanted it to be extreme. I wanted it to push the viewer over the edge. And it does that. I think it pushes one over the edge. So, that they see the enormity, the enormity of that sacrifice; to see that someone could endure that and still come back with love and forgiveness, even through extreme pain and suffering and ridicule."

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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