Chanukah has come and gone, and Jewish parents everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s comforting to know that 5772/2011 will likely be the last year that we have to tell our kids the story of the Maccabees without the help of Mel Gibson. Last September, in an announcement that honored its four founding siblings — Hirsch, Aaron, Jacob and Szmul Wonskolaser — Warner Bros. proclaimed that it would finance Gibson’s next project: “The Judah Maccabee Story”! Gibson, who famously quipped (during a 2006 DUI incident), “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” apparently less-famously followed that with, “and I want to make movies out of all of them.”
My initial reaction was that a rabid anti-Semite was an odd choice to tell a quintessentially Jewish story. But then Robert Downey Jr. weighed in. At the presentation of the American Cinematheque Award in October, the Oscar-nominated actor made an impassioned plea. “Unless you are without sin … let him work,” exhorted Downey, cleverly paraphrasing a famous Jew in his pal’s defense. I have always turned to Reb Downey for spiritual advice, so his words gave me pause. Perhaps I was being rash. I am very sensitive to perceived anti-Semitism; this I concede. Maybe Gibson just likes to say nutty things when he joyrides with a bottle of his favorite tequila. Or maybe he has undergone a change of heart. I decided I would reserve judgment.
Imagine my shock when a friend who works at Warner Bros. secretly e-mailed me the first page of Mel’s screenplay for his film. I had misjudged! If the movie’s opening is any indication, Gibson’s approach is balanced, historically accurate and celebratory of Jewish bravery during trying times. I hope you will agree, and that we as a community can get behind this project. Go get ’em, Mel. Tell our story!
Gibson says he hopes to get “DIRTY JEW-DAH” into movie theaters “by Kristallnacht 2012.” See you there!
Joshua Malina is an actor who co-starred on “Sports Night” and “The West Wing.” He can be seen on ABC’s “Scandal” starting April 5.