A widely circulated Internet report that Steven Spielberg was planning to produce a trilogy of films exposing Christian brutality has been denounced as a hoax and "mean prank" by the filmmaker's chief spokesman.
The report, headed, "Spielberg Fights Fire With Fire," quotes him as preparing a movie on the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages, in response to the supposedly anti-Semitic slant of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
"I will show Christian brutality in a realistic and most graphic and gory way," Spielberg is alleged to have said.
If successful, the Crusades movie would be followed by a film on the Spanish Inquisition and a subsequent picture, "Hitler and the Pope: A Team Formed in Hell," the Internet message continued.
Spokesman Marvin Levy described the story as "vicious" and "absurd.... Anyone who knows Steven would know that he is dedicated to doing what he can to rid the world of hatred and intolerance, wherever it exists," Levy said.
He added that "It's a shame that Internet messaging has become a means of spewing anything that fits [the sender's] distorted agenda."
At a press conference last week to mark the DVD release of his film, "Schindler's List," Spielberg said that he would not comment on "The Passion" until he had seen the movie.
If and when he views it, "My first call will be to Mel Gibson," Spielberg said.