The Moment of Truth — April 14, 2012

The Eszterhas and Gibson Affair: Good for the Jews?

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: a little bit of petroleum that’ll take you a lot farther than you expected to go. 

A yeti and a cinderblock had a baby and named it Joe Eszterhas, who went on to write Basic Instinct and Showgirls. The Oklahoma legislature just passed an amendment to its “personhood” law making it not only allowable but mandatory that such cross-species fetuses be aborted. The quality of Eszterhas’s work was not mentioned as a factor in their decision. They just don’t believe God wants another thing like him walking around creation. They don’t want him dead, just … one is enough. 

On this perhaps the evangelical Christian right and the movie-going Jewish public might agree. It’s possible they already agree on too much already, but in this case even the less rabidly Zionist Jews can get on board. 

Eszterhas’s father (whether it was the cinderblock or yeti is unclear) was a Hungarian Nazi, a fact Eszterhas says has caused him much pain. Eszterhas suffered from throat cancer, also painful. After beating cancer he committed passionately to the Catholic church, a third decidedly painful ongoing ordeal. 

It seems, though, that it just wasn’t enough torment, because a year and a half or so ago he decided to work with Mel Gibson. It was that or spend four hours on a mechanical bull wearing a jockstrap full of razor blades. Eszterhas felt the damage from the jockstrap wouldn’t have been lasting enough, and would only have affected himself and his immediate family. 

He and Mel did not set out to work on just any old project. This was not going to be a teen comedy about a high school bully whose victims teach him the true meaning of Christmas - kind of Breakfast Club meets Revenge of the Nerds - which is what I would have advised such a duo to take on. Instead these two unstable loudmouths, both of them sired by rabidly Jew-hating fathers, took up the task of writing “The Maccabees,” a sword-and-sandals epic about heroic Jewish warriors defeating their Greco-Syrian oppressors. The yak-skulled Catholic son of a Hungarian Nazi yeti, and the drunk, conspiracy-spewing, woman-abusing scion of an Australian anti-Semite white supremacist would join forces to give us Jews back our sense of historical pride. 

What could go wrong?

That someone at Warner Bros. smiled on the idea - smiled with money, yet - of Mel Gibson making a historical epic about the ancient Jewish heroes whose courageous exploits inspired the latke and the dreidl is evidence of intervention by perverse extra-terrestrials in our entertainment industry, but it’s hard to fault Eszterhas for saying “yes” to the collaboration. It might have been the very idea of that extra-terrestrial influence that drew him to the project, in fact. 

The only truly reprehensible action was Gibson’s in pursuing the idea in the first place. The fact of Mel Gibson as host to such inspiration hints at Satanic participation. Even to a non-Catholic, that much was obvious when it was first announced, and it only took Eszterhas 15 months of working with Gibson to figure it out himself. But then, he’s a writer. We writers have to work through things for agonizing spans sometimes in order to arrive at the same understanding a slow eight-year-old might achieve in an instant. 

Maybe that explains why he continued to work with Mel even after incidents which should have set off sirens, flashing lights, and a China Syndrome protocol: Mel’s constant use of anti-Semitic epithets to describe the movie’s intended audience, for example, and claims that the intent of the movie would be to convert Jews to Christianity, or his rants about wanting to rape and kill his ex-girlfriend, or the time he flew into a violent rage and chased a clergyman all over his Malibu estate for not objecting to Vatican II. Eszterhas and his wife were overnight guests the night of the Vatican II tantrum, which was so traumatic that the writer was up all night in his guest room gripping a golf club in case he had to fend off an assault by his host. 

Working together is one thing, but with the Malibu experience under his belt, only Satan and the perverse extra-terrestrials could possibly know why Eszterhas agreed to strand himself, his wife and his teenage son with Mel in some remote corner of Costa Rica, yet he did. I am repeating these details from Eszterhas’s angry letter to Mel which was recently made public on Gaper’s Block. I don’t have the letter in front of me right now. It’s online but the internet is out on my street due to a thunderstorm, so I have to rely on my memory. I hope I’m not embellishing anything. I seem to recall that Mel’s Costa Rica property, where Eszterhas chose to maroon himself and his family with a rape-and-murder-aspiring Nazi prone to violent outbursts, is reachable only by submarine. So if Mel were to explode and run amok there would be no escape for the Eszterhases. 

That is what Eszterhas signed up for. It makes the initial agreement to write a Jewish hero epic with Mel Gibson sound like a masterstroke of prudence. 

Mel did blow up in Costa Rica. What set him off? One of his Costa Rican slaves slipped up and allowed him to look in the mirror. That’s pretty much what Eszterhas’s letter said, as I remember it. Mel saw himself in the shiny glass and was shocked at the decrepit abomination staring back at him. He threw his head back and howled curses at God and the Heavens. Then he ran to his rec-room and smashed a really expensive totem pole. Eszterhas’s wife, in a panic, took off in the only submarine. Eszterhas’s son opted for cyanide. Eszterhas started frantically typing, sensing the only way to survive a confrontation with a crazed Mel Gibson was to deliver at least part of the screenplay. 

I think there’s a lesson here for Zionists who’ve made common cause with rightwing evangelicals: stay clear of Christians who celebrate Jewish history with the ultimate aim of converting Jews. Eszterhas was lucky to escape with his life. But he did not get away unscathed. In the end, Eszterhas admits, the script was turned in two weeks late. Mel doesn’t love it. And according to Mel, Warner Bros. says, “Ben Hur it ain’t.”

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!