By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mel Gibson fired back Thursday at screenwriter Joe Eszterhas for accusing the "Braveheart" star of anti-Semitism, calling the writer's comments "utter fabrications" and saying he was angry over a rejected film script.
Gibson, who has been dogged by similar criticism since making an anti-Semitic statement in 2006 to police in a drunken rant, had been working with the "Basic Instinct" screenwriter on a movie about the ancient Jewish hero Judah Maccabee.
On Wednesday, Hollywood show business publication TheWrap.com reported that the first draft of Eszterhas' script was rejected by Warner Bros. Upon hearing of it, Eszterhas sent a nine-page letter to Gibson accusing him of not really intending to make the movie, called "The Maccabees."
Eszterhas wrote that Gibson announced the project purely "in an attempt to deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism," according to a copy posted on TheWrap.com.
He also accused Gibson of calling Jews "oven-dodgers" and "Jewboys" when they met, and even wrote that Gibson admitted vowing to kill his ex-girlfriend Oksana Gregorieva, following a bitter public feud with her over custody of the pair's child.
Gibson, the Oscar winner whose movies include "Mad Max" and "Lethal Weapon," did not directly address charges of anti-Semitism, but said Eszterhas' description of his "statements and actions" are "utter fabrications."
"Contrary to your assertion that I was only developing Maccabees to burnish my tarnished reputation, I have been working on this project for over 10 years and it was publicly announced eight years ago," Gibson wrote in the letter, released by a spokesman.
"I absolutely want to make this movie; it's just that neither Warner Brothers nor I want to make this movie based on your script," he said.
Gibson, 56, went on to call the draft that Eszterhas submitted the most "substandard" he had seen in 25 years of overseeing script development and a "waste of time."
Jewish leaders criticized Gibson's Maccabee project when it was revealed last fall as offensive given the star's history.
In the past, Jewish groups accused Gibson of evoking age-old stereotypes about Jews in 2004's "Passion of the Christ," which made over $600 million at worldwide box offices.
Two years later, Gibson was arrested for drunken driving in Malibu, California, and he ranted at the officer: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." His arrest and tirade made headlines around the world. He later publicly apologized and attended self-help meetings.
Judah Maccabee was the son of a Jewish priest who in the 2nd century B.C. led a guerrilla revolt in Judea against armies of the Seleucid Empire. The historical figure, whose last name in Hebrew translates as "The Hammer," is revered by many Jews. The holiday of Hanukkah commemorates his triumphs.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)