Mel Gibson used to visit a schismatic Catholic church in Norfolk, near Wisbech, for his pre-Vatican II services. On one occasion, I am told by a local, a farmer turned round in his pew and asked Gibson, “Who are you?”

Joe Eszterhas seems to wish he’d never found out. An apparently private letter from him to Gibson has been released and placed on line in full by The Wrap. Eszterhas, one of Hollywood’s most successful screenwriters, had been asked to write the screenplay for a planned Gibson movie, The Maccabees. According to the letter, from the start Gibson displayed a flair for the demotic, calling Jews ‘Hebes’ as a matter of routine – this in discussions about a project designed to put to rest the idea Mel is an anti-Semite.

I’m not going to quote from the letter. It’s just too weird and should be read in full. Girlfriend-beating jostles with the murder, according to Gibson’s father, of a Pope by a Cardinal sitting on his face.

Gibson has responded. He says the script sucked. He says, “the great majority of the facts as well as the statements and actions attributed to me in your letter are utter fabrications” and points out that Eszterhas stayed with the project through the bizarre behaviour he reported. He doesn’t, though, deny anything specific, not even the routine use of terms of racial abuse.  In fact, he admits to some of this when he refers to a letter he says contained “colorful words […] you apparently now find offensive”.

The use of the word ‘apparently’ in that sentence shows how far Mel is from understanding how the world reacts to him. Boiling that down, I take it Eszterhas has some documentary evidence of Gibson’s use of language and so Gibson can’t make specific denials.

It’s a shame we don’t all need to ask him, “Who are you”. He should be left to slide back into the obscurity he so richly deserves.

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