‘Showgirls’ scribe: Working with Gibson the real development hell


As Jon Stewart goes, so goes the nation. And when he says the media feeding frenzy over the George Zimmerman trial has begun, it truly has begun.

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Central Florida can now sleep soundly in its collective bed, knowing that the coming months will once again thrust us into the national spotlight 24/7 as a breeding ground of insane suburban ultraviolence, this time with a healthy element of racial animus mixed in. And with that exposure will come plenty of opportunities for those of us here at home to second-guess the media’s bound-to-be-clueless analysis of our curious ways and mores. (I’ve already heard an MSNBC reporter declare breathlessly that the Sanford protests drew supporters from as far away as Orlando.)

Look for the gang here at Orlando Weekly to have plenty to snark along these lines. Just don’t expect to much too soon: Given the look my wife threw my way last night, when I feigned a gunshot while reaching for an economy-sized pack of Skittles at Costco, I clearly haven’t yet hit upon the subtly nuanced tone the story requires.

And anyway, there’s a danger in creating a mental playlist that’s All Zimmerman All The Time. It blinds you to the other important stories of the day.

For example, did you know Mel Gibson has a problem with the Jews?

That’s what I learned just a few days ago, when I managed to tear my eyeballs away from the ongoing tale of Invader Zimmy and read the nine-page letter screenwriter Joe Eszterhas sent Gibson upon the collapse of their movie project about the Maccabee uprising. It seems neither Gibson nor Warner Bros. Pictures was all that happy with Eszterhas’ first draft, so he responded with a missive that, while couched as a recap of their ill-fated collaboration, is one of the absolute best treatments for a psychological thriller I have read in my life. This is truly one of those cases in which “You have to read it for yourself” applies. As an inducement, be advised that Eszterhas’ less-than-glowing portrait of life with Gibson includes (but is not limited to) the following:

Family dinner parties that descend into vicious tirades;

Rampant anal-rape fantasy scenarios and ethnic slurs;

Threats of FBI-assisted murder against Gibson’s ex-wife, Oksana (you remember her; she’s the one who made him wanna smooooke!!)

The indelible image of Eszterhas brandishing a golf club and a rosary to ward off a rampaging Gibson, like Peter Cushing making Christopher Lee his bitch;

Appearances by story consultants known affectionately as “Father Fucko” and “Rabbi Clueless”;

Cardinals sitting on the Pope’s face (and not in that way!);

And, of course, rages, rages, rages. Rages against John Lennon. Against Walter Cronkite. Against Ari Emmanuel. Against every official of the Catholic Church since the day Vatican II was adopted. And even against God himself, for robbing Gibson of his former good looks (although that may have been Oksana’s doing -- our hero seems uncharacteristically fuzzy on the subject).

I’m not even doing it justice. Go on, read it for yourself. I’ll wait.


Whew! Some page-turner, huh? At this point, you may be asking yourself some simple, practical questions. Questions like, “Isn’t this Joe Eszterhas the same sleaze merchant who wrote Flashdance and Showgirls, then tried to pass them off as biting social commentary? Where’s he been? And why in God’s name would he be surprised to learn that Mel Gibson is a psychotic Jew-baiter who shouldn’t be allowed any closer to a film about the Maccabees than Gary Glitter should to a primary school?”

Answers, we’ve got answers. Yes, it’s the same Joe Eszterhas. He’s been absolutely nowhere and trying to get back. So he tried to hitch a ride on Gibson’s public-redemption tour to save himself some gas fare. (Times are tough!) But you see, when he signed on the dotted line to deliver the script for a “Jewish Braveheart,” he didn’t know Gibson was such an anti-Semite. And if he did, he thought the magnificence of own his work would “convert” the guy. Or something. (Then again, per Eszterhas, Gibson’s stated intention in making The Maccabees was to convert Jews to Christianity  -- so maybe Mel can get a job manning a smoothie cart at The Holy Land Experience, with Joe setting up an unleavened-bread stand right across the street.)

The secular explanation here is that Eszterhas wrote a script everybody thought sucked, and his idea for saving face was to play up the stereotypes about Gibson the entire Western world already has ingrained in its cultural skull. But are his stories of terrified captivity at Chez Gibson true? Probably. At least they are according to the working methodology I’ve long since adopted for evaluating celebrity tell-alls, which is to assume that everything the author says about himself is 100 percent bullshit, and everything he says about everybody else is the gospel truth. You’d be surprised at how often that works out.

Words to live by as a gaggle of news ghouls descends on Sanford’s doorstep. Or at least until we can find out what The Beaver thinks.

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