'Maccabees' screenwriter: I have tape of Mel Gibson's 'violent' rant

April 13, 2012 at 8:47 AM ET

"The Maccabees" started out as a collaboration between two Hollywood veterans — Mel Gibson as director and producer; "Basic Instinct" and "Flashdance" writer Joe Eszterhas taking on the script. But it has devolved into a war of words now that a letter Eszterhas wrote to Gibson accusing him of anti-Semitism has been made public.

But there's more story to be told, as Eszterhas shared with TODAY's Ann Curry on Friday via satellite. He has a tape of a "violent" and "threatening harangue" Gibson made before Eszterhas' son.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with (it)," he said.

While the problems between the writer and the director have only recently come to light, Eszterhas said he has made an effort to keep his distance from Gibson for some time."One of the first red lights" Eszterhas said he got about Gibson's anti-Semitism came when Gibson told him "he wanted to do a movie ... that would convert the Jews to Christianity. That's not 'The Maccabees,'" said Eszterhas. "The piece I wrote is the Jewish 'Braveheart.' I'm proud of it."

Warner Bros. didn't agree that the film was worthy and rejected the script, which then apparently kicked off the current altercation. A letter from Gibson to Eszterhas said the script was "substandard" and said Eszterhas' allegations are "utter fabrications."

Eszterhas' letter was not initially meant for public eyes, but The Wrap got hold of it (the full text is available here) and broke the story on Wednesday.

Other issues, aside from the anti-Semitism, made Eszterhas concerned while working with Gibson: "Mel shared with (Eszterhaus' son) a pornographic scenario that I can only call sexual butchery that he fantasized in terms of (Gibson's ex-wife) Oxsana.... To put that imagery in a 15-year-old boy's head I think is heinous, I think it's vile and I think it's unforgivable."

He added that his son took to sleeping with a butcher knife under his pillow, he was so frightened of Gibson.

"I'm not the first person who has describe this behavior," said Eszterhas. "I didn't go public (with this) ... 'The Wrap' found my letter and then Mel denied it, and I'm not going to stand for people calling me a liar."

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