February 26, 2004


New Film May Harm Gibson's Career (SHARON WAXMAN, 2/26/04, NY Times)

Mel Gibson's provocative new film, "The Passion of the Christ," is making some of Hollywood's most prominent executives uncomfortable in ways that may damage Mr. Gibson's career.

Hollywood is a close-knit world, and friendships and social contact are critical in the making of deals and the casting of movies. Many of Hollywood's most prominent figures are also Jewish. So with a furor arising around the film, along with Mr. Gibson's reluctance to distance himself from his father, who calls the Holocaust mostly fiction, it is no surprise that Hollywood — Jewish and non-Jewish — has been talking about little else, at least when it's not talking about the Oscars.

Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, the principals of DreamWorks, have privately expressed anger over the film, said an executive close to the two men.

The chairmen of two other major studios said they would avoid working with Mr. Gibson because of "The Passion of the Christ" and the star's remarks surrounding its release.

Neither of the chairmen would speak for attribution, but as one explained: "It doesn't matter what I say. It'll matter what I do. I will do something. I won't hire him. I won't support anything he's part of. Personally that's all I can do."

Looks like the critics were right about the film stirring religious hatred.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 26, 2004 11:46 PM

Gibson didn't make the movie to further his career - It was, indeed, a "passion" that he could finally indulge.
In the end, Gibson has the satisfaction of finally, completely saying what he'd like to.
Discussions of the impact on Gibson's career, although fun, are mostly irrelevent for the following reasons:

* Gibson is set for life - He doesn't really need any more money.

* Gibson'll probably make quite a bit from this film, anyway.

* Gibson's career was already on the decline BEFORE the film was made - He's not risking that much, professionally.

* If Gibson still wants to act, he can finance his own films, and he could still raise quite a bit of independent money if he had a good project.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at February 27, 2004 12:07 AM

It's not a stretch to bet that in Hollywood, money will conquer all. If a producer needs Mel to "open" a movie and can afford him, he'll hire him. If not at DreamWorks, then somewhere else.

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 27, 2004 12:54 AM

They're just ticked because:

*he's ruining the Oscar run-up buzz

*he didn't need them

*they missed the $$ boat

*he doesn't care that they're ticked

He can make his own movies. He's obviously an excellent director. He can afford (this movie will make a bundle for him) to finance his own films and, if no known actor is brave enough to work with him, he can provide opportunity for fresh, new talent. He could bring down the kingpins of Hollywood.

The best way to shut him down would be to hire him and keep him too busy to make his own films.

Posted by: NKR at February 27, 2004 1:08 AM

McCarthyism, no?

Posted by: Melissa at February 27, 2004 1:35 AM

What I found so strange about the campaign of Frank Rich et al. against this film is that whenever conservatives complain about some movie, museum display, etc., one of the standard responses is to point out that the controversy basically generates free publicity for what they're complaining about. So what did they really think their attacks on Mel Gibson would accomplish? They basically made the situation one of the devout Christian under fierce attack from the left, which undoubtedly spurred much of the massive turnout for the movie.

Posted by: brian at February 27, 2004 2:01 AM

Did everyone see the review that Andrew Sullivan contributed? Is he really unaware of the history of preoccupation (often graphic preoccupation) with the torments of the Crucifixion in Western art?

And when exactly did film critics find a conscience about violence?

Posted by: Paul Cella at February 27, 2004 9:07 AM

The Passion has been a "God send", no pun intended, for liberal Jews all over the US who can finally refocus the source of all Anti-Semitism in the world to conservative, fundamentalist American Christians. The last year had not been very helpful to this charicature. In fact it was downright damaging. The sight of all those progressive freedom marchers burning Israeli flags, those thoughtful Euros and urbane college professors likening Zionism to racism, those brethren-in-suffering African Americans poetizing about the Mossad blowing up the World Trade Center, etc. must have been tough to stomach. Moreover, the sight of all those evangelical churches around the US vowing their support for our Judeo-Christian heritage in general and Israel in particular must have just added insult to injury. It was time to get back to the usual stereotypes.

Posted by: MG at February 27, 2004 9:14 AM

Paul, I did read the Andrew Sullivan's comments posted on Thursday. I generally like Andrew Sullivan and agree with him on several issues. I really think his review of The Passion as a candidate for one of his poseur alerts. It is a bit over the top.

Posted by: pchuck at February 27, 2004 9:43 AM


Not only what you ask, but contrast the critical adulation Spielberg got for finally showing the brutality of war in "Saving Private Ryan".

Posted by: MG at February 27, 2004 10:05 AM

It is also amusing to see the critics complaining that the movie is not faithful to the source material. Whenever a good book is made into a movie (most recently, "Lord of the Rings" and "Master and Commander") partisans of the books complain bitterly about any deviation, no matter how slight. The critics uniformly, and rightly, ridicule these arguments. Now, suddenly, any deviation from the Good Book is used to prove what a whacko mess the movie is.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 27, 2004 10:11 AM

Here is a good column about how Hollywood usually approaches grisly death.

Posted by: Paul Cella at February 27, 2004 10:17 AM


Your point is doubly well-taken when we consider the standard arguments of the non-religious on the historical accuracy of scripture.

Posted by: Peter B at February 27, 2004 10:38 AM

From the Times today:


"Editor's Note: Feb. 27, 2004, Friday

An article in The Arts yesterday about Hollywood's reaction to Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" cited an executive close to David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, principals of DreamWorks, saying that the two men had privately expressed anger over the film.

The Times should have checked directly with both men and given them an opportunity to comment on the executive's statement.

Mr. Geffen said yesterday: "Neither Jeffrey or I have seen the movie or have formed an opinion about it."

Posted by: j at February 27, 2004 11:14 AM

"But," the two studio executives added, "we did see the opening box office numbers & were suitably impressed" ....

Posted by: rkb at February 27, 2004 12:42 PM

If Hollywood thought that a "Mad Max" reprise would earn $200 million, Mel Gibson would be signed in a heartbeat.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 27, 2004 3:34 PM

Interesting that you should say that... I was just reading about another "Mad Max" film in development, that was to star Gibson.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at February 27, 2004 4:31 PM
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