“He should be very careful calling me a liar,” Eszterhas said in an exclusive interview with TheWrap's Sharon Waxman. “We have a recording of his actions and statements that my son Nick made in Costa Rica,” where Eszterhas, his wife, Naomi, and son spent time with Gibson in December at the actor's villa.
Gibson said on Wednesday that an explosive letter from Eszterhas was “utter fabrication” in its “great majority.” In the letter, the writer described the movie star in the grip of an anti-Semitic obsession, inflicting frequent rages on those around him and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.
The following is the full interview:
Joe Eszterhas: I’d like to respond to Mel line by line. He says, “The great majority of the facts as well as the statements attributed to me are utter fabrication.” He should be very careful calling me a liar. We have a recording of his actions and statements that my son Nick made in Costa Rica. There were at least four other people present when he exploded in that rage. Naomi also witnessed things he said about killing Oksana, and his constant anti-Semitic remarks. He should be very careful.
SW: And he says that as man of a principle, if Mel was this person you describe, you should have withdrawn from the project.
JE: I didn’t withdraw from the project because I love the project. It’s a great, heroic story. I felt trapped. It was a project initiated by Mel. I couldn’t legally or morally take it from him and write it as a spec script. I was hoping the power of the story would overcome his anti-Semitism. I hoped to convert him through the power of the script. I wanted to write, and I did write, the Jewish Braveheart.
SW: Some are saying that you only wrote this letter out of resentment, after Warner Bros. rejected the script?
JE: In an interview I did with the New York Times on Feb 5, before the script delivered, I said I’d seen him explode at people, and that Oksana was right when she said that he needed medication. I also said that if I saw anti-Semitism creep into the script, I’d take my name off the project.
SW: Did you ever confront him when he made anti-Semitic remarks?
JE: We had a terrific argument over his notion that the Torah talked about the sacrifice of Christian babies. I told him he was confusing the Torah with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He said, "it’s the Torah check it."
SW: And when he used a term like "oven-dodgers"?
JE: I would say, "Dude, stop this shit." Or I’d roll my eyes. But these things happened over a period of time. It’s not like he would say these anti-Semitic things every hour, every day. I compressed the things he’d said.
SW: Gibson says in his response that he is passionate, intense?
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JE: I humbly submit those are wrong words. I’d say he’s unstable. He’s out of control. He’s often irrational. And he needs medication. He needs help. One of the reasons I wrote the letter is I’m concerned that without getting serious help, someone is going to get hurt.
He leads an extremely isolated existence. The TV is only on when he’s watching movies, and they’re often his own movies. The people around him aren’t people who are going to raise those kinds of issues with him. Most of them have seen him go off into bellowing rages. It’s scary. It frightens people. If you’ve seen that once, it's very difficult to say, "Dude you need help." People would rather avoid the consequences.
SW: And why would he hate John Lennon?
JE: The man is a hater. He hates Jews and God knows who else. But two of the people he definitively hates are John Lennon and Walter Cronkite. Why? You’re dealing with an irrational human being.
SW: What was the context for what he said about John Lennon? (Eszterhas says Gibson derided Lennon, saying “He deserved to be shot.”)
JE: It came up several times. One of the guests brought up John Lennon at the dinner table and again in the car driving into town. All of us were stunned. We tried to make light of it.
SW: What is on the tape you have?
JE: Nick has a digital recording: there’s a lot on it, of the rage in Costa Rica. Nick taped a big sequence of it. We went up to the dining room. Mel throws a cell phone, goes running around the side of house, screaming all the way through. He goes to a lower room, destroys the totem pole in the billiard room. He screams again about Oksana. When we were up there, Nick had the iPod in his pocket, and he was frightened.
SW: What are you going to do with it?
JE: For the moment, I'm holding on to it. Mel needs to understand I don’t like being called a liar. And I have evidence. This tape testifies to both actions and statements. The violence that he’s doing and things he’s screaming into the night.
SW: What are you hoping to accomplish?
JE: I hope, to begin with, he gets some help. Someone is going to get hurt. I feel that in my bones. I’ve seen him rage, twice. I’ve heard the horrible pornographic imagery that he told my 15-year-old. And I’ve heard him talk and fantasize about killing Oksana. So he needs help.
In terms of Oksana, I think it’s good for her and her safety — and I don’t know her — to know the way he’s thinking and way he’s behaving.
And in terms of the script, I’m heartbroken. I put my heart and soul in it. It’s in the hands of a person who I’m convinced hates Jews. A tragic situation in my mind. I asked him to do the decent thing and give me the script back. Let me get it made.
SW: What will happen from here?
JE: I don’t want to be at war with him. I live very quietly in Cleveland with a wonderful family. I hope the outcomes are all positive. I hope that no one gets hurt. But I don’t have any idea where it’s going to come out.