"At one of the early meetings," Eszterhas recalled, "Adam Fogelson, Universal Pictures’ chairman, said to him, 'Why do you want to do this story?' Mel said, 'Because I think I should.' I liked that answer very much."
Eszterhas made the comments in a Q&A with Andrew Goldman, published in Sunday's New York Times magazine.
Gibson's 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ" was viewed by many as anti-Semitic and he was quoted in a police report as saying that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" during a 2006 drunk driving arrest.
"We both saw it as Mel, maybe from his heart, wanting to do a terrific 'Braveheart'-like movie about Jewish history," said Eszterhas, who said he was comfortable working with Gibson despite his problems.
"I’ve seen him explode at guests in his houses," Eszterhas said. "And I think that his ex-girlfriend is probably right about one thing: He needs medication. To me, 'The Passion of the Christ' was not anti-Semitic. I loved it. But I am concerned about what he said to the highway patrolman. The answer is going to come when I finish the script and I see his reaction."
Though generally positive in regard to Gibson, Eszterhas, who like Gibson is Catholic, seemed to mock the idea of talking religion with him.
"Mel built this beautiful church in the Agoura Hills where the only priests who can say Mass are pre-Vatican II priests. So it’s almost like a private chapel. In my mind, his Catholicism is a figment of his imagination."