Mel's "Passion" A Bloodbath

New York Post

Page Six, Richard Johnson

July 16, 2003 -- MEL Gibson's pet project "The Passion" is doomed to box-office oblivion, insiders say - not because the movie is in Aramaic and Latin, but because of its "violent and graphic nature."

Gibson, who has held several small private screenings, is "insisting that the movie holds true to what happened the last 12 hours of Christ's life," a pal of his said, "including the horrific depiction of the crucifixion. It is worse than the graphic scenes in 'Braveheart.' "

The stubborn star directed "The Passion" but does not appear in it. He's ignoring conventional studio wisdom and taking advice only from a small group of clerics who have seen the film. "Mel is making notes and small changes on the advice of the bishops and rabbis who have seen it, in order that he can assure accuracy," we're told.

The rough cut Gibson has been showing to his advisors and friends, however, has subtitles, which Gibson plans to remove from the final print.

"Mel won't listen to anybody on this," the pal said. "We are hoping he keeps the subtitles in, or there really is no chance for the movie. No one will go see it, especially if they can't understand it. His friends are working on him but so far, nothing can get through to him."

Still, on other post-production issues, "Mel has been more open-minded than we thought he would be."

Gibson shelled out $25 million on the "vanity" project, which many feared would be anti-Semitic. Gibson is a "traditionalist" Catholic, a splinter group that rejects the reforms of Vatican II. Some of its adherents embrace a 16th Century papal decree that blamed Jews for the death of Jesus, although Gibson does not.

"In the movie [as in the New Testament], the Romans killed Jesus, not the Jews," Gibson's friend declares. "It is in no way anti-Semitic."

If fans want to judge themselves, a small trailer from the flick has been posted on

The early buzz on the movie has also been skewed by Gibson's father. Hutton Gibson, who has railed against the Vatican for more than 30 years, told a New York Times magazine writer several months ago that Vatican II was "a Masonic plot backed by the Jews."

He also called Pope John Paul II "Garrulous Karolus, the Koran-kisser," and questioned official accounts of the Holocaust.