How Despairing Gibson Found 'The Passion'

At "the height of spiritual bankruptcy" more than a decade ago, abusing alcohol and drugs, the actor Mel Gibson said he once contemplated hurling himself out a window.

But instead, he turned to the Bible, which ultimately inspired him to direct his new movie, "The Passion of the Christ."

"I think I just hit my knees," Gibson told Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview on ABC News' "Primetime." "I just said, 'Help.' You know? And then, I began to meditate on it, and that's in the Gospel. I read all those again. I remember reading bits of them when I was younger."

"Pain is the precursor to change, which is great," Gibson said. "That's the good news."

Gibson's renewed faith will be on display for moviegoers to see starting Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday, when "The Passion," depicting the final 12 hours of Jesus' life, debuts in theaters.

But in the months leading up to its release, the Aramaic- and Latin-language project has sparked controversy, which Gibson discussed with Sawyer on the special Monday-night edition of "Primetime."

Religious leaders and critics are debating whether the film's dramatization of Jesus' crucifixion is excessively violent and whether the depiction of the Jewish role in Jesus' death could incite anti-Semitic sentiments.

Blaming the Messenger?

Gibson insisted on "Primetime" he is no anti-Semite, and that anti-Semitism is "un-Christian" and a sin that "goes against the tenets of my faith."

When asked who killed Jesus, Gibson said, "The big answer is, we all did. I'll be the first in the culpability stakes here."

Gibson told Sawyer he simply tried his best to interpret the Gospels in "The Passion of the Christ."

"Critics who have a problem with me don't really have a problem with me in this film," Gibson said. "They have a problem with the four Gospels. That's where their problem is."

Asked whether it was the Jews who killed Jesus, Gibson noted Jesus, "was a child of Israel, among other children of Israel. There were Jews and Romans in Israel. There were no Norwegians there. The Jewish Sanhedrin, and those who they held sway over — and the Romans — were the material agents of his demise."

‘Potential to Fuel Anti-Semitism’

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told Sawyer in remarks broadcast along with Gibson's interview that he doesn't believe Gibson is anti-Semitic. But Foxman still has concerns about "The Passion of the Christ."

"I do not believe it's an anti-Semitic movie," Foxman said. "I believe that this movie has the potential to fuel anti-Semitism, to reinforce it."

"This is his vision, his faith; he's a true believer, and I respect that," Foxman said. "But there are times that there are unintended consequences."

Gibson raised hackles recently with published statements in which he noted Holocaust victims were among many victims of World War II. He told Sawyer he doesn't mean to deny either that the Holocaust occurred or that there were millions killed.

"Do I believe that there were concentration camps where defenseless and innocent Jews died cruelly under the Nazi regime? Of course I do; absolutely," he said. "It was an atrocity of monumental proportion."

Asked if the Holocaust represented a "particular kind of evil," he told Sawyer it did, but added, "Why do you need me to tell you? It's like, it's obvious. They're killed because of who and what they are. Is that not evil enough?"

‘Faith, Hope, Love and Forgiveness’

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