With a new anti-Semitic controversy swirling around him, Mel Gibson tried for a little levity during a press conference Wednesday night for his latest film, "Get the Gringo."
When the press conference moderator noted that "Gringo" director/co-writer Adrian Grunberg was wearing a Star of David necklace, Grunberg acknowledged that he is Jewish. But when "Gringo" producer/co-writer Stacy Perskie, who is from Mexico, noted that he, too, is Jewish, Gibson quipped, "Funny, you don't look Jewish."
Gibson's comment comes amid accusations by screenwriter Joe Eszterhas that Gibson "hates Jews" and made disparaging remarks about them.
On Wednesday, the screenwriter provided a recording, about two-and-a-half minutes long, to gossip website The Wrap, in which he says the Oscar-winning actor-director went on a violent, profanity-laden rant.
Eszterhas said the recording was made on an iPod Dec. 7, 2011, by Nick Eszterhas, the screenwriter's 15-year-old son, who had accompanied his parents to Gibson's lavish Costa Rica estate, where they were house guests.
Gibson's rep declined to comment on the recording. But TMZ reported that the actor is looking into whether Eszterhas and his son, Nick, violated any laws in Costa Rica by secretly recording him in his home.
Eszterhas says the audio file features an enraged Gibson ranting against the "Basic Instinct" screenwriter and Gibson's ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.
"Why don't I have a first draft of 'The Maccabees'? What the f*** have you been doing?" a man's voice is heard screaming on the recording. Eszterhas said at the time of the recording he had yet to deliver a script for a new project they'd been working on, set to be titled "The Maccabees."
The voice on the recording continues, "I am earning money for a filthy little … [person] who takes advantage of me."
Gibson settled his custody case in August with Grigorieva, with whom he has a 2-year-old daughter, Lucia, agreeing to give Grigorieva $750,000, as well as continue to pay for the multimillion-dollar home he purchased for her and Lucia and provide additional financial support for the child, according to Associated Press.
Joe Eszterhas, 67, told The Wrap that he released the recording in reaction to Gibson's comments last week that the screenwriter is a liar, which followed Eszterhas' nine-page letter published in The Wrap, which accuses Gibson of "hating Jews" and asserts that Gibson used the writer to deflect Gibson's anti-Semitic reputation.
The plot of "The Maccabees" is intended to be about Jewish heroism, and would be a new turn for Gibson, who was criticized for his portrayal of Jews in the blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004. Gibson also made anti-Semitic statements in 2006 during a DUI incident in Mailbu, Calif. The actor later apologized to "everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words."
Eszterhas told The Wrap,"Gibson called me a liar. And I also have some reason to believe he's creating a PR blitz questioning my truthfulness."
The tirade reportedly began while guests were gathered for drinks and Gibson, 56, was staring at a photo of himself and his baby daughter, Luci. According to Eszterhas and his family, Gibson abruptly flew into a rage about how he is aging and hates ex-girlfriend Grigorieva, knocked over a totem pole and threw a cellphone.
Screenwriter Randall Wallace, his girlfriend Elizabeth Topp, Gibson friend Brad Hillstrom and household staff were all present at the time of the incident, Eszterhas said.
The release of the recording is the latest in a public dispute between the screenwriter and actor-director, which went public with Eszterhas' nine-page letter in which he accused Gibson of wild, out-of-control behavior, anti-Semitic remarks and threatening violent against Grigorieva.
Gibson responded last week by calling Eszterhas' allegation "utter fabrications" and maintained that the studio was unhappy with his script first draft. He also apologized to Eszterhas for venting his frustration at the screenwriter's failure to produce a script on time.
"I did react more strongly than I should have. I promptly sent you a written apology, the colorful words of which you apparently now find offensive. Let me now clearly apologize to you and your family in the simplest of terms," Gibson said in a letter published by Deadline.com, while adding, "In 25 years of script development I have never seen a more substandard first draft or a more significant waste of time."
"The bottom line is it shows to me he badly needs help," Eszterhas told The Wrap. "My interest isn't to damage him with this tape but to prevent damage being done to others, starting with Jews, including Oksana and now, I'm sure, me. I strongly believe that unless he seeks and receives some kind of psychiatric help, someone is going to get hurt."
"Gringo" director Grunberg - who, like producer Perskie, worked with Gibson on his 2005 film "Apocalypto" - noted in the press conference that he had no problems working with Gibson, who stars in the film as a career criminal who lands in a Mexican prison.
"I've known him for six, seven years," Grunberg said.