Aug. 1, 2006 — -- The 81-year-old Holocaust survivor whose memoir Mel Gibson planned to turn into a TV miniseries said she didn't know until a few days ago that Gibson was involved in the project, but found his alleged anti-Semitic comments "hurtful."
Still, she doesn't want to see the incident blown out of proportion and hopes the project will be completed, though its fate is now in limbo.
"In this country, there is always the tendency of the press to exaggerate," said Flory Van Beek, a Dutch Jew who hid from the Nazis with the help of her Catholic boyfriend.
"Yes, I read about his supposed comments, and yes, it appears that he said very stupid and hurtful things," Van Beek said. "But as a Jew, I am much more concerned with what is going on in Israel, which is fighting for its very survival, and I wish that was more the focus of news coverage."
Van Beek's 1998 memoir, "Flory: Survival in the Valley of Death," is under development by Gibson's Con Artists Productions and two other companies.
The project, announced in December, was to run on ABC TV. ABC announced Monday it was no longer planning to run the show.
"Given that it has been nearly two years, and we have yet to see the first draft of a script, we have decided to no longer pursue this project," ABC said in a one-sentence statement.
It's now unclear whether "Flory" will still be produced, although Van Beek said she would remain hopeful.
"It's very misleading to call this a Mel Gibson project," Van Beek said. "His name is not on any of the documents that I signed, and I've had no contact with him."
Gibson was arrested Friday in Malibu, Calif., on suspicion of drunken driving, after officers pulled him over for allegedly driving at 87 mph in a 45 mph zone. According to the police report of the incident posted on the entertainment news Web site TMZ, Gibson made anti-Semitic remarks to the arresting officer.
Van Beek, who lives with her 94-year-old husband in Newport Beach, Calif., said she wasn't immediately aware that Gibson was involved with Con Artists when she sold the option to her book, but that it wouldn't have affected the deal to which she agreed.
"I wanted to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust and those who were lost," she said. "I just want the movie to accurately tell the story in my book."
Van Beek and her husband have been married for 63 years. She was 16 and he was 28 when they met and hid from the Nazis, later joining the Dutch resistance movement. They each lost family members in concentration camps.
After the war, they came to the United States and have lived in Newport Beach since 1962.
After Gibson's arrest in Los Angeles, she said she began hearing allegations that the 50-year-old star had made anti-Semitic remarks.
On Saturday, Gibson issued a lengthy statement apologizing for his behavior.
"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable," he said in the statement, without elaborating on what he specifically had said.
TMZ posted what it said were four pages from the original arrest report, which quoted Gibson as launching an expletive-laden "barrage of anti-Semitic remarks," allegedly telling officers, among other things, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County's Sheriff's Department said Monday that the case was going to the district attorney, and that the county's Office of Independent Review had opened an investigation into whether authorities had tried to cover up Gibson's alleged inflammatory comments, according to its chief attorney, Mike Gennaco.
Many Jewish groups had already criticized Gibson's 2004 blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ," and he's had to distance himself from quotes his father has made denying the Holocaust took place.
Even if Gibson were inebriated when he made the alleged remarks, "it would be inappropriate for him to direct a film about the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Heir of the Simon Weisenthal Center in Los Angles.
Van Beek, however, said that Gibson had yet to say what direct role, if any, he'd play in bringing her story to film.
"I wish those who had no knowledge of what's going on would stop from jumping to conclusions," she said. "This film is still in its planning stages, and as of now, I don't believe he'll have any direct involvement."
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