Mel Gibson confirmed reports that he is removing the controversial “blood curse” from his movie “The Passion of the Christ” but said he wouldn’t add a postscript saying that Jews are not responsible for Jesus’ death in an interview televised Monday.
Gibson told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a special broadcast of “Primetime Live” that he decided to take out a subtitle (the movie’s dialogue is written in Latin and Aramaic) quoting Matthew 27:25 “His blood be on us and on our children” because some interpret it as meaning the Jewish people are responsible for Jesus’ death.
“I felt it was better to take it out because my critics have said of this line that all Jews of all time are cursed by God,” he said. “This is not true. All Jews in all times are not cursed by God.”
But Gibson said he wouldn’t heed requests by some that he include an addendum asking viewers not to leave theaters with hatred for Jewish people.
“That assumes that there is something wrong with my film for me to do that, and I don’t think there is,” he said.
Gibson denied that either he or his film, which opens Feb. 25, is anti-Semitic. “For me it goes against the tenets of my faith to be racist in any form. To be anti-Semitic is a sin. It’s been condemned by one papal council after another. There are encyclicals on it. To be anti-Semitic is to be not Christian.”
A leading Jewish critic of the film, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman, said he is troubled by the film but doesn’t believe Gibson is anti-Semitic. “I do not believe this is an anti-Semitic film,” Foxman said on the program. “I believe this movie has the potential to fuel anti-Semitism, to reinforce it.”
Asked whether it was Jews who killed Jesus, Gibson said the Bible says that the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Romans “were the material agents of his demise.”
“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 who killed Jesus, Gibson replied: “The big answer is, we all did. I’ll be the first in the culpability stakes here.”
Gibson defended charges that his traditionalist Catholicism teaches that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church. “It is possible for people who are not even Christian to get into the Kingdom of Heaven,” he said, adding “it’s just easier” for him.
Gibson also distanced himself from writings of his 85-year-old father, traditionalist Catholic writer Hutton Gibson, questioning the scope of the Holocaust by suggesting that fewer than 6.5 million Jews died.
“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.”
But he declined to answer whether he shares his father’s views.
“Their whole agenda here, my detractors, is to try to drive a wedge between me and my father, and it’s not going to happen,” Gibson said. “He’s my father. Gotta leave it alone, Diane, gotta leave it alone.”
Gibson also responded to questions about previous statements that he believed his movie was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
“I think the Holy Ghost is real,” Gibson said. “I believe he’s looking favorably on this film and he wanted to help.”
Asked if he believed God ordained the movie, Gibson said, “God ordains everything…. Nothing happens by chance.”
Asked if he thought his movie was the definitive movie on the crucifixion, Gibson said: “It really is my vision. I’m not taking myself out of the equation…. I did this, but I did it with God’s help. This is my version of what happened according to the Gospels and what I wanted to show–the aspects of it I wanted to show.”
Gibson said reaching a point of “spiritual bankruptcy” 13 years ago led him to re-examine his faith and prompted him to want to make the movie, on which he spent $30 million of his own money.
Gibson said those who accuse him or his film of anti-Semitism miss the main point he is trying to make.
“I don’t want people to make it about the blame game,” Gibson said. “It’s about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. That’s what this film is about. It’s about Christ’s sacrifice.”
Jesus Christ “was beaten for our iniquities,” Gibson said. “He was wounded for our transgressions and by his wounds we are healed. That’s the point of the film. It’s not about pointing the fingers.”
He also responded to criticism that he chose to portray the story too graphically. Gibson admitted the move is “very violent,” but added, “If you don’t like it, don’t go.… If you want to leave halfway through, go ahead.”
“I wanted it to be shocking,” Gibson said. “And I also wanted it to be extreme. I wanted it to push the viewer over the edge … so that they see the enormity–the enormity of that sacrifice–to see that someone could endure that and still come back with love and forgiveness, even through extreme pain and suffering and ridicule.”
Gibson welcomed dialogue with his critics.
“Let’s get this out on the table and talk about it,” he said. “This is what the Talmud says. This is what the Gospel says. Let’s talk. Let’s talk. People are asking questions about things that have been buried a long time.”