Hollywood star Mel Gibson is already planning his next foray into the weighty world of religious film-making - he wants to make a movie about the origins of the Jewish holiday of HANUKKAH.

Gibson - who was criticised by some quarters of the Jewish church, who accused his epic The Passion Of The Christ of blaming Jews for Jesus Christ's death - has hinted he may make a filmed account of the Revolt Of The Maccabees, the story behind Hanukkah.

The 46-year-old says, "The story that's always fired my imagination is the Book of Maccabees.

"The Maccabees family stood up, and they made war. They stuck by their guns and they came out winning. It's like a western."

The Maccabees led a three year war, 200 years before the birth of Jesus, against ANTIOCHUS, a king who forced the Jews to worship false gods. The war led to the liberation of Jerusalem.

Gibson's interest in Jewish history concerns the Jewish ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE. National director ABE FOXMAN says, "My answer would be, 'Thanks but no thanks.' The last thing we need in Jewish history is to convert our history into a western."

Meanwhile, Gibson is set to become the richest star in the world thanks to a series of clever financial tie-ins to his self-funded film.

The Passion's soundtrack has already rocketed to the top of the Christian and Soundtrack charts in America, becoming one of the best-selling albums in both territories.

And other Passion merchandise is flying off shelves too - photography book THE PASSION: PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE MOVIE THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST has debuted high on America's new bestsellers' list, and jewellery items such as THE PASSION NAIL PENDANT have become fashion statements for fervent Christians.

18/03/2004 21:18