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Fox passes on Gibson's 'The Passion'

QUICK TAKES

August 30, 2003

Mel Gibson can't even get his pals at 20th Century Fox Studios to distribute his movie about the last hours of Jesus Christ's life.

Gibson's film company, Icon Productions, is starting to look for a distributor to release "The Passion," which some Jewish leaders say is anti-Semitic in its portrayal of Jews during the time of Christ's Crucifixion. Film clips show hooded and cloaked Jews rejoicing as a battered and tortured Christ carries the cross to his death.

Some people who have seen it say the movie's violence alone may make it difficult to find a distributor.

Fox, which has a joint production deal with Icon, had the first option to distribute the controversial movie. But the studio has decided to pass, a spokesman for News Corp., the studio's parent company, said Thursday.

Company officials issued a brief statement: "Icon told us that it has a number of alternative distribution options that it is pursuing. In light of this, Fox and Icon agreed late last week that Fox will not be involved in the release of the film."

New York Jewish leaders and two dozen protesters who rallied outside News Corp.'s 6th Avenue office building on Thursday cheered when Assemblyman Dov Hikind revealed that Fox was out. Hikind (D-Brooklyn) warned other movie companies that "they should not distribute this film. This is unhealthy for Jews all over the world."

Gibson has asked his talent agency, International Creative Management, to help sell the film to a distributor, but ICM has not had formal talks with any company.

Gibson also has shown the film to the top executives at Regal Cinemas, the nation's largest theater chain, opening the possibility that Gibson might bypass traditional distribution channels and let Regal handle the film.

New York Daily News and Times staffers

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