Mel Gibson has reacted strongly against criticism of his controversial, yet-to-be-released film about the crucifixion, but he has been forced to make one major change. He can no longer call the movie ''The Passion,'' the Associated Press reports. The reason? Miramax has already registered that title with the Motion Picture Association of America, since it owns the movie rights to Jeanette Winterson's 1987 novel ''The Passion,'' a historical romance set during the Napoleonic wars. So Gibson will call his movie ''The Passion of Christ,'' at least in the United States, a Gibson spokesperson said Wednesday.
Guess this means Miramax will join Twentieth Century Fox on the list of distributors who won't join the bidding for U.S. theatrical rights to the movie. Despite a ready audience of Christian viewers and acclaim from clerics and political conservatives who've seen the movie at invitation-only screenings, studios have shied away from the film because they fear the controversy around the film -- accusations that it portrays Jews as responsible for Jesus' execution and may spark anti-Semitic violence among viewers -- may prompt boycotts and upset stockholders. Gibson has suggested he may distribute ''The Passion of Christ'' the way he produced it -- on his own dime -- come next Ash Wednesday.