The Passion Of The Christ director Mel Gibson has blasted critics of the controversial movie as "demented bigots" who are determined to "persecute" him.

The 48-year-old sparked outrage from religious leaders, many of whom have accused the upcoming movie of potentially sparking anti-Semitism because of its depiction of the role of some Jews in the death of Jesus Christ.

He says, "I'm subjected to religious persecution as an artist ,as an American and as a man.

"I forgive them all. But enough is enough. We will always have demented bigots around.

"But I don't believe that we can let those people dictate how we live, how we believe, how we make art.

"They're trying to make me into some kind of wacko. All I do is go and pray. For myself. For my family. For the whole world. That's what I do."

The Passion Of The Christ is released in America on Wednesday (25FEB04).

27/02/2004 01:45