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'Innocence of Muslims' actors, crew duped by director

Published time: September 12, 2012 08:20
Edited time: October 02, 2012 11:59
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (C) is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officers in Cerritos, California September 15, 2012. Nakoula, a California man convicted of bank fraud has been escorted to an interview with federal officers probing possible probation violations stemming from the making of an anti-Islam video that has triggered violent protests in the Muslim world (Reuters/Bret Hartman)

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (C) is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officers in Cerritos, California September 15, 2012. Nakoula, a California man convicted of bank fraud has been escorted to an interview with federal officers probing possible probation violations stemming from the making of an anti-Islam video that has triggered violent protests in the Muslim world (Reuters/Bret Hartman)

The controversial film "Innocence of Muslims," which portrays the prophet Muhammad as a child molester, has outraged Muslims worldwide. But offensive passages were dubbed in after filming, and the crew says the producer lied about his objectives.

The now-notorious movie essentially claims Muhammad was a fraud, portraying Islam's holiest figure as a womanizer who approved of pedophilia, among other things.

But a statement purportedly written on behalf of the film's crew says its producer “took advantage” of the team.

“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” the statement, published by CNN, reads. “We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.”

An actress who played a role in the movie told Gawker she was given no signs as to the true end product of the film, which had the working title Desert Warriors and was supposed to be set thousands of years before Muhammad lived.

"It wasn't based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt,” Cindy Lee Garcia said. “There wasn't anything about Muhammad or Muslims or anything."

The name Muhammad was dubbed into the film's audio track during post-production, along with just about every other reference to Islam, offensive or not.

The film's supposed writer and director, a man calling himself Sam Bacile, is now reportedly in hiding, but told the Associated Press by phone that "Islam is a cancer, period." A California real estate developer who identified himself as an Israeli Jew, Bacile added that his film was meant as a provocative political statement “condemning Islam.”

Fifty-six-year-old Bacile said he believes "Innocence of Muslims," which reportedly cost $5 million to make, “will expose Islam's flaws to the world.”

On Tuesday night a group of men armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles attacked and burned down the US consulate in Benghazi, killing US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other consular staffers.

Protesters in the capital of neighboring Egypt scaled the walls of the US embassy there, replacing an American flag with an Islamic banner.

Both groups were venting anger at Bacile’s film.

After spending two months on YouTube with only a handful of views, the film was dubbed into Egyptian Arabic by persons Bacile says he doesn't know, though he claims to speak enough Arabic to confirm that the translation is accurate. According to Bacile, it took him three months to make the film, with 59 actors and about 45 people behind the camera.

After being translated, the film was shown on Egyptian television, sparking outrage among conservative viewers.

The director said "Innocence of Muslims" had been screened publicly only once, earlier this year to a mostly empty theater in Hollywood.

Mysterious director

Meanwhile, the press questions Bacile's identity. Some reports suggest that the name Bacile may be a pseudonym for someone affiliated with the Egyptian Coptic Christian diaspora, while others doubt the director has been contacted at all.

A man who claimed he was a consultant on the film told The Atlantic that Bacile was a pseudonym, and that the man was not Jewish or Israeli. Israeli officials said there was no record of him being a citizen.

Amid the controversy and rumors surrounding the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a California Coptic Christian earlier convicted of financial crimes, has confirmed his role in managing and providing logistics for its production. He denied having directed the film or knowing purported director Sam Bacile. However, AP reports that the phone number the agency used to reach Bacile was used to trace Nakoula outside Los Angeles. Further, according to federal court papers, Nakoula was known to use the surname Bacily as an alias.

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