A film portraying the prophet Muhammad as a philanderer and child abuser didn’t start out that way, according to reports from the film’s cast and crew that have emerged since an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya on Wednesday caused the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others.
U.S. officials have cast doubt on the theory that a clip from the movie, called “Innocence of Muslims,” was the sole catalyst for the violent protests that have broken out in Egypt, Yemen and Libya, but the low-budget production has been cited as playing a role.
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A woman who played a small part in the film told Gawker that she plans to sue the film’s director for allegedly redubbing the movie, which she said was originally called “Desert Warriors,” to include insults about the prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe it is a sin to depict Muhammad in any way.
“It was going to be a film based on how things were 2,000 years ago,” Cindy Lee Garcia of Bakersfield, Calif., told Gawker. “It wasn’t based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn’t anything about Muhammad or Muslims or anything.”
In an interview with Buzzfeed, a man who gave his name as Jimmy Israel said he worked briefly on the film in the early stages of production and said it did have references to “Muhammad being a hypocrite,” but nothing as derogatory as the YouTube clip.
A statement released on the behalf of the 80 cast and crew members to CNN echoes Garcia’s claim that the cast was misled about how the film would be edited:
“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose,” the statement says. “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.”
Garcia said the director represented himself as Sam Bacile on the set, although the the Associated Press has found records and other connections tying that name to Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who told the AP he was a Coptic Christian and has admitted to helping with the logistics for the movie. Police were sent to Nakoula’s home Thursday to protect him and his family.
Gawker’s Adrian Chen also posted what he believes is the original casting call for the film, which bills it as an “indie feature” and lists a director by the name of Alan Roberts.
Adding to the confusion, the Atlantic suggests that the film may not actually be a film, pointing to the fact that no one has been able to obtain a copy of it, and the AP reported that there was no record of it among California film industry groups.
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