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Moustapha Akkad; Produced Slashers, Examined Islam

Moustapha Akkad said he turned to the horror genre because it was hard to raise money for religious-themed movies, according to a 1998 New York Times report.
Moustapha Akkad said he turned to the horror genre because it was hard to raise money for religious-themed movies, according to a 1998 New York Times report. (By Mohamed Al Sehety -- Associated Press)

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Associated Press
Sunday, November 13, 2005

Moustapha Akkad, 75, the Syrian-born filmmaker and producer of the "Halloween" horror movie franchise, died Nov. 11 from wounds sustained in one of the triple hotel bombings in Jordan. His daughter, Rima Akkad Monla, 34, also was killed.

Mr. Akkad, who lived in Los Angeles, was in Jordan with his daughter to attend a wedding. He died in the Jordanian hospital where he was being treated.

The two were at the wedding celebration at the Radisson SAS Hotel on Wednesday night when three suicide bombers struck it, the Grand Hyatt and the Days Inn in downtown Amman, killing at least 59 people, including themselves. His daughter, who lived in Beirut, was killed immediately.

Mr. Akkad, the eldest of eight children, was born in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and gained fame as a director and producer in the Arab world. After finishing his secondary studies in Syria, he left for the United States in 1950 to study filmmaking.

He was best known for producing all eight "Halloween" films, starting with the 1978 "Halloween" directed by John Carpenter and starring then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis. That movie -- and the ones that followed -- sparked the teen-slasher-horror genre that led to franchises including "Friday the 13th" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

Mr. Akkad also produced and directed "The Message" (1976), a film about Islam's prophet, Muhammad, and "Lion of the Desert" (1981), which tells the story of a Muslim rebel who fought against Italy's World War II conquest of Libya. Both starred Anthony Quinn.

"The Message" was declared sacrilegious by a group of American Muslims, who took hostages in three Washington locations when the movie opened in the United States in March 1977, demanding it not be shown in the country.

Mr. Akkad said he was baffled by the reaction to the movie, which cost $17 million to make and was nominated for an Academy Award for best original score.

"I did the film because it is a personal thing for me," Mr. Akkad said. "Being a Muslim myself who lived in the West, I felt that it was my obligation, my duty to tell the truth about Islam."

Islam "is a religion that has a 700-million following, yet it's so little known about, which surprised me. I thought I should tell the story that will bring this [history] to the West," he added.

He said he turned to the horror genre because it was hard to raise money for religious-themed movies, according to a 1998 New York Times report.

His daughter, Mrs. Monla, grew up in Los Angeles and was an avid polo player who graduated from the University of Southern California in 1995 with a degree in international relations.

She pursued a master's degree in Middle East studies at the American University of Beirut, where she met her husband, Ziad Monla.

Mr. Akkad's marriage to Patricia Akkad ended in divorce. He is survived by three sons.


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