As fresh details emerge on the origin of the anti-Islam movie that has caused global uproar for its blasphemous content, CNN reported on Friday that the movie’s producer is not an Israeli-American, and the cast was ‘grossly misled’ into the project.
The 14-minute clip posted on YouTube prompted global condemnation and protests, and resulted in the death of the US Ambassador to Libya, along with three more Americans.
Details of the origin of the movie, however, were murky from the onset.
The filmmaker initially identified himself as Sam Bacile, and told the Wall Street Journal that he was a 52-year-old Israeli-American real estate developer from California. He said Jewish donors had financed his film.
But Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there was no record of a Sam Bacile with Israeli citizenship, according to CNN.
US federal officials, however, consider Bacile to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who was convicted of a bank fraud in 2009.
When CNN inquired about Sam Bassil, the US attorney’s office sent a copy of a 2009 indictment which showed the bank fraud conviction for a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
Several other aliases – Mark Basseley Youssef, Yousseff M Basseley, Nicola Bacily and Malid Ahlawi – were all listed as aliases in the indictment. Other court documents listed Thomas J. Tanas, Ahmad Hamdy and Erwin Salameh also as aliases.
A production staff member who worked on the film in its initial stages told CNN that an entirely different name was filed on the paperwork for the Screen Actors Guild: Abenob Nakoula Bassely. A public records search showed an Abanob B Nakoula residing at the same address as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
He believed the filmmaker was a Coptic Christian and when the two spoke on the phone during production, the filmmaker said he was in Alexandria, Egypt, raising money for the film. There has been a long history of animosity between Muslims and the minority Copts in Egypt.
Cast and crew misled
The 80 cast and crew members involved in the making of the movie said on Wednesday they were “grossly misled” about its intent and expressed sorrow over the resulting violence.
“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” they said in a statement to CNN about the movie, “Innocence of Muslims.”
“We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose,” continued the statement, which was sent to CNN by a member of the production staff who asked not to be identified. “We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved,” the statement added.
A casting call published in July 2011 in Backstage magazine and in other publications identifies the working title of the movie as “Desert Warrior” and describes it as a “historical Arabian Desert adventure film.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.