The director of the film that has sparked protests in the Middle East is “upset” at the death of the U.S. envoy to Libya and has gone into hiding, fearing for his life, a colleague said Wednesday.
Steve Klein, a consultant on the low-budget “Innocence of Muslims,” told AFP that Sam Bacile -- not the filmmaker’s real name -- initially called the movie “The Innocence of Bin Laden” and hoped it would convert militant Muslims.
The film was only shown in full once in Hollywood about three months ago and drew no attention, Klein said, voicing shock at the eruption of violence this week, including anti-U.S. protests in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
“He’s very upset that the ambassador got murdered,” he said, referring to US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who died along with three other Americans after protests at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Bacile “melted, he fell apart” when told about Stevens’ death, added Klein, saying he had spoken to the filmmaker by phone earlier in the day. Bacile is also concerned about family members in Egypt, he said.
“They’re underground too, in hiding, added Klein, one of 15 people behind the film project.”
President Barack Obama quickly ordered increased security at US diplomatic missions around the world after the deadly protests Tuesday, which coincided with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
In a Wall Street Journal interview published Tuesday, Bacile took straight aim at Islam.
“Islam is a cancer,” Bacile said of his crudely-produced film, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed variously sleeping with women, talking about killing children and referring to a donkey as “the first Muslim animal.”
He said he had worked with some 60 actors and 45 crew to make the two-hour movie in a three-month period last year in California. “The movie is a political movie. It’s not a religious movie,” he said.
Klein, a former U.S. Marine and Christian activist, said Bacile told him that the movie was aimed at radical or militant Muslims, to try to show them the “truth” about the Prophet Mohammed and convince them to renounce violence.
“His idea was to get them to the (movie) theater, and then to show the movie about Mohammed, the truth, to try to get a fraction of a fraction to say ‘You know what, I really don’t want to do this any more’,” he said.
Klein warned that the reported Israeli-American director could suffer the same fate as Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was assassinated in 2004 after triggering protests with an anti-Muslim film.
Asked if Bacile could be killed, he said: “If he goes public I’m sure he will... he could get killed, really easily.”
The filmmaker’s real identity remains a mystery.
Online reports cited in the New York Times blog Tuesday suggested he could be Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian ally of Terry Jones, the Florida pastor known for Quran-burning who has also promoted the movie.
Klein said he had only known the director by the name he gave when they first met, Sam Bacile -- reportedly a real estate developer, but whose name came up blank on Internet searches before the film row erupted.
“I’m sure it’s something else,” said Klein. “I have no idea why he picked ‘Sam,’ I have no idea why he picked ‘Bacile.’”
Klein said he did not know the filmmaker’s nationality -- and denied that Israeli authorities had anything to do with the project.
“I know there’s some rumors out there, that Israel did it. No. Israel’s not involved. .. This was private people, private money, Sam did a great job of networking getting all the resources. He did a miraculous job.”
“The guy is a genius,” he added.