'Innocence of Muslims' trailer YouTube video: The story behind the Mohammed film trailer

The murky account of a man who says he is responsible for a film that ridiculed Prophet Mohammed is raising questions about everything from his identity to the production.

In telephone calls with news agencies, a man identifying himself as Sam Bacile said he was the filmmaker behind the movie that roiled the Islamic world.

In Egypt and Libya, mobs targeted U.S. missions and blamed America for the film. In the end, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans in the Libyan city of Benghazi were dead, though it is not clear whether the attack was solely incited by the film.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the man identified himself as a 52-year-old Israeli-American real estate developer from California.

Bacile characterized the 14-minute movie, "Innocence of Muslims," as "a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam," the newspaper reported.

"Islam is a cancer," he said. "The movie is a political movie. It's not a religious movie."

He said he was backed by Jewish donors, who contributed $5 million to make the film.

Almost immediately, though, there were questions about the claim.

Israel's foreign Ministry said there was no record of a Sam Bacile with Israeli citizenship.

"This guy is totally anonymous. At this point no one can confirm he holds Israeli citizenship and even if he did we are not involved," ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

CNN has been unable to contact Bacile and cannot verify his claims. A search by CNN of public records related to Sam Bacile came up empty.

Steve Klein, an anti-Muslim activist who said he served as a script consultant on the movie, told CNN Bacile had gone into hiding.

"He's very depressed, and he's upset," Klein said Wednesday. "I talked to him this morning, and he said that he was very concerned for what happened to the ambassador."

Casting further doubt on the filmmaker's identity, The Atlantic later quoted Klein as saying Sam Bacile was a pseudonym.

He told The Atlantic he did not know Sam Bacile's real name.

Klein is known in Southern California for his vocal opposition to the construction of a mosque in the Temecula, southeast of Los Angeles, in 2010. He heads up Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, a group that contends Islam is a threat to American freedom.

A search of entertainment records turned up no previous mention of a Sam Bacile, and the directors and writers guilds had no listing for him.

A casting call published in July 2011 in Backstage magazine and in other publications for actors identifies the working title of the movie as "Desert Warrior" and describes it as a "historical Arabian Desert adventure film."

But the 80 cast and crew members involved in the making of the movie told CNN on Wednesday that they were "grossly misled" about its intent.

"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer," they said in a statement to CNN.

According to the statement, the group was "shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."

An actress in the film, who asked not to be identified, said the original script did not include a Prophet Mohammed character. She said she and other actors complained that their lines had been changed.

The woman said she spoke Wednesday with the producer, who is identified in the advertisement as Sam Bassiel. "He said he wrote the script because he wants the Muslims to quit killing," she said. "I had no idea he was doing all this."

The actress said the character of Mohammed in the movie was named George when it was shot, and that after production wrapped she returned and read other lines that may have been dubbed into the piece.

A member of the production staff who worked on the film and has a copy of the original script corroborated the woman's account. There was no mention of Mohammed or Islam, the crew member said.

The movie was shown in June at an undisclosed theater and drew only 10 patrons, according to The Los Angeles Times. Then the movie was called "Innocence of Bin Laden," the newspaper reported.

Klein told The Los Angeles Times that the movie was shown in Hollywood in hopes of drawing Islamic extremists.

The name Sam Bacile surfaced in July when somebody posted the 14-minute movie on YouTube in July under the name. The film was posted under several titles, including "Mohammed Movie Trailer" and "Innocence of Muslims."

CNN's Tom Watkins, Jennifer Wolfe and Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments