This morning, headlines around the world declared that an anti-Islam video on YouTube had incited angry mobs at U.S. embassies in Cairo and Benghazi. The violent riot in Libya resulted in the murder of four Americans, including the ambassador, but little remains known about the film that arguably sparked the protest.
Here’s what we’ve turned up:
Based on some of the resumes of the actors in the film, the movie, which was eventually called “Innocence of Muslims,” was initially listed as “Desert Warrior.” The casting call, which went up in August 2011, looked like this:
NOW CASTING SAG and NON SAG ACTORS for “DESERT WARRIOR.” Director Alan Roberts.
Historical desert drama set in Middle East. Indie Feature film shoots 18 days in L.A. in August. Studio and backlot locations.
Male Roles: DR. MATTHEW (Lead): Middle Eastern Pharmacist, 40-50, intelligent, family man; GEORGE (Lead); 40-50, Middle Eastern warrior leader, romantic, charismatic; YOUNG GEORGE (featured) 18-22; PRIEST (featured): 60-70, bearded; ABDO (featured), 60-70, Elder tribe leader; ISRAELI MEN 30-50 (featured); WARRIORS (featured) 18-50, Various Middle Eastern types, bearded.
Female Roles: CONDALISA (featured) 40, attractive, successful, strong willed; HILLARY (featured) 18 but must look younger, petite; innocent; YOUSTINA (featured) 16-18, Daughter of doctor; MIDDLE EASTERN WOMEN (Various Featured Roles) 18-40, attractive, exotic; OLDER WOMAN (featured) 60-70, feisty.
Please place Role desired in SUBJECT: line of email.
Indicate SAG or NON-SAG
Require phone contact for immediate interview in Beverly/LaCienega area.
Note that the director listed is Alan Roberts and not Sam Bacile. However, the company who carried out the casting call was named Pharaoh Voices, Inc, a California company whose listed president is one Youssef Basseley (not a far phonetic cry from Bacile). Youssef Basseley also appears in a California court case involving a guilty plea to the crime of bank fraud. Meanwhile, variations of Sam Bacile/Basseley appear on other resumes of the actors in the film, listing him as the director or producer.
According to one of the film’s actors, the actors were duped by producers about the nature of the film. Based on the casting call above, that seems highly plausible. A comment made by one of the film’s actresses on YouTube seems to corroborate this claim:
Yes things did not turn out at all like i thought they would, I was edited into parts, i have not even seen the whole movie. My only role was that of a mother loosing [sic] her daughter. And I am on my way to heaven . I am a Christian servant of the Lord God Jesus Christ is my Savior
Gawker has now released an interview with the actress who claims that her lines were dubbed. On the Media blog showcased multiple instances in which the actor’s lines were changed in post-production to religious references.
For example, at 2:53, the voiceover says “His name is Muhammed. And we can call him The Father Unknown.” In this case, the whole line is dubbed, and it appears the actor is actually saying, “His name is George (?). And we can call him The Father Unknown.” I assume the filmmakers thought they were being slick, thinking that dubbing the whole line instead of just the name would make it more seamless and less noticeable to the viewer. But once you start to look for these dubs, it’s hard to see anything else.
The cast has since released a statement decrying the producers’ deceit.
More on the identity of Sam Bacile, whom the Wall Street Journal spoke with earlier today, who seems to have been an invented figure. The handle Sam Bacile appears on a YouTube account, which is written entirely in Arabic (and not Hebrew). The user posted the now infamous trailer to the Muhammad film four days ago, but otherwise has not been active, save for a “favoriting” a video put out by the Al-Nour Party in Egypt, an ultra-conservative Salafist party that won nearly 28% of the vote in Egypt’s parliamentary elections earlier this year.
Anger Over Film Fuels anti-American Attacks in Libya, Egypt [NYT]
‘It Makes Me Sick’ Actress in Muhammed Movie Says [Gawker]
Desert Warrior Casting Call [MoonCasting]
Why Are All the Religious References in the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ Dubbed [OTM]
U.S. Missions Stormed in Libya, Egypt [WSJ]
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.