As members of the crew who worked on Muslim Innocence speak out, we're learning more and more about the mysterious man behind the movie, allegedly named Sam Bacile, what the real cost of production was, whether the movie played anywhere, or what it was originally about.
On Wednesday, we broke down the many suspicions surrounding the controversial movie that sparked riots in Libya and Egypt resulting in the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. Gawker spoke with an actress who said the original script had almost nothing to do with Islam. CNN received an email from someone representing "80 cast and crew members" condemning the video.
The Associated Press and Buzzfeed both had important, revealing interviews with people supposedly involved. The AP spoke with Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who claims to be the manager of the company who made the movie. Buzzfeed spoke to a man going by the name Jimmy Israel, who worked for a short time on the movie as a producer. Israel found the movie because a friend was supposed to direct until Bacile showed up. He stuck around for a few days to try and help with production. This is what we were able to learn from the two stories:
Nakoula and Bacile are probably the same person. A cell phone number the AP used to speak to someone claiming to be Bacile traced back to the same location they met Nakoula. According to court papers, Nakoula has a number of aliases, including, "Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh and others." Jimmy Israel thinks they're the same person, too. He says when he asked Bacile for a legal name for registration with the Screen Actors Guild, Bacile said the name Bacile gave him was "Abnob Nakoula Basseley." He was also around 55, the same age the AP gives Nakoula.
If they are the same person, Nakoula's online activity likely violates a previous court order. The AP discovered Nakoula is currently not allowed to go on the internet or use a computer without approval from a parole officer:
Nakoula, who talked guardedly about his role, pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was also sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.
The movie was originally about Coptic Christians. Israel said he found the project when it was still called Desert Warriors. He was told by his friend and Bacile the movie was about, "the historical persecution of Coptic Christians." Nakoula admitted to being a Coptic Christian to the AP, too.
The budget wasn't anywhere close to $5 million. It was closer to $100,000, tops, according to Israel. "Israel suggests that, despite earlier reports that the film had millions of dollars of outside financing, the total outlay for the project couldn't have exceeded $100,000."
The movie played for at least a day in an old L.A. theater. The AP confirmed the movie did play "for a least a day, and possibly longer, several months ago," at the Vine Theater, a "faded Hollywood movie house," according to the AP. Also, this implies there's a finished, complete project somewhere.
At this point, Israel, Bacile, and Nakoula could be working together, or they could all be the same person. Herrman doesn't even know what to believe:
At one point Bacile claimed to have cancer, which didn't turn out to be true. He allegedly went on trips to Egypt to "raise money" for the film. It's hard to rule anything out; I can't be sure, for example, that his friend he would not name, the original director, exists. Likewise, I can't be sure that this isn't part of some larger deception — anything from a prank to some kind of bizarre intelligence operation. It's phenomenally strange.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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