Is he “Jewish Israeli” or “Egyptian Coptic Christian?” Is he a California-based real-estate developer or a financial scamster? Did his hatred-inciting, anti-Islam movie get the backing of a U.S. financier? Did he dupe his actors about the ultimate message of his film? Is his real name “Sam Bacile” or is it “Nakoula Basseley Nakoula”?
While no one seems to be certain about any of this, what is painfully obvious is that the individual who made the highly controversial film, Innocence of Muslims, has gone into hiding after the movie triggered a backlash.
The media here has been swirling with speculation about his identity.
The Associated Press in particular said it had received information from an anonymous law enforcement official that a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was behind the offending film.
While AP said it had actually spoken to one “Nakoula” who admitted to being the person who “managed logistics for the company that produced the film”, the news agency said using multiple sources and methods it had traced the identity of the so-called “Sam Bacile” to the very same “Nakoula.”
Meanwhile, initial claims made by Mr. Bacile himself to the Wall Street Journal — that he was a 52-year-old Israeli-American real estate developer from California — came under serious doubt when Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, “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.”
One of the sources that media here reportedly tracked down was an American named Steve Klein — apparently one of the film’s promoters — who told The Atlantic magazine that that he did not know Mr. Bacile’s real name, and that they only met once and spoke for about an hour. “He’s not Israeli… His name is a pseudonym,” Mr. Klein was said to have told The Atlantic, adding, “I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.”
Actors in the film were, however, traced. They lashed out at its maker(s) for duping them about what message the film would ultimately seek to convey. CNN news channel carried an interview with an unidentified actress in the film, who said that “the original script did not include a Prophet Mohammed character... [and the] lines had been changed”.
The producer “said he wrote the script because he wants the Muslims to quit killing”, she said, adding “I had no idea he was doing all this.” The actress also described the movie’s repercussions as a “nightmare,” CNN said, and that she regretted having a role, and “was angry and hurt by the lies.” Seventy-nine cast and crew members also reportedly said they were “grossly misled” about the film’s intent.