The anti-Islam film that's set off a firestorm in the Middle East was directed by a 65-year-old schlock director named Alan Roberts, we've confirmed. He's the creative vision behind softcore porn classics like The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood.
An Alan Roberts is listed as director on the film's casting calls and call sheets from the summer of 2011, back when it was innocuously called Desert Warriors.. Castmembers and crew told us yesterday that Roberts was brought on by producer "Sam Bacile" aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and he muddled his way through a disorganized three-month shoot.
This is the same Alan Roberts listed in IMDB as the director of a handful of softcore porn movies and other low-budget films, according to acquaintances we spoke to today.
"I am sure it was the same Alan Roberts, as I remember him speaking about this project," said filmmaker David A. Prior, a longtime acquaintance of Roberts, in an email. Roberts is listed as a producer on two of Prior's films, 2008's Zombie Wars and 2007's Lost at War.
"He did work on [Innocence of Muslims]," confirmed a man who was Roberts' business partner in a post-production facility he ran, who asked not to be named.
The backstory behind how Roberts became director of Innocence of Muslims is still unclear, like so many things about the film. We've tried to reach Roberts, but his business associate told us he "turned off his phone" soon after protests broke out over the film and is laying low. But he said Roberts was "non-political" and did not have any apparent anti-Islam feelings. Roberts may have been duped by the film's producer in much the same way as the rest of the cast and crew. They believed they were participating in a period piece about ancient Egypt and had no idea the movie would be edited and dubbed into a piece of Islamophobic propaganda..
"They redubbed it, they brought in the actors, put in new sounds, changed the names," said the business partner. "And this was done later, before it was initially released. Of course Alan had nothing to do with it."
An actress who worked with Roberts on Innocence of Muslims agreed that he had nothing to do with the political bent of the film.
"My gut tells me he was just a has-been director who was trying to prove he could still be Hollywood," she wrote in an email.
Alan Roberts' real name is Robert Brownell. Vice obtained documents showing a person from Santa Montica named Robert Brownell had paid for some pre-production services for the film that would eventually become Innocence of Muslims, and Roberts' business partner confirmed that Robert Brownell was Alan Roberts' real name.
Until the release of Innocence of Muslims, the 65-year-old Roberts has had an unremarkable career as a small-time director and editor. His directing credits include some softcore porn from the 70s and 80s like 1977's Young Lady Chatterly, The Sexpert and The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood, third of the Happy Hooker trilogy. (It's probably no coincidence that the cast included at least two porn stars, or that Innocence of Muslims contains a graphic scene of Muhammed performing oral sex on a woman.) Roberts tried to break into action in 1991 with Karate Cop: "John Travis is the last honest cop in a future dominated by terroristic martial-arts gangs who fight gladiator-style in arenas."
Roberts is more accomplished as a film editor, with 28 editing credits, including the 2003 Johnny Knoxville/Christina Applegate vehicle Grand Theft Parsons. In the mid-2000s, he ran a digital post-production facility called Genesis Post-Production according to a press release for a documentary about Burning Man where he's credited as producer.
"At one time he edited some fairly large films but he really never got a break to the really big ones for whatever reasons," said the business partner. "But for the work I've seen, the editing he's done, he's actually very creative."
Anyone who's seen the embarrassing 14-minute trailer for Innocence of Muslims, which he helped edit as well as direct, might disagree. But then sloppy editing is far from the worst thing about the film.