Innocence of Muslims is shaping up to be the most influential movie of the year in a twisted way. A ridiculous 14-minute YouTube trailer for the anti-Islam film sparked violent protests throughout the Muslim world. But just a handful of people have seen the full film. We've obtained the original script for the feature-length Innocence of Muslims. Here is the seed from which so much chaos has sprung.
The 105-page script is a draft from May 2009. The film was called Desert Warrior at the time, the name also used during its production in the summer of 2011. And it's unbearably bad. The threadbare plot tells the story of "George," a corrupt man who founds Islam and goes on a bloodthirsty rampage in the ancient Middle East. (George is an obvious stand-in for Muhammed.) The characters are cardboard cutouts of humans, and the dialogue reads like something from a middle school theater production. Any cinematic value is subordinate to the film's message, bludgeoned over and over into the reader's skull: Muhammad—"George"—is evil and Islam is a hateful scourge. The YouTube trailer that sparked the protests differs slightly from this script, but the general outline is the same. (The script is embedded at the bottom of this page.)
A "Sam Basel" is credited as the scriptwriter. This is almost certainly a variation of "Sam Bacile," the pseudonym that Coptic Christian filmmaker and convicted fraudster Nakoula Basseley Nakoula used to produce the film. The script was produced by a ghostwriter based on a 20-page outline Nakoula gave him, according to TIME. The right-wing California Christian activist Steve Klein also said he consulted on the script.
The existence of the script clears up some key questions about the still-shadowy backstory of Innocence of Muslims. The May 2009 draft shows the film has been in the works for years. ABC reported Nakoula Basseley Nakoula wrote the script while serving a 21-month prison sentence in 2010-2011 for financial fraud. This doesn't make sense if the script existed in 2009.
The script also proves definitively the movie exists. Some have speculated that Innocence of Muslims was a trailer for a fake film, a viral video created to enrage Muslims. But the lengthy script shows that the project that would become Innocence of Muslims was always intended to be a feature film. In fact the full version of "Innocence of Mulsims had what appears to be its only screening in late June at Hollywood's Vine Theatre.
The story of Desert Warrior begins in modern-day Egypt. We meet a kind Coptic Christian pharmacist, Dr. Matthew whose pharmacy is suddenly surrounded by a mob of angry Muslims. They break into his shop and loot the place:
The police refuse to arrest the Muslim looters and instead pin the vandalism on Copts.
(This is likely a reference to a real-life incident. Copts have historically been a persecuted minority in Egypt and in 1991 a group of young men vandalized a Copt pharmacy after rumors that the pharmacy owner was having sex with Muslim men.)
His livelihood destroyed, Dr. Matthew tries to explain to his daughter why the men destroyed their pharmacy, and why the police helped them cover it up. To do this, he says, he has to explain the origins of Islam. There's a flashback to ancient Saudi Arabia, and a very inaccurate story of Muhammed's life begins.
Many of the details of George's story fit with Muhammed's biography. After his father dies, George is raised by his grandfather, like Muhammed. George is eventually taken in by a wealthy woman named Condalesa as a servant, and they marry. Muhammed also married the wealthy Khadija hint Khuwaylid, after she put him in charge of her trading business.
But the script sharply deviates from the actual biography of Muhammed as it traces George's rise to power. George begins his mission after Condalesa tricks him into believing he's the Prophet so she can benefit from his power. Initially George is kind, preaching love between Muslims, Jews and Christians. But he turns evil after the angel Gabriel appears to him on top of a mountain and convinces him of his own power.
- Dr. Matthew tells his daughter:
The rest of the script details outrages committed by George and his followers as they embark on a wide-ranging, mind-numbingly repetitive spree of violence and theft. George slaughters anyone who speaks ill of him—at one point forcing a man to behead his own brother after he slights him. He rapes women, sells children as slaves, and makes hypocritical religious laws that only serve to enrich him.
- Here, George uses his position as a prophet to justify sleeping with a married woman
- George is likened to Osama bin Laden, as he tells his followers to kill and steal:
- The script ends with a return to the present. Dr. Matthew compiles a list of Muslims responsible for destroying his shop to turn into the authorities, and kisses his daughter goodnight. Then there's a final shot of George to show just how evil he is:
Clearly, this was meant to be an unflattering portrait of Muhammed from its inception. Nakoula is an acolyte of the radical Coptic Christian preacher Zakaria Botros Henein, a notorious critic of Islam who preaches that Muhammed was a pedophile and thug. These ideas suffuse the script for Desert Warrior.
But as the reaction to the film has spiraled out of control, key players in its creation are trying to distance themselves from it. Joseph Nasralla, the CEO of a Coptic Christian charity called Media for Christ that took out the permits to shoot the film, now claims that he was duped by Nakoula. He said he thought the movie was a generic adventure story set in the ancient Arab world.
"The final product ... bore no resemblance to the film I thought he was making," Nassralla wrote on the blog of right-wing anti-Islam activist Pam Geller. "Nakoula altered the film without anyone's knowledge, changing its entire focus and dubbing in new dialogue."
In the YouTube trailer some lines were dubbed over with specific references to Islam, to make the insults clearer. (George was renamed "Muhammed," for example.) An actress told us she was sickened by the words put in her mouths. But even before the tricky post-production, it would have been obvious to anyone who read the full script that the movie was a hitpiece against Islam.
(The actors and actresses may very well have not known what they were getting into if they hadn't read the entire script and had no familiarity with Islam.)
We were given the script by a Hollywood vet whom Nakoula had approached to work on the film.
"I saw through the ruse right away," he said. "Anyone with a basic knowledge of Islam should have seen what the script was really about."
Here's the full script: