ABC News reports that the filmmaker is Los Angeles-area resident Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who has served time for manufacturing methamphetamines and bank fraud
Los Angeles county sheriff's deputies visited the reported home of the filmmaker behind the anti-Muslim trailer "Innocence of Muslims," the anti-Muslim film blamed for expanding violent protests in the Middle East.
County officials Thursday also pulled the permit for the film from public view, raising more questions about its mysterious origins.
Deputies were called to the Cerritos home that news media has identified as the home of the purported filmmaker Wednesday night. It has become surrounded by media hungry for any details about the film.
Los Angeles Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed to TheWrap that deputies arrived in response to a call regarding a neighborhood disturbance, though he would not say who placed the call, or who deputies spoke with when they arrived.
ABC News on Thursday night identified Los Angeles-area resident Nakoula Basseley Nakoula as the sole writer, director and financier of the movie. Brian Ross, reporting on "ABC World News With Diane Sawyer," said that Nakoula was a twice convicted felon and had served time for manufacturing methamphetamines and for bank fraud. Nakoula wrote the script while in jail for bank fraud and started filming it shortly after getting out of jail in June 2011.
Ross also reported that Nakoula's wife's Coptic Christian relatives in Egypt sent him $60,000 to finance the production, and that the family is now frightened for its safety in California and the Middle East.
The trailer for "Innocence of Muslims" has been available online since July. But after a version of the trailer translated into Arabic appeared online, violent protests broke out in Libya and in Egypt. Amid the violence, U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others were killed during a rocket attack, but it was unclear whether it was in response to the film. The government is also looking into whether the attacks were pre-planned to tie into the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times, the film permit for "Innocence of Muslims" — which was filmed in county in August 2011 under the title "Desert Warriors" — has been pulled from public view out of safety concerns, since such permits often contain contact information for the parties involved.
Ryan Alsop, assistant to county chief executive officer William T. Fujioka, said that the FBI and the U.S. Department of State asked that the permit be pulled.
"This particular permit has been temporarily removed at the specific request of federal authorities, who have cited public safety concerns," Alsop said.
The State Department weighed in on the matter as well, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the trailer — which contains defamatory comments about the Muslim prophet Muhammad. She said the U.S. government had no role in the film and had not condoned its production.
"To us, to me personally, the video is disgusting and reprehensible," Clinton said after a State Department meeting with the Moroccan foreign minister. "It seems to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."
Protests that began in Libya and Egypt have now spread to Yemen, Morocco, Sudan, Iran and Tunisia.
Though the creator of the film has not been positively identified, a man claiming to be responsible for "Innocence of Muslims" identified himself to the Associated Press and other media outlets as Sam Bacile, which is believed to be an alias.
One of the film's promoters, Hemet, Calif.-based anti-Muslim activist Steve Klein, told the Times that he had heard from Bacile after the violence in Libya and Egypt earlier this week, and that he's "terrified."
"He's absolutely terrified because they'll kill him if they find him," Klein told the paper.
Nakoula said that he managed the company that produced "Innocence of Muslims," and that he knew Bacile. Nakoula told the AP that he did not pose as Bacile, but a cell-phone number used to contact the man identifying himself as Bacile was traced back to the address where the AP discovered Nakoula.
According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, a Duarte, Calif.-based Christian nonprofit group called Media for Christ applied for the film permit. The paper added that the film was at least partially lensed in Blue Cloud Studios in Santa Clarita, Calif.
Media for Christ has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment.
Meanwhile, the actors who appeared in the film said in a statement to CNN that they were "grossly misled" about the nature of the film, citing "drastic rewrites" and "lies."
"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer," the statement, provided to CNN by a member of the production staff, reads. "We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose … We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."
Actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who briefly appears in the trailer, told Gawker that the finished product "makes me sick," and that she had no idea from the script or the production that it would contain defamatory comments about Muhammed.
"It was going to be a film based on how things were 2,000 years ago," said Garcia. "It wasn't based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn't anything about the Muslim prophet Muhammed or Muslims or anything."
In the script, Garcia told the site, there was a character referred to as "Master George" — though the name "Muhammed" was dubbed over in references to "Master George" in postproduction.
Garcia cites one particular example of deceitful editing that seems to shed light on the filmmakers' tactics. During one scene, her character chastises her husband for wanting to send their daughter to Muhammed. According to Garcia, her line as she uttered it was, "Is your god a child molester?" However, in the finished product, she appears to ask, "Is your Muhammed a child molester?"
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