Making a Movie about Muhammad is Risky Business

But that won’t stop LOTR producer Barrie Osborne from trying:

Producer Barrie Osborne cast Keanu Reeves as the messiah in The Matrix and helped defeat the dark lord Sauron in his record-breaking Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now the Oscar-winning American film-maker is set to embark on his most perilous quest to date: making a big-screen biopic of the prophet Muhammad.

Budgeted at around $150m (£91.5m), the film will chart Muhammad’s life and examine his teachings. Osborne told Reuters that he envisages it as “an international epic production aimed at bridging cultures. The film will educate people about the true meaning of Islam“.

But the fact that he plans to stick with a “softer” presentation of the subject doesn’t guarantee lack of controversy.   As the article notes, the last time this was tried (with the 1976 film The Message,) it “…sparked a fatal siege by protesters in Washington DC.”

I watched that film in London, and it was a memorable experience, as I note in There Was a Rush Along the Fulham Road…

By the time the film was released in the US, extremist Muslims were sure that sacrilege had been done, so they threatened to blow up the theatre where it was supposed to open. But Muslim leadership in Britain had a better handle on the situation, so we were able to see it in London.

And “we” were quite a group. As the moviegoers filed into the theatre for the showing, that sudden realisation came over me: “I’m the only white guy in this place.” The rest of the viewers were obviously immigrants, probably mostly Pakistani. Once everything went dark and the film started, it was pretty interesting. So was the crowd; they cheered when the Muslims won a full battle or killed an infidel. I thought that they might get fired up to start “jihad” in the theatre and I would be their first victim. But they didn’t, the film ended peacefully, and the happy Muslims filed out.

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