Studio sees no humor in 'Muslim'
What makes Muslims laugh? Infidel entrails...I am SO kidding!
Studio sees no humor in 'Muslim'
Albert Brooks seeks other distribution for new film
Thursday, September 29, 2005; Posted: 1:05 p.m. EDT (17:05 GMT)
LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Comedian Albert Brooks says a very unfunny thing happened on his way to making a new film called "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" -- the studio panicked over the title.
Brooks says the studio -- Sony -- got so worried the comedy's title, with its use of the word Muslim, might bring reprisals that it decided not to release the picture. That forced the comedian to find a new distributor for a movie that pokes fun at American ignorance of the Muslim world.
"Fear is playing a major part in Hollywood production," Brooks said in an interview, adding he started getting bad vibes when the studio "jokingly" asked him if the movie could be called "Looking for Comedy."
He said the suggestion came after Newsweek triggered a storm in May by publishing a short item that a Koran was flushed down a toilet by guards at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The magazine later retracted the article, saying it could not substantiate the report.
Sony said doubts about the title were only part of much larger problems. Sources close to the company said executives did not find the movie funny and passed on it.
Sony, which is owned by Sony Corp., said in a statement, "To those looking for truth in this manufactured controversy, here it is: We made our decision to pass on Brooks' movie the same way we did to accept 'Fahrenheit 9/11' -- on the merits, with neither fear nor favor."
Brooks is an old hand at making sweetly satiric comedies like "The Muse," "Modern Romance" and "Lost in America" that poke fun at himself, his anxieties and the narcissistic show-business world he inhabits.
In "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World," he plays a comedian sent by the State Department to India and Pakistan with a couple of minders to find out what makes Muslims laugh, so everyone can get along better in the post-9/11 world.
He says he got the idea before U.S. President George W. Bush appointed close adviser Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy charged with countering the negative U.S. image among Muslims.
Brooks says most of the jokes in the movie are aimed at Americans and there are no religious references at all, even though he was allowed to film in a mosque in India.
"I steered clear of religion in this movie. There's no mention of the Koran -- the whole point of the movie is looking for comedy, not looking for God. I was allowed to film in the biggest mosque in India and when I told the imam the plot of the movie he started to laugh."
Brooks added studio executives at Sony were not as supportive as the imam. "One told me that if a mullah in Iran saw a poster for the movie and took it the wrong way, I could be in deep trouble. I told him that I have trouble getting posters put up for my movies in Sherman Oaks," a Los Angeles suburb.
The film will now be distributed by Warner Independent, the art-house unit of Warner Brothers, with a January release date. It says it likes the title because it tells the story of the film and is funny. Warner Bros. is a division of Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN.