Aspiring actress Anna Giorgobiani finally made the giant leap to Hollywood from her native Tbilisi. Now, with her excitement over landing a role in an "indie feature film" turned to disgust, the 21-year-old Georgian finds herself at the center of fundamentalist Muslim outrage that has sparked protests around the world and left more than a dozen people dead.
Cast members say the amateurish "Innocence of Muslims" was heavily dubbed and edited without their knowledge to mock Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
It also appears to feature Anna Gurji (as Anna Giorgobiani is known in the business) chasing a man -- who is either "George" or "Muhammad," depending on your perspective
-- around a tent with a shoe (at the 13-minute mark in the film's trailer on YouTube
On September 17, English writer and comic-book artist Neil Gaiman published "A Letter from a Scared Actress
," which Gurji is said to have sent him a few days ago.
In the emotionally charged message, Gurji claims that she auditioned in the summer of 2011 for the role of "Hilary" in a movie that the producers told her was called "Desert Warrior." Consistent with an open letter from the cast members from last week, Gurji writes that the actors were led to believe they were filming an adventure drama about a tribe in ancient Egypt. There was no "Muhammad" or suggestion of blasphemy until the slipshod dubbing was added after filming, they say.
Gurji writes that she is "shattered" and "shocked" to see people killed over the movie:
"There was no mention EVER by anyone of MUHAMMAD and no mention of religion during the entire time I was on the set. I am hundred percent certain nobody in the cast and nobody in the US artistic side of the crew knew what was really planned for this 'Desert Warrior.'"
As Gurji describes it, her character was a young girl sold against her will to a tribal leader known as "George." She was led to believe that the movie was about tribes in ancient Egypt competing to find a comet with supernatural powers that had fallen in the desert.
Gurji, who grew up in Georgia and witnessed the August 2008 Georgia-Russia war, also speaks in the letter of the difficulty in coming to the United States and succeeding as an actress.
She says she was excited when she heard that she got the supporting role in an "indie feature film."
The film is believed to have been made by a small group of extremist Christians in the United States, including 56-year-old white-collar criminal Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
Ironically, Gurji says that only recently she sat down with her father and wrote a script about peace:
"A few months ago, I just finished writing a script with my father about world peace, which helped me understand something -- forgive and care for your enemy. Then, I understood that there is a bigger reason for acting. When we act, we help people see all different characters that exist. When people see about all these different characters, they start to understand them."
Early last week, another actress from "Innocence of Muslims," Cindy Lee Garcia, told Gawker
that she also believed she was acting in a movie about ancient Egypt. Some reports, including by "Time" magazine
, suggest a soft-core porn director called Alan Roberts -- which "may or may not be a pseudonym" -- was involved in the making of the film.
Gurji says that while she fears for her safety, she has still not gone into hiding. Interfax reports that her sister told Georgian TV station Rustavi 2
that Gurji is being protected by bodyguards.
Gurji has previously appeared in several commercials and a documentary. But her first major role was at the age of 14 in the 2006 feature film "If This Day Never Happened
Six years later, she began her desperate letter to Gaiman:
"Something very bad happened."
-- Deana Kjuka