Tue, Sep 27, 2005 at 5:26:54 pm
Sony Pictures told Albert Brooks they wouldn’t release his new film “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” (a funny title!) unless he removed the word “Muslim:” Funny choices. (Hat tip: Van Impe.)
Sony Pictures, the studio that made “European Gigolo,” has refused to release “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,” an inspired new film by Albert Brooks about a comedian — Brooks, playing himself — who is recruited by the U.S. government to go to India and Pakistan to find out what makes Muslims laugh.
The movie makes fun of comedians’ neurotic neediness and State Department ineffectuality, but seems to steer clear of anything that would insult Muslims. Still, in a June 30 letter to Brooks, Sony chairman Michael Lynton said that he wouldn’t release the film unless Brooks changed the title. Lynton wrote: “I do believe that recent incidents have dramatically changed the landscape that we live in and that this, among other things, warrants changing the title of the film.” Sony insiders say Lynton was alarmed by the violent reaction in the Muslim world to Newsweek’s May 9 story, since retracted, about a Koran being flushed down the toilet by interrogators at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Brooks’ movie, financed by producer Steve Bing, has now found a new home at Warner Independent Pictures, which plans to release it early next year. Warner Indy chief Mark Gill says he had no problems with the title. “How often do you get a laugh simply from the title of a movie?” Gill told me. “We saw the movie, and it was clear that Albert makes fun of himself and America, not anybody else.” [...making fun of America? No problem! —ed.]
Brooks, in his first interview about the film, confirmed that Lynton expressed concern about Muslim outrage over the alleged Koran incident. “When we spoke, he told me, ‘The Newsweek thing has changed the world.’ And I said, ‘Wasn’t it 9/11 that changed the world?’ But Michael said he just didn’t want to take a chance.”