Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Can actors be "responsible" for words they utter in controversial videos?

On ABC’s “The View” today (Wednesday, September 26, 2012), attorney Chris Cuomo interviewed an actress from the “controversial” film “Innocence of Muslims”.  She is suing the filmmakers, claiming the job was misrepresented to her as an adventure film (“Desert Warriors”) and that she did not know she was being fooled into making a propaganda film.

She says she has been targeted by extremists, and therefore believes the filmmakers are responsible for putting her in physical danger. The words she speaks as an actress are not hers, but she says she was duped into saying them.  She is trying to use the argument of misrepresentation to form a legal basis for forcing YouTube to remove the video completely everywhere, not just in a few Muslim countries.  She claims that the video is dangerous and inciting if it stays up anywhere.

Usually, when reputable production companies make movies, all actors are shown entire scripts.  I’m under the impression that SAG/AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild) requires complete disclosure of the script if SAG union actors are used.  Of course, this sounds like good practice.  Actors would need to understand the entire film to do a good performance.  It used to be said that actors usually learn all the other actors’ lines as well as their own.  (See more about this with Sept. 7 posting, below.) 

But I’m concerned about the arguments that the plaintiff here is advancing, and I’m sure EFF and other free speech advocates will have plenty to say about it.  It’s disturbing to maintain that one person is responsible for someone else’s acts around the world, and it’s also specious to claim that other believe that the lines spoken by an actor belong to that person.  The case could set disturbing precedence for domestic films about controversial topics, such as harm to minors, abortion, or personality issues. 

Didn't the actress (who said she is also a pastor) suspect something in the lines she was asked to read?

ABC has not (as of yet) posted the Cuomo interview. 

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