12 July, 2008

Moustapha Akkad




Moustapha Akkad was a Syrian-American film producer and director, best known for producing the series of Halloween films and directing Mohammad, Messenger of God and Lion of the Desert.

Akkad was born in Aleppo, Syria. In 1935, his father, then a customs officer, gave him $200 and a copy of the Quran before he left for the United States to study film direction and production at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Akkad spent a further three years studying for a Master's degree at the University of Southern California (USC), where he met the legendary director Sam Peckinpah. Peckinpah became Akkad's mentor in Hollywood and hired him as a consultant for a film about the Algerian revolution that never made it to the big screen, but he continued to encourage him until he found a job as a producer at CBS.

In 1976, he produced and directed Mohammad, Messenger of God, starring Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas. Akkad faced resistance from Hollywood to making a film about the origins of Islam and had to go outside the United States to raise the production money for the film.

While creating Muhammad, Messenger of God, he consulted Islamic clerics and tried to be respectful toward Islam and its views on portraying Muhammad. He saw the film as a way to bridge the gap between the Western and Islamic world.

In 1978, he helped make low-budget film history when he produced Halloween. Akkad became best known for his key involvement in the first eight Halloween movies, as an executive producer, Akkad also later owned the long-running franchise that spawned seven further variations on the original theme. The series was highly profitable, although it was only the first film that became iconic.

In 1980 he directed his next big project, Lion of the Desert, in which Quinn and Irene Papas were joined by Oliver Reed, Rod Steiger, and John Gielgud. It was about the real-life Bedouin leader Omar Mukhtar (Quinn), who fought Mussolini's Italian troops in the deserts of Libya. The movie is now critically acclaimed, after initially receiving negative publicity in the West for being partially funded by Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi, who invested $35 million in the movie. This negative publicity may have been the cause of its relatively poor performance at the box office.

In the United Kingdom Akkad once tried to buy Pinewood Studios from the Rank Organisation and also had a studio at Twickenham. He was in the process of producing an $80 million movie featuring Sean Connery about Saladin and the Crusades, for which he already had the script that would be filmed in Jordan. Speaking of the film, he said:

“ ...Saladin exactly portrays Islam. Right now, Islam is portrayed as a terrorist religion. Because a few terrorists are Muslims, the whole religion has that image. If there ever was a religious war full of terror, it was the Crusades. But you can't blame Christianity because a few adventurers did this. That's my message. ”

In a tragic twist of fate, Akkad, and his 34-year-old daughter Rima Akkad Monla, were killed in the 2005 Amman bombings. They were both in the lobby at the Grand Hyatt. His daughter died instantly, and Akkad died of his injuries two days later in a hospital. Akkad is survived by three sons.






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