He has been widely named as Sam Bacile and his age has varied from 52 to 56, but conflicting reports suggest that Bacile is a pseudonym for a California-based anti-Muslim zealot who appeared to have intentionally stoked fury in the Arab world.
The Associated Press, which interviewed him over the phone from an undisclosed location, described him as "a California real-estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew". But the California Association of Realtors told the Guardian he was not a member and appeared not to have a real-estate licence. He does not appear on the state's department database of real-estate agents.
"A lot of things don't add up here about the claimed identity of the filmmaker," wrote Sarah Posner, an editor at Religion Dispatches.
The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles did not immediately respond to interview requests, but official Israeli sources elsewhere indicated that the filmmaker was not Israeli, but part of the Egyptian Coptic diaspora. However, a cleric with the Coptic Orthodox Church diocese of Los Angeles, who declined to be named, said he did not recognise the name Sam Bacile.
Hollywood producers and screenwriters said they were mystified over his film, The Innocence of Muslims, which was reportedly screened once to a largely empty cinema earlier this year before fragments surfaced on YouTube.
Bacile wrote and directed the film purportedly with $5-million donated by 100 unnamed Jewish backers. The goal was to show "Islam is a cancer", he told the Wall Street Journal.
The Hollywood Reporter said the ramshackle production of the 13-minute clip posted online cast doubt on Bacile's claim of a $5-million budget. Industry figures had not previously heard of him or the film.
Steve Klein, a "consultant" on the film, described himself as a Vietnam veteran, counter terrorism expert and board member of an ultra-conservative group, Courageous Christians United. In 2010, he self-published a book, Is Islam compatible with the Constitution?, which assails Islam's treatment of women.
Bacile is also linked to Morris Sadik, an Egyptian Coptic Christian based in California, who runs a small, virulently Islamophobic group called the National American Coptic Assembly. – © Guardian News & Media 2012