The director of The Hunt has addressed for the first time the controversy surrounding his cancelled movie, saying that his intention was to “entertain and unify” audiences, and to poke fun at both sides of the political divide.
Craig Zobel told Variety that the movie has been misunderstood and that media reports have distorted its satirical intentions.
“Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally,” the writer-director told the trade publication. “We seek to entertain and unify, not enrage and divide. It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be.”
“I wanted to make a fun, action thriller that satirized this moment in our culture — where we jump to assume we know someone’s beliefs because of which ‘team’ we think they’re on… and then start shouting at them,” Zobel said. “This rush to judgment is one of the most relevant problems of our time.”
Universal canceled the movie’s Sept. 27 release date following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, having earlier pulled the film’s marketing. The Blumhouse production is believed to depict wealthy liberal elites engaging in a bloody game of hunting working class “deplorables” for sport.
Even President Donald Trump weighed into the controversy, saying the movie was intended “to inflame and cause chaos.”
….to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2019
Zobel told Variety that he was devastated by news of the recent shootings.
“These types of moments happen far too often,” he said. “In the wake of these horrific events, we immediately considered what it meant for the timing of our film. Once inaccurate assumptions about the content and intent of the movie began to take hold, I supported the decision to move the film off its release date.”
Variety said that Universal has denied reports that an earlier title for The Hunt was “Red State vs. Blue State.”
“That was never the working title for the film at any point throughout the development process, nor appeared on any status reports under that name,” a studio spokesperson told the trade publication.
Universal also denied reports that a test audience was uncomfortable with the political content of The Hunt.
“The film was very well-received and tallied one of the highest test scores for an original Blumhouse film,” the studio said.
Indeed, the Hollywood Reporter cited in a recent article anonymous sources saying multiple Universal executives had reservations about The Hunt when studio honchos Jeff Shell and Donna Langley bought it in May 2018.