"The Hunt" made waves earlier this month when Universal Pictures canceled the controversial film in the wake of recent mass shootings. In a new interview, director Craig Zobel said he understands the reason, but lamented his film getting scrapped over "inaccurate assumptions about the content and intent."
The movie, which was set for release in September, follows a group of wealthy elites who hunt people in rural America for sport, according to Rotten Tomatoes and The Hollywood Reporter. President Donald Trump seemingly criticized the movie just before it was shelved.
“If I believed this film could incite violence, I wouldn’t have made it,” Zobel told Variety in an email. "Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally. We seek to entertain and unify, not enrage and divide. It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be.”
He added: “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. This rush to judgment is one of the most relevant problems of our time.”
Universal announced Aug. 10 that it was officially scrapping "The Hunt" after already having "paused the marketing campaign." The studio said it stood by its filmmakers but understood it wasn't "the right time" to release the movie, just days after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
“I was devastated by going to sleep to El Paso and waking up to Dayton," Zobel added. “These types of moments happen far too often. 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.”
Producer Jason Blum still thinks the movie could be released at some point.
When asked in an interview with Vulture whether there was a possibility the film could be released in the future, Blum said there was "definitely a chance. I hope so."
"I learned a lot of lessons," Blum added. "If I was offered the choice to make the movie again, I would say yes. We definitely made marketing mistakes, and we made plenty of mistakes along the way. So I’ve learned a lot. It might change how I would position movies and how I would consult on the marketing of the movies. But actually the making of the movies? No."
In a statement provided to USA TODAY at the time by representative Marla Farrell, the film's star Hilary Swank backed the cancellation.
“I fully support the decision by Universal and the filmmakers regarding 'The Hunt.' It is a choice that I also personally felt was necessary," she said. "I can’t comprehend the violence happening in our country right now. We should all focus on healing, and above all else, kindness, sensitivity and humanity.”
Earlier that day, before the studio pulled the film, Swank told reporters at Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland that she wouldn't be commenting on the movie.
"No one’s seen the film. You can’t really have a conversation about it without understanding what it’s about," she said, according to Variety.
President Trump: 'Racist' Hollywood is 'doing a tremendous disservice to our country'
Although Trump did not name the movie he was criticizing, he labeled Hollywood as "racist" in the midst of backlash toward "The Hunt."
"Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate!" he tweeted. "They like to call themselves 'Elite,' but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite."
The president added: "The movie coming out is made in order ... 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!"
Contributing: Sara M Moniuszko
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'The Hunt': Director Craig Zobel defends film despite Trump backlash