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The Hunt Director Says His Controversial — and Canceled — Film Wasn't Made to 'Incite Violence'

Eric Todisco

The director of satire thriller The Hunt has broken his silence after the film’s release was halted in the wake of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Director Craig Zobel (Compliance) recently spoke to Variety about Universal’s decision last week to cancel the scheduled September 27 release of the film, in which everyday people are kidnapped and hunted for sport by rich elites. The film comes from the minds of horror producer Jason Blum (Get Out) and The Leftovers‘ creator Damon Lindelof.

“If I believed this film could incite violence, I wouldn’t have made it,” he wrote in a series of emails to the outlet.

“Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally,” he added. “We seek to entertain and unify, not enrage and divide. It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be.”

Zobel added that he feels the film — which stars Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley and GLOW‘s Betty Gilpin — has been misunderstood.

“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,” he said. “This rush to judgment is one of the most relevant problems of our time.”

Justin Hartley and Emma Roberts | Universal Pictures

RELATED: Hilary Swank and Betty Gilpin’s The Hunt Will Not Be Released in Theaters Following Controversy

However, Zobel supports Universal’s decision to cancel the release upon hearing of the shooting massacres on Aug. 3 and 4 that left 31 people dead.

“I was devastated by going to sleep to El Paso and waking up to Dayton,” he said. “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.”

After the shootings, Universal paused the film’s marketing campaign, and then canceled the release altogether, which may have come as a result of President Donald Trump‘s Twitter tirade after the shootings.

“Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate!” Trump wrote in a two-part tweet. “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 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!”

RELATED: Strangers Are Hunting Down Justin Hartley and Emma Roberts ‘for Sport’ in Epic The Hunt Trailer

Universal has since taken down its official YouTube links of the movie’s trailer, but anyone who has watched them will surely notice that the characters being hunted (such as the one played by Gilpin) are clearly the protagonists/heroes of the story, and the elites hunting them are the malicious villains. But it’s now unclear if anyone will ever get to take in the full story.

The film had been set to hit theaters on Sept. 27.