‘The Hunt’ director speaks out after film’s cancellation

Movie trailer: The Hunt
WATCH: 'The Hunt,' starring Hilary Swank and Betty Gilpin, starts off as twelve strangers wake up in a clearing.

Last week Universal Pictures cancelled the planned September release of its controversial social satire The Hunt in the wake of recent mass shootings and amid criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump 

Speaking with Variety for the first time since the Aug. 10 cancellation, The Hunt director Craig Zobel said: “If I believed this film could incite violence, I wouldn’t have made it.”

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

READ MORE: Universal Pictures cancels ‘The Hunt’ movie following U.S. mass shootings

The move to cancel the film came several days after the studio suspended the ad campaign for the movie, a gory, R-rated thriller that tells a tale of liberal “elites” hunting people in red states for sport.

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The studio paused the ad campaign in early August in light of the tragic mass shootings in Texas, Ohio and California.

WATCH BELOW: The latest on the El Paso shootings 

Trump tweeted in regards to The Hunt: “Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate! 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!”

Zobel told the outlet that the film has been misunderstood.

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

READ MORE: Violent ‘The Hunt’ movie ads pulled following U.S. mass shootings

In a statement, Universal said it had decided to take the further step of cancelling the film’s Sept. 27 release.

A spokesperson for Universal said: “While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for The Hunt, after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film. We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”

Zobel said he supports Universal’s decision to delay the release of his film.

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

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The Hunt, produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse, stars Oscar winner Hilary Swank and Betty Gilpin and is directed by Craig Zobel.

It also stars Emma RobertsIke Barinholtz and Justin Hartley, among others.

—With files from Adam Wallis