'The Hunt' writer defends controversial film as Universal sets new release date: 'This is not a dangerous movie'

Six months after canceling its release, Universal and Blumhouse are reintroducing The Hunt. The satiric political thriller, which depicts rich, liberal "elites" kidnapping and hunting conservatives, will now hit theaters on March 13.

"It just feels right," co-writer Damon Lindelof told Variety about why now is the time to release the movie. "And as more and more people start to see it, we’ve gained confidence in the fact that this is not a dangerous movie. This is not a provocative movie. This is not a divisive movie. I think the big shift between now and then is that more people have seen it and they’ve responded positively."

Last year, Universal paused its marketing campaign for the violent film in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Tex., Dayton, Ohio, and Girloy, Calif. Backlash ensued once the premise of the movie was reported on in the media. The Hollywood Reporter noted the script referred to the hunted as "deplorables" — the infamous word Hillary Clinton used to describe Trump supporters in 2016. It caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who condemned "racist" Hollywood and tweeted, "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!"

Emma Roberts in 'The Hunt.' (Photo: YouTube)
Emma Roberts in The Hunt. (Photo: YouTube)

Producer Jason Blum said the media’s coverage at the time was inaccurate, as no one had seen the film.

"It was the most talked about movie that no one has ever seen," he told Variety. "So both of us were very eager for people to see the movie and realize that the movie is 100 percent satire and pokes fun at both sides equally."

Lindelof added, "It was all about balance, and we felt the movie was actually pretty balanced in terms of the shots that it took. That’s probably what got misreported. The movie that was being presented was slanted, and we didn’t perceive it that way."

The movie was recently screened for a few journalists. In one scene, per Variety, a liberal hunter shoots a man who says, "Climate change is real." One conservative victim is depicted as "anti-gay,” and another rails about illegal immigrants, talks about the “Deep State,” and fantasizes about going on Hannity to expose a liberal conspiracy. Hilary Swank plays the ringleader of the liberal elites, while GLOW's Betty Gilpin turns the tables on the killers. Lindelof said they are not worried the film will incite violence against Trump supporters.

"We’re not concerned and our hope is that if the president talks about the movie again, it’s because he’s seen it versus what he is being told by others," he explained.

"Our real hope is that the president sees the movie," Blum noted, adding they will "100 percent" make it available to the president.

"The intention was to reflect what’s happening," explained Lindelof.

Now, the studio plans to "market the film with attitude," according to THR. A one-sheet that debuted Tuesday reads, "The most talked-about movie of the year is one that no one’s actually seen," with the film’s original Sept. 27 release date crossed out. The poster features quotes from news coverage at the time, like when Fox Business host Lou Dobbs called the movie "sick" and "twisted."

"We think that people who see it are going to enjoy it and this may be a way to shine a light on a very serious problem in the country, which is that we’re divided," Lindelof told THR. "And we think the movie may actually, ironically, bring people together."

Trump is apparently never named in the film. A new trailer debuted on Tuesday:

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