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May 31, 2007

Flying Blind

"I'm here to shoot a pilot." That's what film director Mike Figgis supposedly told security screeners at LAX, and the double meaning of "pilot" (combined with the intransigence and stupidity of his questioner) resulted in his spending several hours in the airport's lockup. That's the story that got wide coverage online. But Figgis now says it's not true.

Figgis emailed Public Radio International the following (via Boing Boing):

the story is a complete exaggeration of something I said in an interview, namely...I was being questioned in toronto airport by the US immigration officer who said "purpose of your visit?" and I was about to reply "I'm here to shoot a pilot" when I thought better of it and said
"I'm here to film the 1st episode of a potential series for Fox/Sony"
This was exactly as I said it to the journalist and the next I knew of it was phone calls wishing me deepest sympathies etc and the venue had moved to LAX and I had been arrested etc etc.

Boing Boing suggests the hoax is the fault of AOL Moviefone or Cinematical, which both carried stories about the event, But the origin of the "shoot a pilot" comment appears to be a story that appeared in late April in the British newspaper the Observer (the Guardian's Sunday edition).

Jason Solomons wrote, "When Figgis was being grilled by airport immigration, he was asked the purpose of his visit. Unthinking and tired after a long flight, Mike replied: 'I'm here to shoot a pilot.' After five hours in an interrogation cell (yes, really), he finally made it into town."

AOL explicitly states in its article that it got this nugget of news from the Observer, and in an email with Gelf, Cinematical blogger Scott Weinberg states that his post (which cites no sources links to the AOL Moviefone piece at the bottom) came from the same place. "When I first read the story I thought it sounded a bit too perfect, as if it was something a clever writer came up with," he tells Gelf. "But I found the story at two separate sources (AOL Moviefone and The Guardian) so I figured it was worth sharing at Cinematical."

"I consider The Guardian to be a very reliable source," he adds.

Gelf tried to contact Solomons about his article via the Readers Editor at the Guardian but received no reply. (We also received no reply from the Observer about another set of questionable pieces that the newspaper published.) If we're able to reach him, we'll update this post.

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