Potential suicide bombers beware: Chris Morris movie gets go-ahead
He has persuaded MPs to campaign to keep the fictitious drug "cake" off the streets, and musician Phil Collins to warn children against paedophiles while wearing a "Nonce Sense" T-shirt. Now the satirist Chris Morris is tackling his most controversial topic yet: wannabe suicide bombers.
Morris's film, which has the working title Four Lions, explores the "farce" of terrorism and is funded by FilmFour. It goes into production this summer, after a year of delays caused by funding difficulties over fears that it was too contentious, and is expected to be in cinemas by the end of the year. The production company Warp Films said the film, which Morris spent three years researching, "understands how terrorism relates to testosterone. It understands jihadis as human beings. And it understands human beings as innately ridiculous."
Deirdre Steed, who worked with Morris to secure funding for the film, said the satirist, who fronted The Day Today and Brass Eye, has spoken to terrorism experts, imams, police, secret services and hundreds of Muslims to research the film.
"Even those who have trained and fought jihad report the frequency of farce," she said. "At training camps, young jihadis argue about honey, cry for their mums, shoot each other's feet off, chase snakes and get thrown out for smoking. A minute into his martyrdom video, a would-be bomber looks puzzled and says 'what was the question again?' On Millennium eve, five jihadis set out to ram a US warship. They slipped their boat into the water and carefully stacked it with explosives. It sank."
Ms Steed said terrorist cells share the same group dynamics as stag parties and five-a-side football teams. "There is conflict, friendship, misunderstanding and rivalry," she said. "Terrorism is about ideology, but it's also about berks.
"Four Lions is a funny, thrilling fictional story that illuminates modern British jihad with an insight beyond anything else in our culture. It plunges us beyond seeing these young men as unfathomably alien. It undermines the folly of just wishing them away or alienating the entire culture from which they emerge. As Spinal Tap understood heavy metal and Dr Strangelove the Cold War, Four Lions understands modern British jihadis."
The project, which Morris has described as showing the "Dad's Army side to terrorism", has suffered a year of delays, and was refused funding as a television project by the BBC, amid speculation that the subject was too controversial. But Morris remained determined that it should go into production. He asked the public to show their support by offering £25 towards the funding of the film, in return for the chance to be an extra in the comedy.
Then, on 30 October, Morris announced to fans: "We've had some good funding news which means we won't be asking you to back your generous offer with hard cash."
FilmFour confirmed it will be backing the film and yesterday said it will be produced this year. A spokeswoman said Morris had always envisaged the project as a feature film rather than a piece for television and that FilmFour "had been involved from the beginning of the development process".
Morris has previously acknowledged that "some may find poking fun at terrorists offensive". But, he said: "Most of us would dearly love to laugh in the face of our worst fears. Why aren't we laughing at terrorists? Because we don't know how to, until now."