Last week (ends14JAN05), the film's star Sacha Baron Cohen caused outrage at a rodeo event in Virginia when his Borat alter-ego jokingly told spectators US President GEORGE W BUSH should drink the blood of Iraqi civilians he kills.
Phillips, Cohen and the movie's crew were swiftly ushered out of the rodeo by organisers who feared the angry crowd would turn violent.
Several crew members have since received death threats resulting in Phillips withdrawing from the project, which centres on British star Cohen's Kazakhstani character Borat.
An associate of the producers tells British newspaper the DAILY MAIL, "Todd is a big fan of Sacha's but he was afraid to be involved with a project that has the potential to cause a riot wherever he goes.
"He's fearful of being blackballed in Hollywood for directing a movie which is so anti-American in its humour.
"He's also afraid that some of the victims of Sacha's humour, especially in the Deep South, will act on the death threats they have made."
The film-maker was previously thought to have left the movie because he disagreed with the actor on which direction the project should take.
Filming has ground to a halt while Cohen and studio bosses search for a replacement director.19/01/2005 13:53