One country attacks another over a stoner comedy. Sounds like a good idea for a film.
By now most of us have heard about the film The Interview and the controversy surrounding it. Starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, the film is a about two reporters, hired by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jung Un, Dictator and Supreme Leader of North Korea. Sony Pictures gave the green light with the approval of the State Department last June. Unsurprisingly, this outraged North Korea.
As production moved forward, Sony was warned about scenes offensive to North Korea as far back as 2011. This was a major concern to Sony’s parent company in Japan. Seth Rogen, the co-director, was encouraged to “tone down” scenes of Kim Jung Un’s face melting and head exploding at the end of the picture. Too bad. Any callback to Raiders of the Lost Ark would have been welcome. He reluctantly did so after Japan’s Sony’s Kazuo Hirai intervened in editing the film before it’s quiet premiere in Los Angeles. A timeline of the controversy can be found in this article, The Plot to Kill the Interview.
In The Guardian’s review of the film, they wrote,
“We need to discuss what’s front and center on the screen: butts. Rarely outside the playground has there been this much giddy conversation about the digestion process. Sphincters, buttocks and all that navigate these byways should get third billing next to Seth Rogen and James Franco.
Know this: if these two are coming for you, they’ll approach from the rear.”
Another review said this was another Adam Sandler movie. Seth Rogen, meanwhile, encouraged the audience to meet him in Colorado to get high and see the film. So, serious art this film was not. I mean, really, what does this say about people that The Interview, a movie primarily about butt jokes, is a bigger story than the revelation of America’s torture policies?
I do think it is odd to make a comedy about assassinating a sitting Head of State, guilty of massive human rights violations, and not address the victims of the North Korean regime at all. Since North Korea makes threats on a weekly basis, and does have nuclear weapons, they’ve leapt at the chance to escalate their rhetoric of contempt and hatred for America.
But still… the film is about butts. I mean, the biggest gag from the trailers was Franco mis-pronouncing Super Bass to “superb ass.”
In November, 2014, the hacktivist group Guardians of Peace (GOP) broke into Sony’s computer network and stole everything, including scripts, emails between executives with disparaging comments, salary information of executives, actors, producers, directors and most of Sony’s employees Social Security numbers as well as their personal and medical information. There were comments about President Obama, Angelina Jolie, Kevin Hart, and more.
The leaks were slowly released online and the media, mostly cable news, had something else to panic about. Lawyers for Sony wrote a cease and desist letter to the media outlets about publishing and making a profit off of stolen information and the fallout ever since has been staggering. The GOP group threatened a terrorist attack on any theater showing the film, similar to 9/11 in scale. They continued to dump more of Sony’s intellectual property as a “Christmas present.”.
Theater chains across America saw their stock values tumble and subsequently announced that they wouldn’t show the film at all. Sony backtracked on the interview, canceled junkets, the New York premiere, and finally the general release in the United States. They scrapped the film completely, including halting the DVD release. Since the cancellation, theater chain stocks have rebounded. So far, the release in the United Kingdom on February 6 has not been canceled.
This isn’t the first time that Hollywood has made a film that is a farce about dictators and terrorists but it is the second time Sony Pictures has been hacked, the first time being in 2011. That was when 77 million PlayStation users had their personal information stolen and Sony had to shut the network down for 23 days.
The fear of more hacks is at the root of Sony’s dilemma, especially since two employees have launched a class action lawsuit against them. They claim that Sony didn’t protect their personal information and in light of knowing about the 2011 hack, they probably have a certifiable class action case.
I have seen a variety of opinions about Sony’s choice to shelve the film including First Amendment rights as well as capitulating to terrorists. According to several celebrities, North Korea has won this battle. Their reaction on Twitter to Sony canceling The Interview are scathing, to say the least.
Sony, Seth Rogen, and James Franco should all take this fiasco as a huge compliment. The reaction both from North Korea, the GOP group, the FBI, Homeland Security, and even the President has put everyone involved on the Hollywood map more prominently than they already were.
However, the fallout from Sony’s hacking is the largest and most damaging ever experienced. I don’t think that the executives who wrote the insulting and vitriolic emails will survive. Blacklisting in Hollywood is the ultimate nail in the coffin to any career, regardless of position.
Hollywood entertainment is a horrific business full of backstabbing, fighting, stealing creative content, racism and sexism which was reflected in the leaked emails and salary information.The industry is imploding because of this. Angelina Jolie refused to go to the premiere of Unbroken, which she directed, stating in a YouTube video that she had the chicken pox. Apologies have been made to President Obama for assuming he only likes movies about slavery. It should be noted that although he is African-American the POTUS is not the descendent of a slave.
Time will tell how the fall out of this situation will impact the future of films out of Hollywood. The film’s ending is already on YouTube for now and as of this time, hasn’t been taken down. It’s only a matter of time before it’s on a Torrent website, available for all of us to see for free.
For now, Sony has promised to secure its computer networking system and is in full damage control mode. The movie, meanwhile, is a blockbuster and it hasn’t even been released. A movie about butt jokes is now a worldwide phenomenon.
Nice work, North Korea.