Sony has gotten itself into a bit of a fine mess by producing a film that was supposed to make people laugh while bringing in a few bucks.
The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a TV crew sent to North Korea to assassinate the country’s leader. North Korea, not known for its sense of humor, was not a fan of the film’s concept and sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling the film an “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war.”
While diplomacy with North Korea was not the goal of the film (otherwise Dennis Rodman would have been cast), its producers surely didn’t predict that the film would end up causing the mighty Sony’s knees to quake. Last month, a hacker group busted into Sony’s global IT network and now the same crew is threatening violence against movie theaters that show the film.
Update: Sony isn’t officially pulling has officially pulled the film, with no plans to release it in theaters, on DVD, on VOD or streaming, while U.S. intelligence officials now believe North Korea was behind the cyberattack.[more]
“Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made,” the Guardians of Peace hacker group wrote on file-sharing websites before the film—which reportedly cost Sony more than $42 million to produce and market—was pulled, Bloomberg reported. “The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001.”
What if an anonymous person got offended by something an executive at Coke said. Will we all have to stop drinking Coke?
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) December 17, 2014
Celebrities including Judd Apatow and others blasted the decision to cancel its release. The Interview isn’t Sony’s only film affected by the hackers; New Regency also cancelled plans to produce Pyongyang, a film set in North Korea starring Steve Carell.
Before pulling the plug, the studio had already canceled The Interview‘s premiere, slated for tonight in New York, and told theater owners that it will honor their decision on whether to show the film or not.
This evening, President Obama addressed the situation and urged Americans to continue seeing movies while officials continue their investigation.
It’s just the latest chapter in the company’s massive data hack, ostensibly prompted by The Interview‘s anti-North Korea plotline, which has seen executives’ embarrassing emails released, current and former employee data leaked, and other sensitive—and brand-damaging—material dumped onto the web.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says there is “no credible intelligence to indicate there is an active plot against movie theaters in the U.S.,” Reuters notes.
— The Interview (@TheInterview) December 16, 2014
Rogen and Franco have stopped promoting the movie, while a slew of Sony employees are still outraged by the massive data breach last month that “severely damaged the movie studio’s network and published damaging internal emails, unreleased films and employee data online,” Reuters adds.
Some of that data concerned the future of the company. New data was released by the hacker group Tuesday, including an email between Sony studio chief Michael Lynton and a high-ranking State Department official in the days after North Korea said it would retaliate against the studio this past June for the release of the film.
If all that weren’t enough for Sony, its legal department is also dealing with a lawsuit from former employees who don’t think the company did enough to protect their personal data. Bloomberg reports that the two former Sony employees feel that the company “knew it had inadequate measures in place to protect its data and suffered breaches twice before this year’s attack.” The suit calls the breach “an epic nightmare, much better suited to a cinematic thriller than to real life.”
Sony stepped right into another PR black hole when it asked the media to stop publishing the leaked information. That did not go over with a crowd of people who are all about protecting Freedom of Speech, the same right that Sony is pushing with the release of The Interview.