Even before the devastating cyber-attacks on Sony, the company feared North Korea, according to leaked emails. *Spoiler Alert* The Chairman of Sony Pictures, Kazuo Hirai, ordered that a scene showing Kim Jong Un’s head exploding be removed from the final cut of The Interview. It was an order that the movie’s writer and star Seth Rogen refused to accept.
In July this year, North Korea talked about The Interview to the U.N. calling its production an “act of war,” and accused the U.S. government of sponsoring terrorism for allowing the flick. Arguably one of the harshest movie reviews ever for a Seth Rogen film, although some for Neighbors come pretty close.
Apparently, the critique had some effect. Emails leaked from August through October of this year show that Mr. Kazuo Hirai told co-chairman Amy Pascal to tell the film’s creators to “tone it down,” specifically the Kim Jong Un head exploding scene. According to the Huffington Post, Pascal said it was the first ever request from the Japanese head office over a specific scene in a film in her entire career. Indicating that Hirai was concerned over the threat from North Korea, especially just a short boat ride away in Japan.
Seth Rogen refused to sacrifice his artistic integrity to North Korea. That left Pascal in a difficult position.
According to the Bloomberg News, she said, “I don’t feel like falling on my sword for this one. No other studio would even touch this movie and we all know it.”
In another email Pascal seemed to become even more agitated by the North Korea situation.
“I’m not taking no for an answer. If I was prepared to do that, we would have been done a long time ago… I would have done the easy thing and shut this down but I haven’t, much to everyone’s incredible annoyance here.”
In a truly bizarre negotiation, Seth Rogen eventually budged, saying that he would remove three out of four burn marks on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s face and reduce the flaming hair by 50 percent, but refused to go any further than that.
“The head explosion can’t be more obscured than it is because we honestly feel that if it’s any more obscured, you won’t be able to tell it’s exploding and the joke won’t work.”
He went on to predict in an August 15 email that if this negotiation was leaked it would be damaging The Interview’s sales and integrity.
“This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy. That is a very damning story.”
In the end, censoring the film wouldn’t have made a difference anyways. Sony Pictures was hit with a cyberattack before the film’s debut, which released 100 gigabytes of company information onto the internet and face $100 million in damages, according to Haaretz. Experts claim it’s difficult to prove that the attacks came from North Korea, but Sony investigators did say the hackers were in a group that was linked to the country, and they did make a specific demand that company never show The Interview.
Although the emails give us a glimpse of the behind the scenes censorship, who knows how far North Korea was able to affect the film’s production. At least for Seth Rogen, if the film bombs, he’ll be able to blame North Korea and Sony, rather than “fall on the sword” himself.
[Image Credit: Tony Shek/Wikimedia Commons]