Amy Pascal Sparks Media Race Debate With Email On Obama: ‘Should I Ask Him If He Liked Django?’

While the unprecedented cyber attack on Sony Pictures has yielded a vast amount of gossip – thanks to leaked emails from studio chief Amy Pascal, and other internal documentation – there is some information coming from the hack that has deeper implications than calling movie stars names. A notable proportion of it gives an insight into the attitudes and methods of those determining the output of one of the most culturally influential movie studios in operation. The latest revelation in this respect is a series of emails from Pascal, regarding President Barack Obama.

Democratic Party supporter Amy Pascal, who, according to The Hollywood Reporter, donated to the campaign to re-elect Obama, was due to attend a breakfast fundraiser hosted by DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg. President Obama was to be guest of honour at the event, and Pascal evidently emailed legendary film producer Scott Rudin (Moneyball) for advice on possible talking points, should she need to make conversation with the Commander-In-Chief. Rudin suggested asking him if he would be interested in financing films.

The response from Pascal took the exchange straight to jokes about his race.

“I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked Django?”

Her comment then sparked a string of ‘banter’ suggesting various films that might have been to the liking of the President, based on casts featuring African-American talent. The list mentioned includes 12 Years A Slave, The Butler, Think Like A Man and Ride Along, before Rudin asserts, “I bet he likes Kevin Hart”.

Meanwhile, the embattled studio is facing a lengthy period of fire-fighting as the recent hack has revealed the practice and processes of its marketing departments, as well as strategies for developing ideas for new projects. Many have seized upon this information – including the implications about the attitudes of some executives toward race – as contributory factors in the general lack of diversity within the studio and its projects in real terms. While Sony is currently the only Hollywood studio targeted by such an attack, industry observers are asking whether these attitudes are indicative of a wider problem in Hollywood.

Those involved with Sony have consistently downplayed the focus on the content of the hack – dismissing media coverage as sensationalist – as producer Scott Rudin stated to The New York Times.

“This is not about salacious emails being batted around by Gawker and Defamer. It’s about a criminal act, and the people behind it should be treated as nothing more nor less than criminals.”

The identity of those responsible for the attack remains unconfirmed, beyond their self-identification as ‘Guardians Of Peace’ – despite suggestions of the involvement of North Korea. Sony is the studio behind the upcoming film The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco – the plot of which centres around a U.S plot to assassinate the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. While North Korea has repeatedly demanded that the film not be released, The New York Times reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation assistant director of the cyber division, Joseph Demarest, claims there is currently no evidence of the involvement of that country.

“There is no attribution to North Korea at this point.”

The investigation into the attacks has already revealed that they originated from computers in Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Cyprus, Poland, Bolivia, and also the United States. For some employees, the leaking of personal information has already led to identity theft. In addition to complaints to the United Nations made by North Korea, accusing the U.S of inciting terrorism, the film The Interview also drew the attention of Sony Corporation Chief Executive Kazuo Harai, according to Reuters. Among the emails leaked from the Hollywood studio are missives from Harai requesting that Pascal ask the filmmakers to change a shot in the film that features a particularly detailed level of violence. Though ultimately reaching a compromise, Rogen initially objected.

“This is now a story about Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy. That is a very damning story.”

As of Wednesday, Sony has banned media from covering the premiere of the film, set for Thursday December 11th, and increased security. Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal has yet to comment to any media outlet regarding the ongoing cyber attack.

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