U.S. officials gave their blessing for “The Interview,” after Sony Pictures showed them a rough cut of the movie, which portrays a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, The Daily Beast reported.
Sony has been battling the hackers since late November, when the group infiltrated Sony’s computer network and stole massive amounts of sensitive data. The group has since been intermittently dumping the information — from unreleased movies to Hollywood executives' email messages.
While North Korea has denied involvement in the cyberattack, it did call the hit “a righteous deed” and previously referred to “The Interview” as “an act of war.”
The Daily Beast reported that Sony hired attorney Bruce Bennett, a North Korean specialist, to advise about possible threats, after the enigmatic country heated up its rhetoric about the film this summer.
According to a series of leaked emails, Bennett discussed the film with a State Department official, focusing on a final scene in which Kim Jong-un’s head catches on fire and explodes while Katy Perry’s “Firework” plays.
“I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong-un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government,” Bennett wrote in a June 25 email to Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton.
“Thus while toning down the ending may reduce the North Korean response, I believe that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will). So from a personal perspective, I would personally prefer to leave the ending alone.”
Further emails revealed that a “very senior” State Department official agreed with Bennett’s assessment.
Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, also backed Bennett’s take.
“Their office has apparently decided that this is typical North Korean bullying, likely without follow-up, but you never know with North Korea,” Bennett wrote Lynton on June 26. “Thus, he did not appear worried and clearly wanted to leave any decisions up to Sony.”
Still, email exchanges throughout the late summer and into fall show Sony executives pushing Seth Rogen, co-writer and co-star of the film, to tone down the death scene.
In September, Rogen apparently conceded.
“We will make it less gory. There are currently four burn marks on his face. We will take out three of them, leaving only one. We reduce the flaming hair by 50% … 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 its exploding and the joke won’t work. Do you think this will help? Is it enough?”
“The Interview” opens nationwide on Dec. 25.