In an unusual disclosure from the Sony Pictures hack attack, leaked emails show Sony chief executive officer Kazuo Hirai stepped in to scrutinize and approve scenes in “The Interview.” (SPOILERS BELOW)
The stolen emails to Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal show that Hirai approved a scene depicting the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after asking co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to reduce the gore in the dark comedy.
Bloomberg News first reported on the latest batch of stolen emails. A spokeswoman for Sony Pictures had no comment.
Hirai also asked the filmmakers not include Kim’s exploding face in versions released outside the U.S.
“I’ve given this a lot of thought and would like to go ahead with a variation of version 337,” Hirai said in a Sept. 29 email to Pascal. “It would be much appreciated if you could push them a bit further as you mentioned in your email. Also, please ensure that this does not make it into the international version of the release.”
Pascal had emailed Hirai about the issue on the previous day.
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“In shot #337 there is no face melting, less fire in the hair, fewer embers on the face, and the head explosion has been considerably obscured by the fire, as well as darkened to look less like flesh,” Pascal wrote on Sept. 28. “We arrived at this shot (#337) after much cajoling and resistance from the filmmakers.”
Widespread speculation has emerged that “The Interview,” which stars James Franco and Rogen as recruits in a plan to assassinate Kim Jong-un, may be the cause of the massive cyber-attack that’s stolen 33,000 documents from Sony’s computer system and uploaded those to the Internet. That’s resulted in the disclosure of salaries and personal data for 6,700 employees of Sony Pictures and celebrities.
The North Korean government has denied being involved in the attack, although it also has said the hacking “might be a righteous deed.”
The new emails include a Sept. 25 missive from Pascal to Rogen that asked him to reduce the gore.
“I haven’t the foggiest notion how to deal with Japanese politics as it relates to Korea so all I can do is make sure that Sony won’t be put in a bad situation and even that is subjective,” Pascal told Rogen.
“I’m not taking no for an answer,” Pascal wrote. “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.”
“The Interview” had been originally scheduled to open on Oct. 20, but Sony decided in early August to push the release back 10 weeks to Christmas Day.
In “The Interview,” Rogen plays a producer and Franco is the host of a celebrity TV show. The duo score an interview with Kim Jong-un after discovering he’s a fan; the CIA then recruits them to kill the dictator.
A July 19 email showed to Pascal from Doug Belgrad, president of Sony Pictures Entertainment motion picture group, showed that Belgrad had tried to reduce the gore in the film.
“In the interest of getting this approved, I would still like to see them eliminate the tendril of flesh on the left side of his forehead that comes just before the fireball,” he said.
Pascal responded by telling Belgrad to work with the filmmakers.
“I don’t feel like falling on my sword for this one,” she also said. “No other studio would even touch this movie and we all know it.”