The Interview is a 2014 American action comedy film directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It is their second directorial work, following This Is the End (2013). The screenplay is by Dan Sterling, based upon a story he co-authored with Rogen and Goldberg. The film stars Rogen and James Franco as journalists who set up an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), and are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him. The film is also heavily inspired by a Vice documentary which was shot in 2012.
Rogen and Goldberg developed the idea for The Interview in the late 2000s, with Kim Jong-il as the original assassination target. In 2011, after Jong-il's death, Jong-un replaced him as the North Korean leader. Rogen and Goldberg re-developed the script with the focus on Jong-un's character. The announcement for the film was made in March 2013, along with the beginning of pre-production. Principal photography took place in Vancouver from October to December 2013.
In June 2014, the North Korean government threatened action against the United States if Columbia Pictures released the film. Columbia delayed the release from October to December, and reportedly re-edited the film to make it more acceptable to North Korea. In November, the computer systems of parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment were hacked by the "Guardians of Peace," a group the FBI claims has ties to North Korea. The group also threatened terrorist attacks against cinemas that showed the film. Major cinema chains opted not to release the film, leading Sony to release it for online rental and purchase on December 24, 2014, followed by a limited release at select cinemas the next day.
The Interview grossed $40 million in digital rentals, making it Sony's most successful digital release, and earned an additional $11.2 million worldwide at the box office on a $44 million budget. It received mixed reviews for its humor and subject matter, although a few critics praised the performances of Rogen, Franco, Park and Diana Bang.
Sony Pictures Entertainment hack and threats
On November 24, 2014, an anonymous group identifying themselves as the "Guardians of Peace" hacked the computer networks of Columbia Pictures' parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment. The hackers leaked internal emails, employee records and several recent and unreleased Sony Pictures films, including Annie, Mr. Turner, Still Alice, and To Write Love on Her Arms. The North Korean government denied involvement in the hack. On December 8, the hackers leaked further materials, including a demand that Sony pull "the movie of terrorism", widely interpreted as referring to The Interview.
On December 16, 2014, the hackers threatened to attack the New York premiere of The Interview and any cinema showing the film. Two further messages were released on December 1; one, sent in a private to Sony executives, said that the hackers would not release further information if Sony never released the film and removed it from the internet. The other, posted to Pastebin, a web application used for text storage which the Guardians of Peace had used for previous messages, stated that Sony had "suffered enough" and could release The Interview, but only if Kim Jong-un's death scene was not "too happy". The message also threatened that if Sony made another film antagonizing North Korea, the hackers "will be here ready to fight".
The Interview was not released in Japan, as live-action comedy films do not often perform well in the market. In the Asia-Pacific region, it was released only in Australia and New Zealand.
Rogen predicted that the film would make its way to North Korea, stating that "we were told one of the reasons they're so against the movie is that they're afraid it'll actually get into North Korea. They do have bootlegs and stuff. Maybe the tapes will make their way to North Korea and cause a revolution." Business Insider reported via Free North Korea Radio that there was high demand for bootleg copies of the film in North Korea.
The South Korean human rights organizations Fighters for a Free North Korea and Human Rights Foundation, largely made up of North Korean defectors, planned to distribute DVD copies of The Interview via balloon drops. The groups had previously air-dropped offline copies of the Korean Wikipedia into North Korea on a bootable USB memory device. The balloon drop was postponed after the North Korean government referred to the plan as a de facto "declaration of war."
Cancellation of wide theatrical release
The premiere was held in Los Angeles on December 11, 2014. The film scheduled a wide release in the UK and Ireland on February 6, 2015. Following the hackers' threats on December 16, Rogen and Franco canceled scheduled publicity appearances and Sony pulled all television advertising. The National Association of Theater Owners said that they would not object to cinema owners delaying the film to ensure the safety of filmgoers. Shortly afterwards, the ArcLight and Carmike cinema chains announced that they would not screen the film.
On December 17, Sony canceled the New York City premiere. Later that day, other major theater chains including AMC, Cinemark, Cineplex, Regal and Southern Theatres either delayed or canceled screenings of the film. The chains reportedly came under pressure from the malls where many theaters are located, which feared that the terror threat would harm their holiday sales. They also feared expensive lawsuits in the event of an attack; Cinemark, for instance, contended that it could not have foreseen the 2012 Aurora shooting, which took place at one of its multiplexes, a defense that would not hold in the event of an attack at a screening of The Interview.
The cancellation affected other films portraying North Korea. An Alamo Drafthouse Cinema location in Dallas planned to hold a free screening of Team America: World Police, which satirizes Kim Jong-un's father Kim Jong-il, in place of its previously scheduled screening of The Interview; Paramount Pictures refused to permit the screening. New Regency pulled out of a planned film adaptation of the graphic novel Pyongyang starring Steve Carell; Carell declared it a "sad day for creative expression".
Sony received criticism for canceling the wide release. Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw wrote that it was an "unprecedented defeat on American turf", but that "North Korea will find that their bullying edict will haunt them." In the Capital and Gizmodo suggested the cancellation caused a Streisand effect, whereby the attempt to remove or censor a work has the unintended consequence of publicizing it more widely. In a press conference, U.S. President Barack Obama said that though he was sympathetic to Sony's need to protect employees, he thought Sony had "made a mistake. We cannot have a society in which some dictator in some place can start imposing censorship in the United States. I wish they'd spoken to me first. I would have told them: do not get into the pattern in which you are intimidated."
According to Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, the cancellation of the wide release was a response to the refusal of cinema chains to screen the film, not the hackers' threats, and that Sony would seek other ways to distribute the film. Sony released a statement saying that the company "is and always has been strongly committed to the First Amendment ... Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion."
Dave Skylark is the host of the talk show Skylark Tonight, where he interviews celebrities about personal topics and gossip. After Skylark and his crew celebrate their 1,000th episode, the show's producer Aaron Rapaport is upset by a producer peer who criticized the show as not being a real news program. A while later Rapaport reveals his concern and urge for change, to which Skylark agrees. Skylark discovers that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a fan of Skylark Tonight, prompting Rapaport to arrange an interview. Rapaport travels to a place outside Dandong, China to receive instructions from Sook-yin Park, the North Korean chief propagandist, and Rapaport accepts the task of interviewing Kim, on behalf of Skylark.
The next day, CIA Agent Lacey shows up at Skylark and Rapaport's place, proposing that the duo assassinate Kim using a transdermal strip that will expose Kim to ricin via handshake; they reluctantly agree. Skylark carries the ricin strip hidden inside a pack of gum. Upon their arrival in the presidential palace in Pyongyang, they are introduced to security officers Koh and Yu; Koh discovers the strip and chews it, believing it to be gum. That night, Lacey airdrops them two more strips from an UAV, but in order to smuggle it back to their room, Rapaport has to evade a Siberian tiger and then hide the container in his rectum. Later, Kim shows up and introduces himself to Skylark.
Skylark spends the day with Kim by playing basketball, hanging out and partying. Kim persuades Skylark that he is misunderstood as a cruel dictator and as a failed administrator, and they become friends. At dinner, Koh has a seizure due to the ricin poisoning and accidentally kills Yu before dying. The next morning, Skylark feels guilty and discards one of the ricin strips, then thwarts Rapaport's attempt to poison Kim with the second strip. After another dinner mourning the death of Kim's bodyguards, Skylark witnesses Kim's malicious side as he threatens war with South Korea. Skylark leaves, and after taking a walk, he discovers that a nearby grocery store is merely a façade and realizes that Kim has been lying to him.
At the same time, during attempted sexual intercourse with Rapaport, who still has the ricin strip in his hand, Sook-yin reveals that she despises Kim and apologizes for defending the regime. Skylark, Rapaport, and Sook-yin form a plan to break Kim's cult of personality by causing him to cry on air. As they arm themselves for the event, Rapaport and Sook-yin have sex. Before the broadcast starts, Kim presents Skylark with a puppy to keep.
During the internationally televised interview with Kim, Skylark addresses increasingly sensitive topics and challenges Kim's need for his father's approval. Meanwhile, Sook-yin and Rapaport seize control of the broadcasting center and fend off guards trying to halt the broadcast. Despite his initial resistance, Kim eventually cries uncontrollably and soils himself after Skylark sings "Firework" by Katy Perry (having learned of Kim's fondness of Perry earlier), ruining his reputation. Feeling betrayed, Kim shoots Skylark and leaves, but Skylark reveals he has survived due to wearing a bulletproof vest. Skylark, Rapaport, and Sook-yin regroup with the puppy in tow and escape the presidential palace with the unexpected help of a panel-control guard. The trio hijack Kim's personal tank (which had been given to Kim Il-sung by Joseph Stalin and then passed down to Kim) to get to their pickup point. Kim boards a helicopter, and his army pursues the group. He prepares a nuclear missile launch, but before he can issue the command to launch, Skylark fires a shell from the tank and destroys Kim's helicopter, killing him. With the immediate threat over, Sook guides Skylark and Rapaport to an escape route, and they are rescued by three SEAL Team Six members disguised as Korean People's Army troops and are loaded onto a rescue craft. Back in the U.S., Skylark writes a book about his experience, and North Korea moves toward becoming a denuclearized democracy with Sook-yin as interim leader.
Now let's look who is behind this war propaganda movie
Rogen was born in Vancouver, British Columbia to Jewish parents. His mother, Sandy (née Belogus), is a social worker, and his father, Mark Rogen (born 1953), worked for non-profit organizations and as an assistant director of the Workmen's Circle Jewish fraternal organization. Since Rogen's father is American, he has American citizenship by birth. He has described his parents, who met on kibbutz Beit Alfa in Israel, as "radical Jewish socialists". Rogen has an older sister named Danya. Rogen attended Vancouver Talmud Torah Elementary School and Point Grey Secondary School, incorporating many of his classmates into his writing. He was also known for the stand-up comedy he performed at Camp Miriam, a Habonim Dror camp.
Goldberg was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, to a Jewish family. He was raised in Marpole. He attended Point Grey Secondary School (where he met Rogen) and McGill University, and is married to Lisa (Yadavaia) Goldberg.
Franco was born in Palo Alto, California. His mother, Betsy Lou (née Verne), is a writer and occasional actress, and his father, Douglas Eugene "Doug" Franco (d. 2011), ran a Silicon Valley business. The two met as students at Stanford University. Franco's father was of Portuguese (Madeiran) and Swedish descent. Franco's mother is Jewish, from a family of Russian Jewish ancestry. His maternal grandfather, Daniel, had changed the family surname from "Verovitz" to "Verne" some time after 1940. Franco's paternal grandmother, Marjorie (Peterson) Franco, is a published author of young adult books. Franco's maternal grandmother, Mitzie (Levine) Verne, owned the Verne Art Gallery, a prominent art gallery in Cleveland, and was an active member in the National Council of Jewish Women.
Sony emails say State Department officials cleared a rough cut of ‘The Interview.’
Now hackers are threatening to bomb any theater that shows it.
The Daily Beast has unearthed several emails that reveal at least two U.S. government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film—including a final scene that sees the dictator’s head explode—their blessing.
The claim that the State Department played an active role in the decision to include the film’s gruesome death scene is likely to cause fury in Pyongyang. Emails between the Sony Entertainment CEO and a security consultant even appear to suggest the U.S. government may support the notion that The Interview would be useful propaganda against the North Korean regime.
Back on June 20, the first threat lobbed by North Korean officials against the holiday blockbuster seemed as empty as a North Korean villager’s lunch box.
The Seth Rogen/James Franco-starrer, which centers on a TV host and his producer being tasked by the CIA with assassinating North Korean despot Kim Jong-Un, was branded “an act of war.” Studio executives at distributor Sony Pictures and the general public mostly laughed it off as yet another example of muscle-flexing by the rotund ruler.
But now, the controversy surrounding the political satire has gotten serious.
In late November, a group that calls itself the Guardians of Peace breached Sony’s company servers, and leaked several large caches of private internal data online, including the emails of several top Sony executives, Social Security numbers and private info of employees, screeners of upcoming feature films, and more. Some believe it to be the work of North Korean hackers as payback for The Interview, and while a spokesman for North Korea claimed ignorance, he added that the hack “might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK in response to its appeal” against the film. The Guardians of Peace, meanwhile, posted a message online that read, “Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War.”
On Tuesday, the Guardians released what they referred to as a “Chrsitmas gift”—the eighth collection of hacked files consisting of the emails of Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment.
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