The Interview Screenwriter Talks Sony Hack

Posted on December 17, 2014

The unprecedented hacking of Sony continues to cause damage. The group claiming responsibility says it attacked Sony in revenge for the release of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy, The Interview, in which two journalists are asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un

Just today, the New York City premiere was cancelled in response to threats of violence from the same group which calls itself the Guardians of Peace. The two biggest cinema chains have pulled the film from its Christmas Day release. The hackers have every single email sent to or from Sony in the past ten years. Sony chief Amy Pascal is hanging on to her job by a thread after her emails with producer Scott Rudin were released which featured a number of racist comments as well as unflattering comments about major movie stars such as Angelina Jolie.

So how did this comedy end up causing so much trouble for so many people? The screenwriter of the film, Dan Stevens, talked with The Frame radio show about the controversy. Sterling says he is now being introduced to people at parties as "the man who brought down Sony."

In the interview, Sterling talks about how the screenplay was inspired by a conversation with Seth Rogen. Rogen had read one of Sterling's unproduced screenplays and liked it. Rogen's original idea was that a journalist landed an interview with Osama bin Laden. He wondered if the journalist would be tempted to kill bin Laden. Sterling took that idea and turned it into The Interview. Originally, the journalists were going to assassinte someone called Kim Il-Wan. But later he, Rogen and director Evan Goldberg decided to use Kim Jong-Un's real name.

The studio did try to convince the three to change the name of the dictator, but Rogen and Goldberg were adamant about using the real leader's name in the script. When the North Korean government learned about the film it said the release of the film would be considered an act of war. Asked if that made him nervous, he replied, "It would be disingenuous to say that that was not exciting to us...So, yeah, we were surprised and kind of excited -- and a little bit nervous." But he said he was worried that if the act of war threat was real he didn't want "to be responsible just with this silly comedy with having anybody harmed in any way." Sterling is quite concerned about the damage to all the employees of Sony, whose social security numbers and health information was leaked by the hackers.

In the wake of the cancelling of tonight's premiere and the preemptive pulling of the film from most theaters many in Hollywood are calling for Sony to release the film online On Demand, so people can vote with their wallets and be safe from any threats of violence. Others are disgusted that the theaters are pulling the film for a threat that the FBI says is not credible. Judd Apatow tweeted "I think it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing The Interview. Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?"

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