According to leaked emails published by The Daily Beast, Sony executives reportedly discussed the controversial ending of "The Interview" with U.S. government officials.
In the correspondence between Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton and RAND corporation senior defense analyst Bruce W. Bennett, which The Daily Beast obtained following a massive cyber attack against Sony Pictures, Lynton revealed that he spoke to an anonymous State Department official about the comedy. An email apparently sent by Lynton to Sony General Counsel Nicole Seligman, published by Reuters on Wednesday, also referenced a conversation Lynton said he had with Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Russel.
In previous emails, Bennett had told Lynton that while toning down the end of "The Interview" -- which depicts the assassination of Kim Jong Un -- was likely to curtail any response from North Korea, the positive aspects of the movie outweighed the negative ones.
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).
Lynton is on the RAND Corporation board of trustees. A RAND spokesperson told The Huffington Post that Lynton had sought Bennett's opinion on the film. Representatives for Sony and the State Department were not immediately available for comment.
The end of "The Interview" was the source of much discussion in the months leading up to the film's planned release. Hacked emails previously released online detailed the debate between Sony Corporation Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai and Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal about the finale, which includes Kim exploding in a helicopter as Katy Perry's "Firework" plays on the soundtrack. Tweaks to "The Interview," which was originally supposed to arrive in theaters in October, were first reported back in August by The Hollywood Reporter (at the time, the trade magazine noted that Sony had considered cutting the end sequence). And while the finale appears to have been slightly altered from its apparent original form, little in "The Interview" was reportedly changed.
"They made us digitally change some photos and images, because it was decided they weren't [legally] cleared," star and co-director Seth Rogen told the New York Times in an interview published Tuesday. "We couldn't source the photographer in North Korea who took the photograph of Kim Il Sung [Kim Jong Un's grandfather] 65 years ago. He could sue us. There was a moment where they were like: 'They've threatened war over the movie. You kill him [Kim Jong Un]. Would you consider not killing him?' And we were like, 'Nope.'"
The Times interview is one of the last Rogen will likely do in support of "The Interview." After a note purportedly written by the hackers threatened terrorist attacks against theaters showing "The Interview," Rogen and co-star James Franco canceled many planned media appearances through Thursday. In addition, the film's New York premiere was canceled by Landmark's Sunshine Cinema. While Sony plans to go ahead with the Christmas Day release, the New York Times reported that it has told theater owners they can cancel showings at their discretion. Thus far, Carmike Cinemas, which controls 278 theaters in 41 states, announced it won't show "The Interview." UPDATE: Following the lead of Carmike Cinemas, AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment, Cineplex Entertainment and Cinemark have pulled "The Interview" from the release schedule.