The Interview will not open in theaters on Christmas Day. In fact, Sony Pictures says we might never see the movie. The comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, depicted the elaborate assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. THe movie cost Sony Pictures $44 million and has been plagued by threats from a group apparently loyal to North Korea.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Terrorist’s Threats Included References to 9/11
We have already promised a Christmas gift to you. This is the beginning of the gift. … Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY.
On Fandango, you can buy tickets for shows in the U.S. on January 30. The news that the movie is being shelved has been greeted with serious criticism from Hollywood’s biggest stars. One of those, Ben Stiller, called the decision “a threat to freedom of expression.” Steve Carell chimed in, saying it was a “sad day for creative expression.”
2. Theaters Were Already Backing Out of Showing the Movie
Sony Pictures had earlier told theaters that they were under no obligation to show the movie. Many national theater chains, including Regal and AMC, had decided against showing the movie, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the hours after the cancellation, footage of the movie’s most controversial scenes, where the North Korean leader has his face burned off, emerged online.
3. The Threats Are Being Considered a Matter of National Security
ABC News reported on December 16 that the terrorist threats being made against the movie’s stars were not “credible” but they were being treated as a matter of national security. Though President Obama encouraged the public to go to the movies in general during an interview with ABC News, saying:
We’ll be vigilant – if we see something that we think is serious and credible, then we’ll alert the public.
In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, Dan Sterling, the movie’s writer, explained that the movie was meant to be set with a fictional country. Sterling said:
Sasha (Baron Cohen) was getting ready with The Dictator, so he sort of cornered the market on Middle Eastern tyranny jokes around that time,” Sterling muses. “I went and wrote the script with a fake name and fake country, but after discussing the project with Seth [Rogen], Evan [Goldberg] and the executives at Sony, we decided I ought to try writing it with Kim Jong-un. Once it was in there, we knew it was the way to go.
4. The Attacks on the Movie Began With the Leaking of Emails
The attacks on the movie apparently began with the leaking of floods of emails between Sony Pictures execs, particularly targeting Amy Pascal. The emails ranged from the bizarre to the racist, taking aim at stars such as Angelina Jolie, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Hart. The day that the movie was pulled from theaters, TMZ reported that Amy Pascal wasn’t planning on leaving her job as Sony Chief over the movie. Famed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin had already attacked the U.S. media for circulating in the information leaked by the hackers:
Today the US succumbed to an unprecedented attack on our most cherished, bedrock principle of free speech.
5. The North Koreans Have Never Confirmed That They’re Behind the Threats
There has never been any confirmation from the North Korean news agency that any of their agents were involved in sabotaging Sony Pictures over the movie. CNN reports that the Department of Justice will name North Korea as the source of the hacking and threats on December 18. So far, there has been no official linking of North Korea to the cyber attacks.