North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, denounces the Seth Rogen-written and directed The Interview. The film, which sees James Franco star alongside Rogen as a talk show duo roped into a plot to assassinate Jong-un, is set for a Dec. 25 release.
Kim Myong-choi, Jong-un's unofficial spokesperson, refers to the film's story line in a statement as having "special irony" and warns, "President Obama should be careful in case the U.S. military wants to kill him as well."
North Korea goes on the record once more to caution Sony against releasing The Interview. "The act of making and screening such a movie that portrays an attack on our top leadership... is the most wanton act of terror and act of war, and is absolutely intolerable," a foreign ministry spokesperson derided in a statement, adding, "If the U.S. administration allows and defends the showing of the film, a merciless counter-measure will be taken."
Communication comes to a halt at Sony when a skull appears on computer screens company-wide with the following eerie message, along with a string of file names: "Hacked by #GOP. Warning: We've already warned you, and this is just a beginning. We continue till our request be met. We've obtained all your internal data including your secrets and top secrets. If you don't obey us, we'll release data shown below to the world."
GOP, or Guardians of Peace, also took control of the company's promotional Twitter accounts, posting the same image, as well as an image of Sony CEO, Michael Lynton, in hell. Jean Guerin, Sony Pictures spokesperson, said, "We are investigating an IT matter."
Sony's computers, which were shut down as a precaution, remain down in the Culver City location, as well as in New York and overseas. Still remaining relatively mum on the subject, the company does release another statement reiterating an IT problem, saying, "Sony Pictures Entertainment experienced a system disruption, which we are working diligently to resolve."
Five as-yet unreleased, watermarked Sony films and DVD screeners — Annie, Fury, Mr. Turner, Still Alice and To Write Love on Her Arms — hit the web via various file-sharing hubs. The most popular leak proves to be Fury, the WWII action movie starring Brad Pitt, which has been illegally downloaded more than 2 million times to date (the movie's theatrical release was in October). Also growing in popularity is the Jamie Foxx modern adaptation of Annie, which is slated for release Dec. 19.
Sony reveals the FBI's involvement, citing an official investigation, "The theft of Sony Pictures Entertainment content is a criminal matter, and we are working closely with law enforcement to address it," said a Sony spokesperson.
Fusion's Kevin Roose publishes a spreadsheet detailing the salaries of 17 top execs at Sony Pictures Entertainment, noting that the link he was sent actually contains the salaries of more than 6,000 Sony Pictures employees. The world is now privy to the knowledge that Sony chiefs, Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, pull in a cool $3 million and that, in fact, Pascal is the only woman in the company who earns more than $1 million annually.
On the plus side, if there is one, social media company, RelishMix, releases their findings that the hack has led to a serious spike in Sony's social media followers — the company's Facebook page alone jumped a remarkable 1.6 million likes on Thanksgiving Day.
In response to the salary leak, Lynton and Pascal go on the offensive, sending out a company-wide call to arms about the "brazen attack," imploring employees to stay calm in the crisis and be on guard. "While we are not yet sure of the full scope of the information that the attackers have or might release, we unfortunately have to ask you to assume that information about you in the possession of the company might be in their possession," the chiefs said of the breach that put the personal data of nearly 4,000 employees at risk. "While we hope that common decency might prevent disclosure, we of course cannot assume that."
The downward spiral continues, with Tuesday, Dec. 4 exposing a 25-page-long list of embarrassing internal communications with the release of a file simply titled "Sony_2012_Comments." A harsh compilation of negative feedback from employees, the file brings to light the unrest over the quality of Sony's film content as of late. Says one disgruntled employee, "Stop making the same, safe, soul-less movies and TV shows," while another points out, "There is a general 'blah-ness' to the films we produce... we continue to be saddled with the mundane, formulaic Adam Sandler films."
Also on this day, Seth Rogen and James Franco's salaries for The Interview go public. As reported by Bloomberg, Rogen received $8.4 million and Franco $6.5 million for the controversial comedy.
The hack gets personal — and alarmingly creepy — when Sony employees receive a threatening email alleging, among other things, "removing Sony Pictures on earth is a very tiny work for our group which is a worldwide organisation. And what we have done so far is only a small part of our further plan." The email ominously goes on to state, "Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email address below if you don't want to suffer damage. If you don't, not only you but your family will be in danger."
Seth Rogen and James Franco stir the pot with an appearance on Saturday Night Live.
In the wake of Franco and Rogen's SNL cameo, North Korea goes on record to deny any involvement in the Sony leak, despite rumors to the contrary. "We do not know where in America the Sony Pictures is situated and for what wrongdoings it became the target of the attack nor [do] we feel the need to know about it," read a statement issued by the Korean Central News Agency. Still, the state referred to the hack as a "righteous deed" possibly perpetrated by North Korean "supporters and sympathizers."
Hot on the trail of the North Korean drama over The Interview, hackers post a new message on GitHub demanding the movie be pulled immediately. For his part, Sony chief, Lynton, sends out another company-wide email, this time reassuring staff members that the FBI "have dedicated their senior staff to this global investigation." He also calls for an "All-Hands" meeting on the Culver City lot to brief everyone on the implications of the hack.
Hackers also unveil a list of aliases used by celebrities including Tom Hanks ("Johnny Madrid"), Sarah Michelle Gellar ("Neely O'Hara"), Tobey Maguire ("Neil Deep"), Rob Schneider ("Nazzo Good") and Jessica Alba ("Cash Money").
In perhaps the most explosive development so far, hackers release the full mailboxes of Pascal, cochairman of Sony Pictures, and of Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television. Attributed once again to Guardians of Peace, the release divulged sensitive — and sometimes incendiary — personal and professional emails to the tune of thousands of exchanges.
Both the Wall Street Journal and Gawker publish their findings from Pascal's hacked email account. Among the damaging exchanges? Heated words between Pascal and Jobs producer, Scott Rudin, over the film — most pointedly, repeated mention of Angelina Jolie as a "minimally talented spoiled brat" and worse, along with aspersions about other celebs like Tom Cruise.
In a separate exchange between Pascal, Lynton and studio exec, Clint Culpepper, Kevin Hart is put on blast for refusing to tweet about his new movie without being paid an additional sum on top of his $3 million paycheck for the film. Says Culpepper, "I'm not saying he's a whore, but he's a whore."
Several A-list directors take to Twitter to express their disgust over the breach, including 22 Jump Street's Phil Lord, the upcoming Star Wars' Rian Johnson and prominent producer-director of funny films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Judd Apatow.
The Sony hack is terrorism. Publishing the information aids terrorists. Sony execs are victims, and filmmakers. We should stand with them.— philip lord (@philiplord) December 10, 2014
In leaked email passages unearthed by BuzzFeed, Sony's Pascal reportedly pressed Rudin as to what she should say to President Barack Obama at a November 2013 fundraiser. "Would he like to finance some movies," Rudin responded, to which Pascal quipped, "I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?" The two then traded other movies prominently starring African-American actors.
In an attempt to curb the media firestorm, Pascal issues an apology about the racially insensitive remarks. "The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am," she said. "Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended."
Rudin apologizes, too, releasing a statement to Deadline in which he contends the emails were written in haste. He technically offers his regrets and condolences to anyone offended by the insensitive emails, but he notes that they are indefensible "in the harsh light of a public forum, without context."
In reports released by sites like Gawker, Buzzfeed and Bloomberg, it is revealed the hackers stole and posted sensitive medical records of employees, their children and their spouses. The leak includes detailed exchanges discussing one employee's child with special needs — the child's condition, treatment received, associated costs — as well as the employee's appeal of substantial medical claims denied by Sony's insurance company.
Other highly personal information divulged includes employees and their families' birth dates, medical expenses and even records of those who've suffered premature births, alcohol related cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, kidney failure and more.
Aaron Sorkin, who is known as the writer for several high-profile projects like The Newsroom and The Social Network, said in an opinion piece in the New York Times that he thinks journalists are responsible for abetting criminals in disseminating stolen information from the hacks.
"If you close your eyes you can imagine the hackers sitting in a room, combing through the documents to find the ones that will draw the most blood. And in a room next door are American journalists doing the same thing," Sorkin writes. "As demented and criminal as it is, at least the hackers are doing it for a cause. The press is doing it for a nickel.”
In a sea of harsh e-mails, sensitive information, private correspondence and racist conversations being released, the hack did produce one good thing: Proof that Channing Tatum is just as awesome as we'd hoped. An e-mail released shows the actor's excitement upon hearing the news that 22 Jump Street displaced Ted as the second-best opening weekend ever for an R-rated comedy. It's really just hands-down adorable.
Of course, with the good comes more bad. The hackers released an ominous message, saying, "Those who seek fun in terror" deserve a bitter fate and that "soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made," referring to The Interview. The hackers continued the threat, saying the world will be "full of fear" in an attack reminiscent of that of 9/11.
Sony officially cancels The Interview after threats continued to pour in, warning of a 9/11-style attack if the movie hit theaters on its scheduled Christmas Day release. The studio sent out a statement along with the announcement, saying, "We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."
The hackers, who are calling themselves the Guardians of Peace, are also affecting other films. The chilling effect also reached New Regency, who decided to pull the plug on a Steve Carell film called Pyongyang — scheduled to begin filming this spring — because it is set in North Korea.
U.S. officials also confirmed today that they believe North Korea to be the party responsible for the hack and the threats from the Guardians of Peace.
The one scene in the movie that reportedly started this whole mess was the Kim Jong-un death scene — and gifs supposedly taken from the footage were leaked on the web today. It's pretty gross, but not nearly as gross as it would have been without Sony execs stepping in and after deep discussions — and the OK from the State Department — having it toned down significantly.
During an end-of-the-year news conference, President Obama weighs in on the hack. "I am sympathetic to the concerns that they face," Obama said of Sony canceling the release of the movie. "Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake."
Meanwhile, the FBI confirms that North Korea was responsible for the cyber attack. Although the hackers used DNS masking techniques to make it appear as though the attack was routed through Asia, Europe and Latin America, federal investigators were able to pinpoint the true source as North Korea.
The Republican National Committee addresses theater owners: Don't bow to terrorists — put The Interview back on your screens. RNC chairman Reince Priebus spoke directly to the CEOs of major movie theater chains who had opted to pull the controversial film, saying, "I want to speak clearly on behalf of the Republican Party: I urge you to show the movie."
Reaction to the RNC's remarks online range from stirring and full of national sentiment to skeptical and suspicious of a publicity stunt.
In stark contrast to their message on Wednesday claiming they have no further release plans for the film, Sony states on Sunday's Meet the Press that The Interview has only been delayed. "Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed," said Sony attorney David Boies.
Possible alternative options for release could include Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple Inc. and YouTube — although all said companies have declined to comment on the possibility. Sony may end up releasing the film on their own streaming video service, Crackle.
Early Monday morning in a dispatch on state media, North Korea warns worse retaliation could be on the way. The statement, which calls the Sony hackers "fighters for justice," blames the U.S. government of being responsible for the making of The Interview.
It reads, in part: "The DPRK has already launched the toughest counteraction. Nothing is more serious miscalculation than guessing that just a single movie production company is the target of this counteraction. Our target is all the citadels of the U.S. imperialists who earned the bitterest grudge of all Koreans. Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism."
Interestingly, according to Fox News, North Korea later suffers a widespread internet outage that lasts the majority of Monday.
In a happy turn of events for fans of Seth Rogen, James Franco and not being censored by a totalitarian dictator, Sony announces their plans to release The Interview in select theaters across the nation. Theaters in cities like Atlanta, Georgia, Austin, Texas and Charleston, South Carolina, take to Twitter to invite moviegoers to come see the film on Christmas Day.
Naturally, Franco also heads to Twitter to express his excitement over the latest development.
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