Right now, the biggest movie story in Hollywood isn’t about an Oscar contender, or even a movie that will be opening this holiday season. Instead, it’s about Seth Rogen and James Franco‘s “The Interview,” which might be the most notorious unreleased film in recent memory. Certainly, everything around the movie has been unprecedented, with exhibitors across the country cancelling their plans to put the movie in their cinemas, following threats by hackers with ties to North Korea invoking 9/11. This in turn forced Sony to drop any and all release plans for “The Interview.” And while there seemed to be a glimmer of hope when a new promo for the film appeared on Sony’s YouTube channel yesterday, it has since been yanked. So too have all clips from the film. And an unlikely, angry voice has emerged calling out Hollywood’s lack of courage.
George Clooney took some time to talk to Deadline, and the actor/director/writer/producer reveals that he teamed with his agent Bryan Lourd and spearheaded an effort to get all of Hollywood on board to support Sony publicly, but couldn’t get anybody to sign a petition he drafted. What did it say? Here you go:
On November 24 of this year, Sony Pictures was notified that it was the victim of a cyber attack, the effects of which is the most chilling and devastating of any cyber attack in the history of our country. Personal information including Social Security numbers, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and the full texts of emails of tens of thousands of Sony employees was leaked online in an effort to scare and terrorize these workers. The hackers have made both demands and threats. The demand that Sony halt the release of its upcoming comedy The Interview, a satirical film about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Their threats vary from personal—you better behave wisely—to threatening physical harm—not only you but your family is in danger. North Korea has not claimed credit for the attack but has praised the act, calling it a righteous deed and promising merciless measures if the film is released. Meanwhile the hackers insist in their statement that what they’ve done so far is only a small part of our further plan. This is not just an attack on Sony. It involves every studio, every network, every business and every individual in this country. That is why we fully support Sony’s decision not to submit to these hackers’ demands. We know that to give in to these criminals now will open the door for any group that would threaten freedom of expression, privacy and personal liberty. We hope these hackers are brought to justice but until they are, we will not stand in fear. We will stand together.
“All that it is basically saying is, we’re not going to give in to a ransom. As we watched one group be completely vilified, nobody stood up. Nobody took that stand,” Clooney explained, adding: “…Having put together telethons where you have to get all the networks on board to do the telethon at the same time, the truth is once you get one or two, then everybody gets on board. It is a natural progression. So here, you get the first couple of people to sign it and … well, nobody wanted to be the first to sign on. Now, this isn’t finger-pointing on that. This is just where we are right now, how scared this industry has been made.”
And for Clooney, as an artist and creator, he sees Hollywood’s inability to band together as a troubling sign of where the future of filmmaking could be headed if they back down to these threats. “What’s going to happen is, you’re going to have trouble finding distribution. In general, when you’re doing [controversial films], the ones that are critical, those aren’t going to be studio films anyway,” he said. “Most of the movies that got us in trouble, we started out by raising the money independently. But to distribute, you’ve got to go to a studio, because they’re the ones that distribute movies. The truth is, you’re going to have a much harder time finding distribution now. And that’s a chilling effect.”
So, what’s the solution? Release the movie, and according to Clooney, the Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal also wants to get it out there. “I just talked to Amy an hour ago. She wants to put that movie out. What do I do? My partner Grant Heslov and I had the conversation with her this morning. Bryan and I had the conversation with her last night. Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out,” he said. “Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people.”
But why does Clooney care at all about what he ultimately calls a “silly movie”? Because if this isn’t handled right, it could further stifle voices looking to make provocative, creative work, because studios and distributors will be wary of having their investments threatened. “I wanted to have the conversation because I’m worried about content. Frankly, I’m at an age where I’m not doing action films or romantic comedies,” he said. “The movies we make are the ones with challenging content, and I don’t want to see it all just be superhero movies. Nothing wrong with them, but it’s nice for people to have other films out there.”
And while Clooney is definitely the biggest voice coming out in support of releasing the movie, others have weighed in too, with “Game Of Thrones” writer George R.R. Martin offering to screen the movie at his Jean Cocteau Cinema. Here’s some of what he had to say on LiveJournal:
Martin and Rogen in the same room together, watching “The Interview”? Yeah, we’d pay to see that too.
But there’s lot to discuss as this issue and event continues to unfold. Shares your thoughts in the comments section below.