Risky Comedies Could Be In Jeopardy After 'Interview' Is Pulled
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Last month's cyberattack on Sony pictures is now a national security matter. U.S. intelligence officials believe North Korea is behind the incident and today the White House said it's taking hacking attacks seriously.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
After additional threats from hackers, Sony decided to scrap the release of "The Interview." The movie's plot centers on the assassination of North Korea's leader.
CORNISH: An outraged Hollywood is protesting that decision on Twitter. Director Judd Appatow wrote this - I think it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing "The Interview." Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?
BLOCK: Steve Carrell tweeted sad day for creative expression. #feareatsthesoul. And Rob Lowe tweeted Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today.
CORNISH: Now, this isn't the first time celebrities went apoplectic on social media, but do they have a point? Joining me on the line is John Horn of KPCC's "The Frame." Welcome to the program.
JOHN HORN: Happy to be here. Thank you for having.
CORNISH: So, John, you've been reporting on this and talk about what other celebrities and industry people are saying off-line
HORN: Well, I think their biggest concern is what this says going forward about the kinds of movies Hollywood will be willing to make. And the real concern from the screenwriter of the film Dan Sterling before any of this happened - I mean, before its release was pulled - was that if there was a backlash from theaters against this film that studios would be disinclined to make what he considered to be a brash, fearless comedy. And I think that is the overall concern that since this film was muzzled, people who are writing or trying to come up with kind of very risky comedies going forward will not even write them and they certainly won't get made.
CORNISH: At the same time, Sony - it's a private company and they make all kinds of grueling decisions based on the bottom line, right? I mean, there's all kinds of movies that do not get made because of studio fears.
HORN: Well, yes and it's absolutely true that it is a business. But you have to understand that the makers of this movie made another movie called "This Is The End" a year ago, which grossed more than a hundred million dollars. So these kinds of comedies - "The Interview cost about $44 million - was almost certainly going to be profitable. This wasn't a huge gamble. The question is this was a kind of movie from film makers who had a record of success and immediately - I mean, you quoted from Steve Carrell. There was a Steve Carrell thriller comedy that was set up at New Regency, which was the company that co-financed "12 Years A Slave." They immediately killed that movie, so you can definitely see hours after "The Interview" fell apart there was a immediate and tangible reaction.
CORNISH: You know, federal authorities are investigating, but they did not necessarily say this was a credible threat, you know, the threat against theaters or otherwise. Is that one of the reasons why people are being so hard on Sony here? You know, it's not as though you have U.S. government or security officials backing them up in fear.
HORN: No, I think that is part of the problem. Like, you know, were people really not going to show up to theaters? But I think it's the perception that was the issue. Now, the Christmas period is one of the biggest moviegoing periods of the year and exhibitors, I think, were rightfully concerned that if people weren't just going to come out for "The Interview," they were going to not come see "Unbroken," "Into The Woods." So if there was a perception that it was not safe to be in the theaters it was going to affect all of Hollywood's movies. So I think from a business perspective that was the concern by exhibitors and Sony was just caught in the middle of all of that.
CORNISH: Will this movie ever see the light of day?
HORN: I think that's a very good question. I think it's going to be a little bit like Disney's "Song Of The South," which is a movie that was very controversial. Disney still has it. It's probably locked up in some vault somewhere. I think Sony is probably going to sit on "The Interview." It may come out. It may leak out. Who knows, it could be part of the data hack. It's not going to go away for good, but it's certainly going to go away for a long period of time.
CORNISH: So, John Horn, you've actually seen this movie. Did it raise any red flags for you at the time?
HORN: Well, I mean, it's no spoiler to say that Kim Jong-Un is actually assassinated in the movie, so it is kind of startling to see not only an assassination plot in a comedy, but to see the leader of a country assassinated. I didn't think it was going to be politically dangerous, but I certainly thought it was a bold step. And I will say it was a pretty entertaining movie. I think this movie had a commercial life ahead of itself and the people would've enjoyed it. It was very bold, very daring, but those are the very things that cost it, ultimately.
CORNISH: John Horn - he's from KPCC'S "The Frame." Thanks so much for speaking with us.
HORN: Happy to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.