11 December 2014
Last updated at 17:46
Warning: this story contains plot spoilers
The film was not among those leaked online in the cyber attack on Sony
Actor Seth Rogen objected to re-editing his new film The Interview, about an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-Un, just “to make North Koreans happy”.
Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal wrote to Rogen to ask him to tone down a scene in which the North Korean leader is blown up.
Pascal said the request came from Kazuo Hirai, chairman of Sony Corporation.
The exchange was revealed in leaked emails in the wake of a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures.
But Rogen – who wrote and directed The Interview – refused to meet all of the demands made by Mr Hirai.
“This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy,” he wrote, in an email dated 15 August. “That is a very damning story.”
The Interview – due to be released on Christmas Day in the US – sees Rogen and James Franco play two reporters who are granted an audience with Kim Jong-un. The CIA then enlists the pair to assassinate him.
In June this year, North Korea described the film as an act of war and an “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism”, and called on the US and the UN to block it.
Ms Pascal wrote to Rogen relaying concerns raised by Mr Hirai about a key shot in the film which depicts Kim Jong-un struck by a tank shell, causing his head to explode.
“As embarrassing as this has been from my point of view,” wrote Ms Pascal to the film-maker, “you have to appreciate the fact that we haven’t just dictated to you what it had to be.”
“This isn’t some flunky. It’s the chairman of the entire Sony Corporation who I am dealing (with),” she said, referring to Mr Hirai’s position as the head of the studio’s parent company.
She stressed she was keen to ensure that the Japanese company would not be placed “in a bad situation”, in terms of its political relations with North Korea.
In a later response, Rogen agrees to remove some of the ghoulish detail, including reducing the “flaming hair”, but added: “The head explosion can’t be more obscured than it is because we honestly feel that if it’s any more obscured, you won’t be able to tell it’s exploding and the joke won’t work.”
Annie, due for release on 19 December, was among the Sony films leaked online
In an email to Mr Hirai, Ms Pascal notes that she has encountered considerable “resistance from the filmmakers”.
But a final email in October, from Rogen, confirms that his latest edit had “removed the fire from the hair and the entire secondary wave of head chunks”.
“Please tell us this is over now,” he adds.
Details of the emails were reported by Bloomberg News. Representatives for Rogen declined to comment.
Sony Pictures announced this week that the stars will be giving no interviews at the Hollywood premiere of The Interview.
The California-based studio’s computer system went down last week and hackers then published a number of as-yet unreleased films on online download sites. The Interview was not among them.
North Korea has denied it was directly involved in the hacking but praised the attack itself as a “righteous deed”.
A slew of emails, including embarrassing exchanges about some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, have also been leaked.
It included a private email conversation between producer Scott Rudin and Ms Pascal, in which Rudin called actress Angelina Jolie a “spoiled brat” and made jokes about President Obama’s race and presumed taste in movies.
He apologised on Thursday, saying the emails were “written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity”.
“To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologise for any injury they might have caused,” he told Deadline.