Seth Rogen refused to tone down a violent scene in his controversial North Korea-set film The Interview, according to leaked emails to Sony Pictures executives.
The comedian’s new film follows two American journalists hired by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and the movie has been at the center of a hacking scandal, in which activists illegally gained access to the movie studio’s computer systems and databases last month.
While the hack included the leak of unreleased Sony films and information about top stars, private email exchanges between studio bosses and celebrities have also been made public.
Among them is a string of emails which spans from August to October between Sony Corp. Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai, Sony Pictures Entertainment Amy Pascal, and Rogen, who also wrote and co-directed the film.
In the notes obtained by Reuters, Hirai asked Pascal to alter a key scene in which the North Korean leader is struck by a tank shell.
Hirai, who reportedly rarely reviews specific scenes in films, expressed his concern over North Korean officials’ denouncement of the scene, since the country’s officials complained to the United Nations in July, accusing the U.S. of sponsoring terrorism and committing an act of war by allowing production of the movie.
Pascal, knowing Rogen would be difficult to budge on the issue, relayed the request from Hirai, and wrote to the actor, “And this isn’t some flunky. It’s the chairman of the entire Sony Corporation who I am dealing (with).”
Rogen wrote back that while he refused to completely modify the scene, he would agree to some small edits to make it less graphic.
He replied, “…we honestly feel that if it’s any more obscured, you won’t be able to tell (what is happening) and the joke won’t work.”
In an email dated August 15 from Rogen, he noted that any more modifications would border on censorship, adding, “This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy. That is a very damning story.”
By October, Rogen delivered the final cut of The Interview, which also stars James Franco, and sent a follow-up email hoping he would not have to make any further edits.
He wrote, “This is it!!! We removed (even more parts of the scene)… Please tell us this is over now.”
Rogen has yet to respond to the leaked email.
He will debut the film at the Los Angeles premiere on Thursday, but representatives from Sony Pictures announced on Wednesday that no broadcast media will be invited to cover the red carpet and no interviews will be granted to press reporters at the screening.