Sony CEO ordered censorship of ‘The Interview’: report

Key scene amended three months before unprecedented cyber attack

Tags: Cyber crimeJapanNorth KoreaSony CorporationUSA
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Sony CEO ordered censorship of ‘The Interview’: report Sony’s Hirai: wanted changes to movie. (Getty Images)
By  Stephen McBride Published  December 11, 2014

The chief executive of Sony Corp ordered changes to be made to a key scene in "The Interview", the controversial movie at the centre of an unprecedented cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The movie, starring James Franco and Seth Rogan, is due out this month. It tells the story of a CIA plot, involving two journalists, to assassinate North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. The Pyongyang government wrote a letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in July, condemning the movie as "undisguised sponsorship of terrorism and an act of war" and calling for it to be banned.

The movie is billed as a comedy.

According to a video report from Reuters, Kazuo Hirai, CEO of Sony, contacted Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures, in "August, September" to request the change.

"The complaints came in July, the requests in August, September; the final version of the film was in October and the hack was in November," said Reuters cyber security correspondent Jim Finkle in an interview. Finkle broke the story when he came into possession of copies of internal Sony emails, leaked following November's attack, but did not explicitly refer to the North Korean government's suspected involvement in the breach.

The emails further showed that Rogan, who also wrote and co-directed the movie, objected to the changes. The scene that was to be altered depicted Kim's head exploding and Rogan was concerned that critics would slam any censorship.

Pascal reportedly told him: "This is not some flunky, this is the chairman of the entire Sony Corporation I'm dealing with."

Rogan finally agreed to remove three out of four burn marks from Kim's face in the scene and "reduce the flaming hair by 50%".

November's attack, which took Sony Pictures' network offline for over a week and cost the media division an estimated $100m, has been continually blamed by media outlets on Kim's government, but North Korean state media dismissed such involvement, floating the theory that the hermit nation's "supporters" were behind the incident.

FireEye's forensics lab Mandiant and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation have been analysing the attack, but have not named any suspects. Earlier this week a senior FBI investigator said there was no specific evidence linking the attack to the North Korean government.  

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