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James Franco and Seth Rogen‘s The Interview, which might have been the trigger for the devastating hack on Sony Pictures, will not get a release in Japan, South Korea or other Asian territories, a well-placed source tells The Hollywood Reporter.
The decision not to release the comedy about an assassination plot on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un apparently was made before the late November hack on Sony’s computer network.
“It was never going to be released in Japan,” says a source at Sony’s Tokyo headquarters. “Like some of those R-rated comedies that go down very well in the States, they don’t work here and don’t get released.”
The move might have been planned, but it makes particular sense now, given the drama that has surrounded the U.S. release of the film in the wake of the leak of thousands of pages of confidential studio secrets and North Korea’s possible role in the hack. Sony has maintained that its release plan for Asia is still not set, and the studio declined to comment.
Among the documents leaked, internal emails show Sony Corp CEO Kaz Hirai was concerned enough about The Interview to give unprecedented input on individual scenes.
The emails reveal exchanges between Hirai and Sony’s Amy Pascal negotiating about how graphically to depict the Korean dictator’s death. Pascal told Rogen in a subsequent email that she had never received a specific request of that nature from Sony’s Tokyo headquarters in her more than two decades at the studio.
Sony and the FBI, which is investigating the data breach, have not indicated whether North Korea played a role in the attack. Recent emails from the group claiming to have carried out the hack have demanded the film’s release be stopped.
Relations between Japan and North Korea are in an almost constant state of tension. The two countries have been negotiating again recently over Japanese citizens that were abducted by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Sony may have been wary about a potential political backlash from a film mocking the North Korean leader and depicting an assassination plot on him.
Most of the Japanese media coverage of the hacking has portrayed it as an American problem, despite it occurring at the subsidiary of one of Japan’s most storied corporations. Most reports have quoted U.S. news sources and described Sony Pictures as a “major American media company,” rather than as a part of Sony Corp.
The Interview will open in the U.S. on Christmas Day and in Australia on Jan. 22 and New Zealand on Jan. 29, the only scheduled releases in the Asia-Pacific region.
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