In late November, an anonymous hacking group that calls themselves “Guardians of Peace” breached Sony’s servers, leaking a massive trove of documents ranging from social security numbers of stars and employees to copies of upcoming Sony films like Annie, Mr. Turner, Still Alice, and To Write Love on Her Arms.
The Daily Beast has combed through much of the hundreds of thousands of emails that have made their way online, revealing Sony's anxiety over The Interview, Jennifer's Lawrence's amazing email moniker, the studio's feud with Judd Apatow, and more.
Some believe the hack to be the work of North Korean hackers as reprisal for their comedy film The Interview, wherein James Franco and Seth Rogen play a TV host and producer who are tasked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. While a spokesman for North Korea claimed ignorance, he added that the hack “might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK in response to its appeal” against The Interview, which the totalitarian country dubbed “a terrorist act.” The Guardians of Peace, meanwhile, posted a message online that read, “Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War.” The Interview hits theaters December 25.
But the most eye-opening reveals have emanated from leaked private email correspondences between Sony execs, producers, and talent, including their disdain over Adam Sandler’s diminishing returns and Sony exec Clint Culpepper calling one of their most prized actors, Kevin Hart, “a whore.” And much of the controversy has stemmed from fiery email exchanges between Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and über-producer Scott Rudin. The duo are being taken to task for making racially charged comments about the movie taste of President Obama, as well as the intense drama behind the making of the Aaron Sorkin-scripted Jobs, a biopic of Apple’s visionary co-founder Steve Jobs.
“Of all the things I thought might be said about me, this was the last one, and I feel awful,” Pascal told Deadline of the racism charges re: Obama. “There are people here that I work with I love, and I don’t want them to be disappointed in me. I am mostly disappointed in myself.”
Here are more scandalous discoveries.
Sony’s Anxiety Over Kim Jong Un Film The Interview
When The Guardian ran a story on June 20, 2014, detailing North Korea’s angry response to the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy The Interview, in which the duo are charged with assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Sony immediately went into crisis mode. Pascal forwarded the story to Sony Pictures’ Vice Chairman Jeff Blake saying, “we need sonys name off this asap everywhere,” further requesting that they remove the name “Sony” from as many promotional materials for the film as possible, attempting to sell the film as just a Columbia Pictures release. Then, Sony President Michael Lynton weighed in in an email to Pascal, saying, “better if seth does not do any tweeting for awhile until we sort this out.”
And a further email, dated June 23, 2014, from Sony VP Douglas Blakey to Sony’s legal team reads, “Per our conversation today, please let this confirm for our records that Columbia is electing to not accord any On-Screen or Billing Block credits to SONY in connection with the Film “The Interview”. For reference, this encompasses: 1) omitting references to “A Sony Company” from the Animated and Static Logos; 2) using a “non-hybrid” Animated Logo that doesn’t include SONY; 3) omitting the “Sony”, “Be Moved”, and “Sony Greener World” Cards from the End Crawl, and: 4) replacing the reference to “Sony…” with “Columbia Pictures…” in our End Crawl “Tobacco Disclaimer” Language. Additionally, we’ve been informed that we should remove the SDDS “Bug” from our End Crawl and Billing Blocks for this Film.”
Sony also drafted a detailed list of talking points for Seth Rogen and Randall Park (who plays Kim Jong Un) while doing interviews for The Interview, with possible questions ranging from “The situation in North Korea is deadly serious. Why make a comedy about that?” to “Is this film racist?” The “Sony executives talking point,” meanwhile, is this: “This is a Columbia Pictures release and our parent company has little to no involvement in the creative direction taken.”
This, despite the fact that many emails between Pascal and Rogen detail that Sony was reportedly very involved in the creative process, including several requested alterations to the film’s ending.
George Clooney to Rupert Murdoch: Bring. It. On.
Clooney’s next directorial effort will be Hack Attack, an adaptation of journalist Nick Davies’ book on the UK phone hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid empire. And Clooney is very fired up about the project. In an email from Clooney to Pascal and several other Sony execs, he voices how psyched he is and even compares the project to Citizen Kane.
“how much fun are we gonna have…the stakes are higher than citizen kane…if we tell the truth in a compelling way…rupert won’t get time/warner…cnn won’t be fox….i’m so excited to do this film..and for those of you listening in…i’m the son of a news man…everything will be double sourced..so come on with your lawsuits…fuckers...,” the email read.
Bill Murray Legal Drama Over the Ghostbusters Film?
An email dated October 31, 2013, from David Steinberg, head of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s legal department, to Leah Weil, SPE’s general counsel, touches on Bill Murray’s alleged reluctance to star in Paul Feig’s planned all-women Ghostbusters adaptation. If the email exchange is to be believed, Sony was planning “‘aggressive’ litigation counsel” to evaluate the situation, but wanted to keep it quiet so as not to harm the studio’s reputation by publicly going after a celebrated actor like Murray. “In order to more fully evaluate our position if Bill Murray again declines to engage on ‘Ghostbusters’, AG requested that we identify ‘aggressive’ litigation counsel with whom we can consult to evaluate our alternatives and strategize,” the email read. “[Harkening back to his prior employer, of course, raised the name of David Boies.] Personally, while I’m fine with aggressive, I think we are in much worse shape if this goes public so seems to me we should look for someone who isn’t seeking the spotlight.”
The Ghostbusters Film May Star Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, and Melissa McCarthy
An email dated October 8, 2014, from Pascal to Ivan Reitman, director/producer of the original Ghostbusters film, revealed some key details about the planned reboot, scheduled for release ideally sometime in summer 2016:
“Agree that everyone is way too nervous about how this issue and how we. present it but it's isn't a sequel to the 80s movies and it is gonna be totally original with completely different characters and our job is to find a clever way to connect the movie to the original franchise so that we can use all the assets and everything that is great about the original franchise,” the email read. “Paul's movie is gonna be the first one and from what I'm hearing jennifer lawrence and Emma stone and Melissa McCarthy and Amy schumer and liszzy [Lizzy] Kaplan just to name a few have already said thy wanted to be in....”
The Social Network Producer Scott Rudin Makes Hitler Analogy About David Fincher
There are a ton of email correspondences back-and-forth between Angelina Jolie and Rudin and Pascal about her planned Cleopatra biopic, and who should direct it. One email from Jolie to the pair dated May 15, 2014, and in response to a list of potential directors, reads, “Do we know who on the list is actually available to begin prep in next few months? I do think [Tomas] alfredson is great. I also think we could have another talk with Fincher who may be difficult but is brilliant and already engaged. Xxx”
To this, Scott Rudin responds, “‘May be difficult’?!?! Like Hitler ‘may be anti-Semitic’!!! I think a lot of these guys are free around our time-frame --- who do you like?”
Jennifer Lawrence, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt’s Amazing Email Game
Without giving the actual email handles away (they’re all followed by various other characters), these A-list stars have some seriously great email addresses. Lawrence’s is “peanutbutt,” and Pitt’s is a bizarre alias “_____ Phizz.” Furthermore, Pitt sometimes signs his emails “B P McWee.”
Sony’s Take on Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden Movie and How Theirs Is Probably Dead
In an email dated October 11, 2014, from Doug Belgrad, President of SPE Motion Picture Group, to Michael De Luca, President of Production for Columbia Pictures, Belgrad explains how he’s not a fan of Oliver Stone’s planned Edward Snowden biopic, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and that he feels Sony should probably stay away from trying to acquire international rights to it.
“I loved the first act and liked the rest of it but it just never kicks into a higher gear for me and ends on sort of an unsatisfying note. And I worry that the world will have very mixed feelings about him. At 50 mil, the movie has to be great and totally satisfying. Right now, kinda feels like what zero dark would have been in the version before they actually killed bin laden.”
Now Sony, it should be noted, has their own Snowden project set up there, having acquired the rights to Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide. But it appears that project might be dead, according to another email by Belgrad sent November 14, 2014, about Stone’s film.
“This will beat our Snowden project to market and therefore ours is unlikely to happen. We ended up passing after seriously considering the project.”
Star Wars Details Revealed?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams’s continuation of the Star Wars story, will hit theaters late next year, and there are several other planned Star Wars films by Rian Johnson (Looper), Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), and Josh Trank (Chronicle). An email dated September 20, 2014, from Michael De Luca, President of Production for Columbia Pictures, to Amy Pascal discusses the plans for Disney’s upcoming Star wars films—and may have spilled some interesting new details.
“Star Wars: Any studio would have lost josh trank and rian Johnson to this, it's freaking Star Wars. Your After Earth writer Gary Whitta is writing Gareth Edwards stand alone Star Wars film. Simon Kinberg is writing Josh Tranks. No one knows what they're about but Boba Fett is rumored to be the subject of one. Rian Johnson as you know is doing the main ones, episodes 8 and 9 of the Luke and Leia story lines, after JJ. Not sure anything is gained by looking at what Lucasfilm is doing except we are stalking all these people too, except Whitta whom I think blows.”
Rapper Drake’s Acting Debut as “PENIS” in a Planned Spike Lee Film
An email dated April 4, 2014, from Bart Walker, Spike Lee’s agent at ICM, to Doug Belgrad, President of SPE Motion Picture Group, details the revised script for Lee’s School Daze Too, a planned sequel to Lee’s 1988 film. It’s allegedly being packaged as a starring vehicle for rapper Drake and Kevin Hart.
“This is a new draft that Spike has written after meetings with Drake, who will play the lead role of PE*NIS, and Kevin Hart who will play DAT NIGGA JIGGA. The budget is $ 9 million (net, after Georgia tax credits), not including historic costs, star salaries, creative producer fees,” the email read. “I believe in the film both as an entertainment -- a college film -- and as a provocative and exciting piece about the conflict of traditional values (education, college) and hip hop/star/celebrity culture. Why go to college to get a job to make money when you can make more money rapping, stripping, and creating salacious music videos even if they demean women? ”
The Amy Pascal Manifesto: Aaron Sorkin Broke, Sleeping with Co-Worker?
On November 13, 2014, Pascal wrote a lengthy, Jerry Maguire-esque email manifesto on the state of SPE’s motion picture group and sent it to most of her senior staff. In the memo, she seems very down on Cameron Crowe’s as-yet-untitled Hawaii-set film coming out next year, starring Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Bill Murray. “Cameron never really changed anything… People don’t like people in movies who flirt with married people or married people who flirt… I’m never starting a movie again when the script is ridiculous and we all know it… Scott [Rudin] didn’t once go to the set or help us in the editing room or fix the script,” read the email.
Pascal is also very tough on Aaron Sorkin, discussing his various projects set up at Sony including the Steve Jobs biopic Jobs, his adaptation of Michael Lewis’s tome Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, and Sorkin’s adaptation of Molly’s Game, a memoir by self-proclaimed “poker Princess” Molly Bloom who ran underground poker games attended by Hollywood A-listers.
“We are getting totally positioned in the Aaron stuff,” wrote Pascal. “He is broke… He wants to get paid… We paid him his insane fee on flashboys… When the poker movie came around we didn’t want to not be in Aaron business so we wanted that too… I don’t care if Aaron is sleeping with the girl or not… I don’t care if it becomes a beat seller… They are treating us like shit.”
Judd Apatow is Angry at Sony
Judd Apatow and Adam Sandler are best pals. They were classmates at NYU, roommates sharing a $900-a-month apartment as struggling comics, and Apatow later directed Sandler in the dramedy Funny People. So it stands to reason that, as friends, they try not to open competing movies near each other’s. When Apatow found out that Sony had scheduled the Sandler comedy Pixels to open on July 24, 2015—the same date as Apatow’s next directorial effort, the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck—he was not pleased.
On August 24, 2014, Apatow fired off the following email to Pascal: “Why did you move your movie into my date? I never put my movies on Sandler’s dates. Never. He hadn’t either. We all respect each other. We don’t try to hurt each other. I am not pleased that you all did that to me. And the [Amy] Schumer movie is spectacular. It won’t be the easy comedy weekend. You have miscalculated.”
Pascal then forwarded to email to Adam Sandler and his team.
Steven Spielberg For Hillary Clinton 2016?
In case you haven’t heard, Hillary Clinton may (probably) be running for president in 2016. In the Sony emails, there are numerous correspondences of Sony execs complaining about being constantly harassed by movie moguls Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg for high-priced donations to back various democratic candidates, from Alison Lundergan Grimes to, yes, Hillary Clinton. In one, dated October 3, 2014, Tom Rothman, President of TriStar Productions, angrily emails Keith Weaver, EVP of Worldwide Government Affairs for Sony, about an email Spielberg sent him requesting his presence at a fundraiser.”
“This is from steven spielberg, who has hit me for 32 fucking k for some Hilary event for the senate Can you pls check and see if, please god, I have already given to that so that I can't give that much now. These guys are killing me...”
Editor's note: An earlier version and headline of this article said that Scott Rudin compared David Fincher to Hitler. He actually made a Hitler analogy about David Fincher.