Amy Pascal, the head of Sony's film division, is probably going to lose her job. The story is long, but the facts are simple: With Seth Rogen and James Franco's The Interview cancelled, Pascal's department has taken something north of $50 million of Sony's money and lit it on fire in the most spectacular and embarrassing way possible.
It's safe to assume that this is the lowest moment of Pascal's professional life. Things got bad when the true scope of the leaks became known, and got even worse from there, when emails were uncovered in which her and a colleague made tacky and unfunny jokes about the kind of movies Barack Obama might like (punchline: the ones with black actors in them!). She is currently in the unprecedented position of having one of her studio's completed films hidden from the public at the behest of a foreign government, and will likely hit rock bottom if, or when, she is ultimately canned.
But eventually, hopefully, Pascal will realize that while she's the root cause of the Sony leak scandal, she's also its most sympathetic personality—a strong, intelligent boss who comes off in her correspondence as a passionate and moral human being in an industry of insane egomaniacal assholes and money-fuckers.
This isn't us saying this: the fallout from the Sony leaks has made it clear that Pascal is beloved by many power players in Hollywood. Last week, Seth Rogen, for instance, thanked Pascal for having "the balls" to make The Interview, and though he will probably forever hold a grudge against Sony for canceling the film, I bet the fiasco makes him respect Pascal even more for taking it this far.
In other emails, she is praised by people like George Clooney and Aaron Sorkin—who, by the way, stood behind her even after she said he was broke. In an email Clooney sent her after early negative reviews of his film Monuments Men trickled out, he wrote that Pascal is "literally the only person running a studio that loves film." Clooney added: "I adore you Amy."
It hasn't been surprising to find out from the hacked email that everyone in Hollywood is a dick. But it has been a bit surprising to learn how committed Pascal is to actually making good movies. Every year it seems like people lament the creative direction of Hollywood, but Pascal seems to be, even in her correspondence with other studio executives, committed to putting great films on the silver screen. (She is only so valiant, though: if Pascal is fired, one of the last films she will have financed at Sony is Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.)
The Sony emails are mostly boring. This is true, of course, of basically anyone's email. There have been dozens of great and important stories uncovered in the inboxes of Pascal and other Sony executives, but that represents something like a half of one percent of what was leaked by whoever hacked the company. Even the most toothsome exchanges are pocked by banal back-and-forths about unimportant minutiae. Even in Hollywood, the business of doing business features only glimmers of glamor.
But in this sea of nothingness, Pascal's integrity shines through. She is warm to her coworkers and supportive of her employees; thoughtful and genuinely caring even in the midst of doing the film industry's dirty work. Email chains involving deals worth tens of millions of dollars are routinely followed with Pascal affirming that relationships are important to her, and that she can't wait to see her friends and partners soon.
And when she has to place the needs of her studio and her employees above the whining of her collaborators, she is unhesitating and unyielding. Take her sparring with notoriously hotheaded producer Scott Rudin over Sony's planned Steve Jobs biopic, and a Cleopatra movie starring Angelina Jolie that nobody wants to make except Jolie and Pascal. Rudin is in ruthless pursuit of what he thinks is best for the Jobs film—namely securing David Fincher as director—and Pascal plays along. Until she doesn't.
Pinched words likes those are the culmination of exasperation, a feeling Pascal renders perfectly. Here is one email to Rudin that features torturously elongated ellipses and a perfect kiss-off closer.
Even more enjoyable, though, are the specific quirks of her emails, many of which are marked "Sent from my Sony Xperia Z2" (if there's any silver lining to Pascal potentially losing her job, it's that she will no longer have an obligation to use a Sony Xperia). The bulk of Pascal's emails are short one-liners, but the best ones resemble free verse poems. Sent normally to her closest confidants at Sony, and often late at night, these emails have a distinct and charming lyrical quality to them.
Here is part of one from a response to Rudin that could double as a sketch of a pop-punk song:
You better shut it down
That is what you said
That sounded like a threat to me
Her hand-washing of an upcoming Cameron Crowe movie starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone came in a free-flowing stream of consciousness rant.
These sorts of Pascal emails can be broken down into bite-sized, almost zen-like koans. Like from the above email:
Not even once
Or from another email about the Crowe debacle:
Maybe it's the rain
I feel better
Or this one:
Pascal should get another job in Hollywood if Sony does indeed shove her off the plank. Sony isn't the most profitable studio in the industry, but Pascal has made the company hundreds of millions of dollars while also making a number of great films. She has some of the most important people in Hollywood—from producers to directors to actors— devoted to working with her. But if all else fails, she could start a self-help email service that places a short thought in your inbox every day.
"Maybe it's the rain, I feel better" is my personal mantra for fighting off seasonal affective disorder this winter. Maybe Pascal, in the midst of a personal winter, can find comfort in her accidentally beautiful phrasing. And also in the fact that the most consistent revelation out of the Sony hack is that she's really good at her job.
[photos via Getty, illustration by Jim Cooke]