If there was one thing that triggered the embarrassing and fascinating Sony email leak, it might have been their decision to go forward with killing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in James Franco and Seth Rogen's The Interview in the most gory way allowable. Now, you can watch exactly why some think North Korea may have hacked Sony.
The exact specifics of Kim Jong-un's death have required a long back-and-forth between the movie's creators, Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and Sony executives in two continents. On Sept. 26, Rogen sent an email to Amy Pascal, SPE's co chairman, and Doug Belgrad, the president of SPE's Motion Picture Group, regarding Kim's death. The subject is "Hey guys! New head shot!" and in it, Rogen describes some alterations to the climax (click "expand" to expand):
"We took out three out of four face embers," Rogen writes of shrapnel set to hit Kim's face. "Reduced the hair burning by 50%, and significantly darkened the chunks of Kim's head." This, though, was far from the final alterations he would have to make.
A day later, Pascal consulted Sony's Japan-based CEO Kazuo Hirai about the shot described in Rogen's email, as was reported today in a New York Times article about input on the film from Sony's Japanese executives.
Disturbed by North Korean threats at a time when his company was already struggling, Sony's Japanese chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, broke with what Sony executives say was a 25-year tradition. He intervened in the decision making of his company's usually autonomous Hollywood studio, Sony Pictures Entertainment.
According to hacked emails published by other media and interviews with people briefed on the matter, he insisted over the summer that a scene in which Mr. Kim's head explodes when hit by a tank shell be toned down to remove images of flaming hair and chunks of skull.
In the emails, he also asked that even the less bloody shot not be shown outside the United States. A final decision on how the assassination scene will be rendered in overseas release has not been made, a person briefed on the film's international roll out said Sunday.
In an email to Hirai on Sept. 29, Pascal sent her boss three different versions of the crucial scene: one which Hirai vetoed, one which the filmmakers vetoed, and the one sent by Rogen three days earlier. Pascal also provided notes on the goriness of Kim's death, as well as how much pushback she believes Rogen and others will tolerate:
In anticipation of our phone call, here are three different versions of the scene:
1. The version you saw in New York which was unacceptable (shot #268)
2. The version we hoped the filmmakers would approve but they rejected (shot #316A)
3. The final version from them after many iterations (shot #337)
In shot #337 there is no face melting, less fire in the hair, fewer embers on the face, and the head explosion has been considerably obscured by the fire, as well as darkened to look less like flesh.
We arrived at this shot (#337) after much cajoling and resistance from the filmmakers.
I think this is a substantial improvement from where we were, and if we can agree on this direction conceptually I believe we can push them a bit further.
If we force them to go with the version where there is no head explosion it will be difficult but survivable. They really believe this is what's necessary to make it play like a joke.
As you know, they have agreed to completely cut the head popping and reduce the violence generally in any international version of the movie.
I'm sorry this hasn't already been resolved, but you know we will do what you need us to do.
Hirai emailed back the next day approving "shot #337," which reduces "face melting," "fire in the hair," "embers on the face" and, of course, the "head explosion."
Hirai, taking Pascal's lead, asks that she try and reduce the gore of the shot even further. He also, as the Times reported, asked that the scene not be shown outside of America.
Pascal responded to that email by telling Hirai that Rogen was "so happy" about his acceptance of "shot #337" that Pascal thought he might cry.
If that doesn't seem exactly right, it's because it probably wasn't. But it does seem that Pascal leaned on Rogen some more, and on Oct. 6 he sent Pascal, Belgrad, and others, yet another revised version of Kim's death in email titled "Kim Face Fix." But if Rogen was, at one point, "so happy" that he was "gonna burst into tears," he certainly wasn't showing it a few days later.
"This is it!!!" Rogen says, betraying his supposed joy. "Please tell us this is over now."
Attached in the email was a two-minute clip of the scene, part of which you see in the .GIF above. After Pascal's consultation with Hirai, it appears that she was able to get Rogen to remove "fire from the hair" and "the entire secondary wave of head chunks."
This version, which as far as we know is the one that will be shown in theaters, is tabbed as "v352" in an email from Arnon Manor, a special effects technician working on the film, to Sony executives. Manor lists all of the final changes, many of which involve alterations to the "goop" exploding from Kim's head (click "expand" to expand):
This version of Kim's death was also sent to Hirai by Pascal, who notes that "although the head still explodes it is less intense."
Hirai tells Pascal that he would like be notified of any further changes—this despite that he has never meddled in the business of the film division, according to the Times.
The final product looks sanitized, even without knowing the protracted back-and-forth required to get Rogen and his side to severely tone down Kim's death. There are far more gory moments on Game of Thrones every week.
Rogen's exasperation over the film's climax is unlikely to calcify into a grudge against executives at Sony, but it's probably safe to assume that, at this point, everyone invovled will be happy to put The Interview behind them.