Sony chairman hits back at Obama, stands by company’s decision to pull film

A bewildered Hollywood decries studio move.

North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong-un (photo credit: REUTERS)
North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong-un
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Mere hours after US President Barack Obama said Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. made a “mistake” in its decision not to release The Interview – a farce staring Seth Rogen and James Franco where the two set out to assassinateNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the CIA’s behest – chief executive Michael Lynton adamantly claimed the studio did not capitulate to North Korean demands.
“We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down,” Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Friday.
“We’ve always had every desire for the American public to see this movie,” he said, adding that company is exploring other platforms for releasing the film.
In his first interview since Sony’s network was hacked and embarrassing and sensitive employee information was leaked three weeks ago, Lynton set out to clarify what exactly prompted Sony’s decision.
Once the rogue hacker group Guardians of Peace threatened an attack of 9/11 proportions against moviegoers, “the movie theaters came to us one by one over the course of a very short period of time – we were completely surprised by it – and announced that they would not carry the movie. At that point in time, we had no alternative but to not proceed with the theatrical release,” Lynton said, explaining the studio was caught off guard by the avalanche of responses received from the theaters.
This, however, contradicts a Thursday Variety report that stated that the company rejected a proposal where the film would have a limited 20-theater release before being distributed nation-wide.
Lynton, an Obama supporter, said he was “disappointed” by the president’s remarks and believes he may not have had a full grasp of the sequence of events before issuing his statement.
His comments come in the wake of sharp criticism not only from the president, but the Hollywood elite who were shocked and dismayed by what was perceived by many as a hasty decision on Sony’s part.
“They should not have pulled it.
They should have delayed it while the situation was assessed. Pulling it was done in panic,” director – and frequent Rogen collaborator – Judd Apatow posted on Twitter Saturday morning.
“In our country we are allowed to have this debate about free speech.
They are not. If they tell us to stop having this debate what will we do?” he added.
Earlier last week, actor George Clooney penned a petition that was circulated among the upper echelons of the industry calling for Sony to go forward with its plans to release the film Christmas Day.
“This is not just an attack on Sony. It involves every studio, every network, every business and every individual in this country,” he wrote.
As of this writing, no one has signed the petition.
“As we watched one group be completely vilified, nobody stood up.
Nobody took that stand. Now, I say this is a situation we are going to have to come to terms with, a new paradigm and a new way of handling our business. Because this could happen to an electric company, a car company, a newsroom. It could happen to anybody,” Clooney told Deadline Hollywood on Thursday.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein also spoke out against the ban, saying that “shelving the movie and not screening it is surrendering to terrorism and it harms the freedom of speech that characterizes the West and is its guiding principle.”
According to Edelstein, “such obsequiousness is very dangerous,” adding: “Imagine what the West will do on the day that, God forbid, nuclear Iran demands not to disseminate and screen films in which women are dressed immodestly.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.