How Kim Jong Un became the target of 'The Interview'

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How Kim Jong Un became the target of 'The Interview'
Derek Karpel holds his ticket to a screening of "The Interview" at Cinema Village movie theater, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014, in New York. The film's Christmas Day release was canceled by Sony after threats of violence by hackers linked to North Korea, but the release was reinstated in some independent theaters and through a variety of digital platforms. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A computer screen shows Sony Pictures' film, "The Interview" available for rental on YouTube Movies Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, in Los Angeles. "The Interview" became available for rental on a variety of digital platforms Wednesday afternoon, including Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and a separate Sony website, Sony Pictures announced. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
"The Interview," the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is listed under an American flag on the marquee of the Cinefamily at Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014. The film's Christmas Day release was canceled by Sony after threats of violence by hackers linked to North Korea, but the release was reinstated in some independent theaters and through a variety of digital platforms.(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
A police officer keeps watch as moviegoers enter the theater to watch The Interview at West End Cinema in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014. Hundreds of theaters Thursday, from The Edge 8 in Greenville, Alabama, to Michael Moore's Bijou by the Bay in Traverse City, Michigan, made special holiday arrangements for the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony Pictures had initially called off the release after major theater chains dropped the movie that was to have opened on as many as 3,000 screens. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
EXCLUSIVE - Director/Producer/Screenwriter Seth Rogen, Randall Park and James Franco seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "The Interview" on Thursday, Dec 11, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)
A poster for the movie "The Interview" is carried away by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Atlanta. Georgia-based Carmike Cinemas has decided to cancel its planned showings of "The Interview" in the wake of threats against theatergoers by the Sony hackers. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A movie theater worker sweeps rain water under a poster for the movie "The Interview" at the AMC Glendora 12 movie theater, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Glendora, Calif. The fallout from the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack that began four weeks ago exploded Tuesday after the shadowy group calling themselves Guardians of Peace escalated their attack beyond corporate espionage and threatened moviegoers with violence reminiscent of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
(L-R) Actors James Franco, Charles Rahi Chun and Seth Rogen arrive for the premiere of the film 'The Interview' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Randall Park seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "The Interview" on Thursday, Dec 11, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 file photo, a banner for "The Interview" is posted outside Arclight Cinemas in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Sony Corp.’s miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad enough. Now its American movie division, a trophy asset, is facing tens of millions of dollars in losses from leaks by hackers that attacked the company over the movie that spoofs an assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony Pictures canceled all release plans for the film at the heart of the attack. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 file photo, a poster for the movie "The Interview" is taken down by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater in Atlanta as Georgia-based theater has decided to cancel its planned showings of "The Interview" in the wake of threats against theatergoers by the Sony hackers. Sony Corp.’s miseries with its television and smartphone businesses were bad enough. Now its American movie division, a trophy asset, is facing tens of millions of dollars in losses from leaks by hackers that attacked the company over the movie that spoofs an assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
People walk past a banner for "The Interview"at Arclight Cinemas, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. A U.S. official says North Korea perpetrated the unprecedented act of cyberwarfare against Sony Pictures that exposed tens of thousands of sensitive documents and escalated to threats of terrorist attacks that ultimately drove the studio to cancel all release plans for the film at the heart of the attack, "The Interview." (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
James Franco and Director/Producer/Screenwriter Seth Rogen seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "The Interview" on Thursday, Dec 11, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)
The entrance of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California is seen December 16, 2014. 'Guardians of Peace' hackers invoked the 9/11 attacks in their most chilling threat yet against Sony Pictures, warning the Hollywood studio not to release a film which has angered North Korea. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
The entrance of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California is seen December 16, 2014. 'Guardians of Peace' hackers invoked the 9/11 attacks in their most chilling threat yet against Sony Pictures, warning the Hollywood studio not to release a film which has angered North Korea. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck,right, comments on Sony Studios hackers' threats during a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace made ominous threats Tuesday against movie theaters showing Sony Pictures' film "The Interview" that referred to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Earlier on Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, announced a plan to equip 7,000 Los Angeles police officers with on-body cameras by next summer. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Photo by: KGC-146/STAR MAX/IPx 12/15/14 James Franco and Seth Rogen at ABC Television Studios for an appearance on Good Morning America. (NYC)
FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 file photo, actor James Franco poses for photographers during a photo call to promote the film Child Of God at the 70th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. The 71st Venice Film Festival opens Wednesday Aug. 27, 2014, bringing 11 days of high art and Hollywood glamour to the canal-crossed Italian city. This year the festival is honoring James Franco, presenting the prolific American actor-director with the heroically titled "Glory to the Filmmaker Prize." Franco also will also premiere "The Sound and the Fury," his second adaptation of a William Faulkner novel, at an out-of -competition festival screening. It has an impressive cast that includes Seth Rogen, Tim Blake Nelson and Jon Hamm. But the elliptical Faulkner is not easy to adapt and Franco’s screen version of the Southern scribe’s "As I Lay Dying" received a decidedly mixed response from critics. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, file)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Seth Rogen and James Franco talk about their controversial action-comedy 'The Interview,' on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, airing Tuesday, DEC. 16 (7-9am, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: James Franco and Seth Rogen take part in a SiriusXM Town Hall with Seth Rogen and James Franco with host Lisa Lampinelli on SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio channel at the SiriusXM Studios on December 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: Seth Rogen takes part in a SiriusXM Town Hall with Seth Rogen and James Franco with host Lisa Lampinelli on SiriusXM's Entertainment Weekly Radio channel at the SiriusXM Studios on December 15, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) James Franco and Seth Rogen arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of 'The Interview' held at The Theatre at Ace Hotel Downtown LA on December 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage)
Movie posters for the premiere of the film 'The Interview' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Security is seen outside The Theatre at Ace Hotel before the premiere of the film 'The Interview' in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring US actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavy security is seen outside The Theatre at Ace Hotel before the premiere of the film 'The Interview' in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. The film, starring Us actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un, played by Randall Park. North Korea has vowed 'merciless retaliation' against what it calls a 'wanton act of terror' -- although it has denied involvement in a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
TAIYUAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 18: (CHINA OUT) A woman poses with Kim Jong-un's figure at a shopping mall on December 18, 2014 in Taiyuan, Shanxi province of China. A shopping mall held a public welfare art show of famous stars' wax figures wearing face masks to call on people to protect environment. All visitors to enter the wax figure museum should wear face masks. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) -- A few weeks ago, when a freshly stoned Seth Rogen sat down for a lunch interview about "The Interview," the likelihood of trouble seemed remote.

"You're always hoping nothing horrible is going to happen, obviously," said Rogen. "If something horrible happened and they were like, `It's inappropriate to release this movie now,' we'd ultimately go, `Yeah, we got to make it and got paid in advance.'"

Unfortunately, Rogen's chuckling hypothetical has come to pass. After a devastating hacking attack on Sony Pictures and threats of terrorist attacks when "The Interview" was set to open in theaters on Christmas Day, Sony canceled the release of Rogen's film on Wednesday. The real-world geopolitics that initially served as fodder for parody in "The Interview" have upended one of Hollywood's biggest holiday releases.

"The Interview," which depicts a hapless assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, enraged a country extremely sensitive to portrayals of its dictator and the film has led to one of the worst cyber-hacking crimes in corporate history.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that federal investigators have now connected North Korea to the hacks that have roiled Sony Pictures and aired its dirty laundry in huge leaks of private emails.

The still unraveling effects have put an uneasy spotlight on a goofy, R-rated comedy, with some questioning Sony's decision to make a film that was sure to provoke an isolated nation. The filmmakers - who declined requests to add to their earlier, pre-hacking comments to the AP - describe striving to push the limits of what a major studio would support.

"When it comes to the movies we've made at Sony, they've just got (guts)," said Goldberg by phone before the hacking leaks. "They just all agreed to it really quickly, much to our luck. And before anyone knew it, we were filming the movie and it's too late."

Rogen and Goldberg initially conceived of the film as about North Korea's former leader, Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011. Goldberg says they did "a big old search" of the world's dictators, settling on North Korea because its bizarreness, he said, was rife for comedy.

There are precedents. In "The Great Dictator" (1940), Charlie Chaplin played a version of Adolf Hitler, dubbed Adenoid Hynkel. Rogen and Goldberg could have similarly fictionalized their central character. But the two, weaned on quasi-real comedies like "The Larry Sanders Show" and greatly influenced by their spell as writers on Sacha Baron Cohen's "Da Ali Show," wanted to keep the film grounded in reality. In their last movie, the apocalypse comedy hit "This Is the End," its stars played variations of themselves.

"When you're on that set with James Franco playing James Franco and Mike Cera playing Mike Cera, you're like: `Well why would we have, like, King Jong Jon, a fake dictator of East Korea, when we could just do something real?'" said Goldberg.

"We were always like, `It's more exciting than making a regular movie,'" said Rogen. "It adds a link to the real world, which is exciting."

After seeing a Mike Wallace interview on "60 Minutes," Rogen and Goldberg came up with the idea of centering the movie around an entertainment TV show host (James Franco) landing an interview with Kim and being tasked by the CIA to kill him. Though the movie ultimately ends in a fiery death for the Korean leader, the film equally satirizes American culture. Franco's vapid host and Kim pal around together through much of the movie.

"I'm sure back (when they were writing it) some of the stuff seemed absurd, like this could never happen - a pop culture figure from America going to hang out with the head of North Korea," said Franco by phone. "But since we've made it, Dennis Rodman went over there. Reality is matching the craziness of the script."

With only one box-office slip in Rogen and Goldberg's history (2011's "The Green Hornet") and coming off the success of "This Is the End" ($101 million domestically), "The Interview" was financially a good bet for Sony. Costing a relatively modest $40 million, the film was expected to make around $30 million in its opening weekend.

But the bigger risk for Sony was always inflaming an unpredictable regime. Leaked emails revealed that Kazuo Hirai, chief executive of Sony in Japan, asked for the film's climatic fatal explosion - including an image of Kim's face melting - to be toned down. Other emails reveal Sony Pictures chief Michael Lynton moving to distance Sony's name from the film in promotional materials.

An email from Rogen to Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal showed him arguing against too much sensitivity: "This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy," he wrote.

Soon after the release of the trailer for "The Interview" in June, the North Korean Foreign Ministry responded with a statement calling the film "an act of war" and declaring its maker a "gangster filmmaker." Rogen compared the response to the closest a comedian can come to winning an Oscar.

"We did a lot of high-fiving," said Rogen, who noted they were quickly pulled into a meeting with concerned studio executives. "When an entire country - a nuclear power - condemns you and your movie, it's really exciting."

As alterations were made to the "The Interview" (emails show back-and-forth through early October on the explosion scene), its Oct. 10 release date was pushed to December. Test screening suggested the film was playing well. Little had been heard from North Korea since the summer.

"Going into the testing process, there was an anxiety: What if it is just offensive? What if we've done something that's just deemed inappropriate?" said Goldberg. "And every preview went awesome."

"At its core, it's just a movie," said Rogen. "And I mean that in the very best way."

Rogen said they were "90 percent, 99 percent sure" that North Korea would only respond with bluster. But some of his comments in November now seem ominous.

"I don't even know if they've seen it yet," he said. "We heard they might have been able to hack into one of our servers and actually watch the movie."

U.S. Officials Said to Point the Finger at North Korea Over Sony Hack

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