The massive hack of Sony Pictures’ servers has continued to be a never-ending nightmare for the studio, as every new day—and nearly every hour within them—brings the widespread dissemination of matters business and personal across the Internet. These leaks have ranged from the fairly innocuous (internal distaste for Adam Sandler’s movies, some silly nicknames celebrities use sometimes) to the absolutely disastrous, including day-to-day details and petty arguments over some of the studio’s biggest franchises and upcoming projects. Not to mention the revelations of how Sony executives really feel about the many stars, filmmakers, and other industry folks in their orbit, and how they talk about them when they think no one else is listening.
Most recently, those attacks have turned dangerously personal, including the leaks of Social Security numbers and private medical records of Sony employees and their families. It’s a scenario that—while, yes, it’s produced some fascinating, speculative gossip about Spider-Man or Ghostbusters, or whatever—also represents an unprecedented criminal violation of a company’s confidentiality, the ramifications of which could greatly affect it in the months to come. And while Sony execs have mostly remained quiet about seeing their digital garbage dumped out for everyone to rifle through, at least one of those leaked exchanges has now forced an official response.
Many of the most widely circulated exchanges have been between Sony’s co-chair Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, professional colleagues as well as pals—albeit tempestuous ones—who have seen all their embarrassing tiffs and talking shit broadcast to the public this week. One of those conversations unfortunately concerned a back-and-forth, published in Buzzfeed, in which the two joked about attending a fundraiser with Barack Obama, where they riffed on what kind of movies he likes. “Should I ask him if he liked Django?” Pascal asked. “12 Years,” Rudin shot back. “Or The Butler? Or Think Like A Man?” she replied. “Ride Along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart,” Rudin concluded. (Get it? Because Obama is black.)
Now both Pascal and Rudin have come forward to apologize, issuing statements that underscore that these were dashed-off communiqués between two friends joking around—and like everything else that’s been leaked this week, some of it much more personally damning, certainly nothing they expected everyone to see.
“The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am. Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.
“Private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended,” he told Deadline. “I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive — and not funny at all. To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologize for any injury they might have caused.”
Pascal said she had also reached out to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to offer her apologies, and that she is currently working to “accept responsibility for these stupid, callous remarks.”
For some—especially amid criticisms like Chris Rock’s recent op-ed, decrying Hollywood as a “white industry” that marginalizes black entertainment and entertainers—those apologies are likely to feel insincere, if not completely insignificant. (Shonda Rimes are Selma director Ava DuVernay are among those who have already publicly condemned Pascal and Rudin.) And amid the many other private emails that continue to pour out from those emails, in which Pascal and Rudin’s business dealings often devolve into melodrama and personal attacks on their colleagues, some are questioning whether Pascal—or any of the other execs who took part in them—can survive the fractured relationships they’re causing.
After all, already, public backlash is growing from some of the stars mentioned in the emails—firstly and most fervently from Kevin Hart, who responded to one exchange calling him a “whore” for asking for more money to promote Think Like A Man Too on his social media feeds, with a lengthy Instagram message.
Hart has yet to respond to whether or not Barack Obama probably likes him.
Meanwhile, both Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo have chimed in on how this supposed “revelation” that producers and executives treat actors like shit isn’t exactly shocking. “It’s the way a part of Hollywood conducts itself. They don’t like talent,” Ruffalo told the Los Angeles Times. “There’s been a huge disrespect to what the talent brings.” Saldana chimed in on Twitter:
For whatever it’s worth, Pascal at the moment believes she will survive this. “That is completely untrue,” she said of speculation that her Japanese bosses at Sony would ask her to step down. “I still have the full support of the company.” Nevertheless, this—and even the public support of friends like George Clooney—is probably somewhat cold comfort for being the public, embarrassed face of the leak. Still, she says, “I’m not thinking about that. I’m not talking about that. We have the right people investigating what happened. The thing I’m focusing on is the future.” She is also likely focusing on learning to correspond with nothing but ink, parchment, and our most trusted eunuch couriers, as we all should.
Anyway, as for that ongoing investigation, Rep. Mike Rogers, the head of the House Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent, believes that all signs still point to North Korea and its anger over The Interview, despite Pascal’s objections that there is any connection. “When a nation state says that ‘This group … did this on behalf of the North Korean people … and we appreciate it,’ as we would say in the FBI: that is a clue,” The Hollywood Reporter quotes Rogers as saying.
And while North Korea has officially denied any involvement with the Guardians of Peace group claiming responsibility for the leaks, recent messages demanding that Sony pull the film from release—as well as earlier findings that the malware was possibly created on a Korean-language machine—definitely seem to hint at that connection. There’s also the fact that even North Korea’s statement of repudiation called it a “righteous deed” undertaken by its supporters, which is definitely a “we may never know the identity of these brilliant, good-looking perpetrators” sort of denial.
Some of those leaked internal emails, too, reveal Sony’s own awareness that North Korea’s anger over The Interview was deadly serious, with Sony even going so far as to ask that its name be removed from all of the movie’s marketing materials. But of course, that’s all much too late now: While no one at the studio wants to officially admit that The Interview is at the root of all of Sony’s problems, the tension around the film is palpable—evidenced in its subdued L.A. premiere last night, where the security was heavy and access to the stars was limited, only still cameras were allowed, and, ironically, no interviews were granted. (Not that The Interview needs more press at this point.)
With The Interview, by all accounts, still moving toward wide release on Dec. 25, it remains to be seen how much more retribution Sony can expect—or at this point, how much worse it can possibly get. But looking back on North Korea’s original threats of retaliation, it does suggest that, all along, the nation might have known that the best way to incite widespread chaos in America isn’t through nuclear attack, but by setting off a huge, distracting gossip bomb.