American actor George Clooney has stood up to criticise Hollywood for not rallying behind Sony Pictures as it was threatened for its North Korea spoof, The Interview, and has called for the movie to be put online.
In an interview published online by industry website Deadline Hollywood on Thursday, Clooney said: "We should be in the position right now of going on offense with this... Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I'm not going to be told we can't see the movie."
To stop the release of The Interview, a satirical comedy in which two television journalists are recruited to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, hackers leaked a trove of embarrassing emails, scripts and other internal communications from the studio, and issued a threat to blow up theatres if the film was released. These were widely reported by the media.
Reports of the threat, in turn, led major theatre chains in the United States and Canada to decline to screen the comedy originally slated for release on Dec 25, and Sony eventually pulled the film.
Clooney said he had sent a petition, together with his agent Bryan Lourd, to top Hollywood executives, urging support for Sony to not submit to the hackers' demands.
The petition included the lines: "We know that to give in to these criminals now will open the door for any group that would threaten freedom of expression, privacy and personal liberty. We hope these hackers are brought to justice but until they are, we will not stand in fear. We will stand together."
But no one signed Clooney's petition.
He said the petition was sent to "a fairly large number" of top Hollywood executives but "well, nobody wanted to be the first to sign on." "Now, this isn't finger-pointing on that," he said. "This is just where we are right now, how scared this industry has been made."
He also chided the press for allowing the cyber terrorists to succeed in getting a major studio film cancelled. "A good portion of the press abdicated its real duty. They played the fiddle while Rome burned," he said.
He added: "This is a silly comedy, but the truth is, what it now says about us is a whole lot. We have a responsibility to stand up against this. That's not just Sony, but all of us, including my good friends in the press who have the responsibility to be asking themselves: What was important? What was the important story to be covering here?"