Sony was nervous about North Korea spoof The Interview, which treads on geopolitical minefield

Movie posters for the premiere of the film The Interview at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on Dec 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Movie posters for the premiere of the film The Interview at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on Dec 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

Tokyo - Sony Pictures has trodden on a geopolitical minefield with its new spoof, The Interview, as the portrayal of the killing of a living national leader is new territory for a major Hollywood movie, said the New York Times.

The portrayal of the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the film, which stars and was co-directed and co-written by Seth Rogen, seemed to have been sensitive since the beginning. Early scripts of the movie mentioned the killing of an invented North Korean ruler, and actors were told the character would be Kim only before their auditions, said the Times.

"In the original version of the script that I got, it wasn't Kim Jong Un," Randall Park, who was cast in the role, was quoted as saying. "But I was told right before my audition that it was going to be Kim Jong Un."

It is unclear if the character was meant to be Kim from the start, or changed to Kim in a later version, said the Times.

Movie sources said Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg's creative decision to kill off Kim was risky, but the studio allowed it to keep them from going to a rival, reported the Times.

The studio was attacked by hackers on Nov 24, amid speculation that North Korea was involved. But even before the attack, the Japanese owner of the studio had been nervous about the movie, said the Times.

North Korea complained about The Interview to the United Nations in June, calling it an act of war. Worried about the threats, Sony's Japanese chief executive Kazuo Hirai made a rare decision to interfere with the making of the movie and told the studio to tone down a scene in which Kim's head explodes, said the Times.

Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton sought to distance The Interview from its Japanese owner, asking his staff to remove "Sony" from billboards and trailers for the film. And the movie will not be released in Asia, said the Times.

The internal battle over the movie was attributed to differences between the Hollywood studio and its Japanese owner. Unlike the Americans, the Japanese see North Korea as a real threat, said the Times.