After the Sony hacking scandal, nothing in Hollywood will ever be the same

//After the Sony hacking scandal, nothing in Hollywood will ever be the same

After the Sony hacking scandal, nothing in Hollywood will ever be the same

By | 2015-01-04T03:03:23+00:00 January 4th, 2015|Entertainment|0 Comments

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One of the people who helped change their minds was George Clooney, who called Amy Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and suggested she release it immediately on the internet. Which then happened. A bunch of American theatres then decided to open the film as planned. Clooney, by the way, is about to start shooting a film for Columbia based on Hack Attack, the book by Nick Davies about the Murdoch phone-hacking scandal. What happens now if Rupert doesn’t much like that idea? Does Fox launch a cyber attack on Columbia – which is, by the way, a division of Sony?

One of the many ironies here is that Sony has been one of the braver studios. They made Zero Dark Thirty and The Social Network, both against powerful opposition. But they are an international conglomerate, like most of the studios, and vulnerable across many areas.

Controversy: Sony has proved itself unafraid of controversial subject matter in the past with movies such as Zero Dark Thirty, starring Jessica Chastain.

Controversy: Sony has proved itself unafraid of controversial subject matter in the past with movies such as Zero Dark Thirty, starring Jessica Chastain.

The leaks included emails from Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai pressuring Amy Pascal to soften the assassination scene in The Interview, which then happened. It is not hard to see how a Japanese company might be extremely worried by a North Korean threat.

Clooney has called this “a new paradigm, a new reality”, and he’s right. Even though The Interview finally got released, the Sony hack shines a light for anyone with a grudge against Hollywood and the resources to mount a cyber intrusion, or even just a threat to bomb theatres. And that could be a lot of different regimes and individuals.

“What I’m concerned about is content,” Clooney told Mike Fleming at “I’m concerned that content now is constantly going to be judged on a different level. And that’s a terrible thing to do. What we don’t need happening in any of our industries is censorship. The FBI guys said this could have happened to our government. That’s how good these guys were.

Pause: Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., said the release of The Interview had merely been delayed.

Pause: Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., said the release of The Interview had merely been delayed. Photo: Kevin Winter

“We’re talking about an actual country deciding what content we’re going to have,” Clooney continued. “This affects not just movies, this affects every part of business that we have. That’s the truth. What happens if a newsroom decides to go with a story, and a country or an individual or corporation decides they don’t like it? Forget the hacking part of it. You have someone threaten to blow up buildings, and all of a sudden everybody has to bow down.”

In the first half of 2015, there’s no shortage of films that might upset somebody. There’s ’71, a British film about a British soldier who has lost his unit on the streets of Belfast in 1971. What if some rogue element of the IRA doesn’t like that one? There’s Escobar: Paradise Lost, with Benicio del Toro as the late drug kingpin. What if his family funded a cyber-attack? Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home has already played in China, but suppose its story of the destructive effects of the cultural revolution had displeased someone senior in Beijing? It’s not as if the Chinese don’t have form.

They are the elephant in the room. Their skill at hacking, their newfound status as the world’s biggest economy and their willingness to censor all media, domestic and foreign, suggest a terrifying scenario. The American studios are widely said to be vetting their coming projects now for Sino-friendliness, because if the Chinese government doesn’t like a movie, they won’t let it in. But suppose the Chinese decide to get more rowdy? They might simply buy a Hollywood studio, as Sony did, in order to make the kinds of movies they want Chinese audiences to see. Or they might just step up their efforts at cyber intrusion, unleashing the same kinds of leaks that have embarrassed Sony. Or they might take their foot off their efforts to stop rampant piracy of movies, TV and music, thus costing American business many more millions than it does now.

Plenty of other countries might want a piece of that action: Russia, Syria, Pakistan. What about the Mexican cartels? They wouldn’t need to mount a cyber attack; they could simply threaten to blow up theatres in Texas or Washington DC. “We don’t need no stinking hackers.”

As Bette Davis said, fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Twitter: @ptbyrnes


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