In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became more than just a film studio, or a subsidiary of the multinational technology and media company responsible for Betamax, the Walkman and the Playstation over the years. The organisation responsible for movie franchises such as Spider-Man, Men in Black and Resident Evil became a target of the highest-profile hack in history, all reportedly due to North Korea’s unhappiness with the Seth Rogen and James Franco-starring comedy The Interview.
The fallout proved to be the epitome of airing dirty laundry in public: internal emails filled with gossip, speculation, unflattering comments and more all became available to the masses. In short, it was the kind of situation most people have nightmares about — and most company heads will from now on. Two years on, and with Cyberwar peering into the details, here’s five memorable revelations that came out of the hack.
Look out for emails from Johnny Madrid, Cash Money and Neil Deep
If you’ve ever wanted to receive an email from your favourite celebrity, don’t just expect their name to just pop up in your inbox. Many use aliases, even when communicating with the powers-that-be at a Hollywood film studio. Johnny Madrid, Cash Money, Neil Deep, Neely O’Hara, Laura Brown, Nazzo Good, Robert Fenton, Darius Stone and Olwen Williams mightn’t sound like anyone special, but they’re actually the pseudonyms used by Tom Hanks, Jessica Alba, Tobey Maguire, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Natalie Portman, Rob Schneider, Clive Owen, Ice Cube and Daniel Craig.
Sony’s former studio head wanted Idris Elba for Bond
When a film franchise is known for switching out its leading men at regular intervals, speculation regarding future casting decisions is hardly unexpected. And when Daniel Craig looked rather unhappy on the publicity trail for Spectre, gossip started swirling regarding the next Bond film, with Idris Elba’s name among those thrown around. In the year since the movie’s release, Steven Spielberg has voiced his support, Elba himself has said that he’s probably too old, and debate has raged in columns, opinion pieces and social media. If former SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal was still calling the shots, Elba as 007 might’ve been closer than you think — “Idris should be the next bond,” she wrote in an email back in January 2014, before the hack, and before she stepped down in its aftermath.
Sony knew Aloha was awful
Maybe you remember Cameron Crowe’s last film, Aloha, which sent the high-profile likes of Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and Bill Murray to Hawaii, trapped them in a convoluted, unconvincing love story that also featured a satellite, and conjured up casting controversy about the heritage of Stone’s character in the process. Maybe you’ve willingly forgotten it, which is completely understandable given its well-deserved critical drubbing. Either way, Sony knew exactly what it had on its hands. Pascal’s notes were far from kind: “it never not even once works” is a particularly telling phrase. She’s right.
Cameron Crowe wanted to direct Sony’s Steve Jobs movie
Speaking of Crowe, if he’d had his way, the filmmaker behind Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky would’ve had his fingerprints all over another troubled title that Sony trifled with. Back when everyone wanted to make a movie about Steve Jobs, Sony jumped on the bandwagon on what could’ve been a canny companion piece to The Social Network, with filmmaker David Fincher set to reunite with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. That they let the project go to Universal after a raft of messiness behind the scenes — and that Danny Boyle would eventually direct — is now part of movie history, but Crowe had made his interest clear to Pascal. She didn’t reply, and the word was saved from watching the Apple co-founder’s tale become a romantic comedy (we’re guessing).
Michael Fassbender’s manhood was the subject of discussion
Michael Fassbender is an excellent, Oscar-nominated actor. As his 2011 role in Shame also proved, he can also fill out a pair of pants. The latter shouldn’t really influence the former — or come into play when he’s being considered for a role — however it was a topic of conversation regarding Fassbender’s casting in the movie that would become Steve Jobs. As a series of emails discussed his work to date, including Shame, the comment “he just makes you feel bad to have normal-sized genitalia,” is something that producer Michael De Luca put in writing.
Cyberwar airs on SBS VICELAND every Thursday night at 9:25pm. Catch up with earlier episodes on SBS On Demand: