Comedy on assassination of N Korean leader will not be shown in S'pore

Comedy on assassination of N Korean leader will not be shown in S'pore

Singapore will not be in on the joke that is Seth Rogen and James Franco's latest comedy The Interview.

Written and directed by US actor Rogen, the politically incorrect flick was said to be the main trigger of the hack attack at Sony Pictures Entertainment that began on Nov 24 - simply because it revolves around two reporters (Rogen and Franco) tasked by the CIA with assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (Randall Park).

Reviews of The Interview, which opens in the US on Dec 25, are mixed, but we will not be able to judge it for ourselves. It will not be released in Singapore or the rest of Asia, according to the film's website.

Sony Pictures Releasing International Singapore declined to comment if it is due to the hacking, commercial viability or sensitivities. But The Interview was not included in its line-up of releases as of September, and that was way before the hacking scandal erupted.

Rogen's comedies tend to be controversial, and some are considered too niche or sensitive to be a hit at the local box office despite his clout in Hollywood.

His directorial debut, the disaster comedy This Is The End (2013), which saw Rogen, Franco, Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel facing the apocalypse after a wild night, did not get a local release despite it being a box-office hit in the US.

The 2008 stoner comedy Pineapple Express, starring Rogen and Franco as marijuana smokers, did not get a theatrical release here either.

BAD END

As for The Interview, it features a prominent Asian leader meeting a decidedly bad end.

Too close to home, perhaps?

After all, Ben Stiller's 2001 comedy Zoolander was initially denied a release date here because it included a reference to the then-Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as a target for assassination.

Zoolander was subsequently released in theatres under an NC16 rating in 2006.

Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan released a statement last week that The Interview will not be shown in Japan.

No reasons were given, though it said the decision had been made "some time ago", well before the hacking.

According to Variety magazine, such comedies rarely do well in the Japanese market, with none last year passing the 1 billion yen (S$11 million) box-office mark traditionally considered the measure of a commercial hit.

Back in June, when The Interview was in the post-production stage, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of North Korea declared it "an act of war".

The KCNA also promised that it would retaliate strongly if The Interview was ever released.

In August, Mr Kazuo Hirai, the chief executive of Sony's parent company, Japan's Sony Corporation, personally intervened and called for an edit as he was dissatisfied with a scene in the film. Rogen reluctantly obliged.

Despite the threats and obstacles, The Interview went ahead with its Los Angeles premiere, though it was a low-key affair, with the studio banning broadcast media from the red carpet.

Rogen, 32, and Franco, 36, were not made available to reporters either.

'CHRISTMAS GIFT'

But this appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Guardians Of Peace, the group that US authorities believe to be from North Korea which hacked into Sony Pictures' computer system, has promised a big "Christmas gift" (read: more damning information) to coincide with The Interview's Christmas Day release date in the States.

Regardless, Rogen publicly displayed his gratitude towards Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal, proclaiming at the premiere that she "has the balls to make this movie".

herejoannes@sph.com.sg 


This article was first published on Dec 16, 2014.
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