Stand up, Hollywood. George Clooney gave an in-depth interview to Deadline on Thursday, Dec. 18, about the Sony hacking and why he's disappointed that top executives "ran for the hills" when he petitioned his peers to "stand together" in the face of the hackers.
"Here’s the brilliant thing they did," Clooney, 53, said of the hackers. "You embarrass them first, so that no one gets on your side. After the Obama joke, no one was going to get on the side of Amy, and so suddenly, everyone ran for the hills." (On Dec. 10, an incendiary email exchange between Sony Pictures Entertainment chair Amy Pascal and high-powered producer Scott Rudin, joking about President Barack Obama's race, was leaked by hackers. The two later apologized for their remarks.)
"Look, I can’t make an excuse for that joke," continued Clooney, who himself became a victim earlier this month when hackers leaked an email exchange between him and Pascal. "It is what it is, a terrible mistake. Having said that, it was used as a weapon of fear, not only for everyone to disassociate themselves from Amy but also to feel the fear themselves. They know what they themselves have written in their e-mails, and they’re afraid."
Clooney told the site that he and his agent Bryan Lourd created a petition a week ago asking Hollywood heavyweights to support Sony and defy the hackers as a united industry. The petition read: "On November 24 of this year, Sony Pictures was notified that it was the victim of a cyber attack, the effects of which is the most chilling and devastating of any cyber attack in the history of our country. Personal information including Social Security numbers, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and the full texts of emails of tens of thousands of Sony employees was leaked online in an effort to scare and terrorize these workers. The hackers have made both demands and threats. The demand that Sony halt the release of its upcoming comedy The Interview, a satirical film about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un."
Their petition warned the industry to carefully consider the ramifications of conceding to terrorists. "Their threats vary from personal—you better behave wisely—to threatening physical harm—not only you but your family is in danger. North Korea has not claimed credit for the attack but has praised the act, calling it a righteous deed and promising merciless measures if the film is released," the two wrote to their peers. "Meanwhile the hackers insist in their statement that what they’ve done so far is only a small part of our further plan. This is not just an attack on Sony. It involves every studio, every network, every business and every individual in this country. That is why we fully support Sony’s decision not to submit to these hackers’ demands. 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."
Not one person signed it, and Clooney realized that this fear dictated an even bigger problem: The industry has become susceptible to caving to terrorists' demands. "This is just where we are right now, how scared this industry has been made," he confessed. "Quite honestly, this would happen in any industry. I don’t know what the answer is, but what happened here is part of a much larger deal. A huge deal. And people are still talking about dumb emails. Understand what is going on right now, because the world just changed on your watch, and you weren’t even paying attention."
He said that Hollywood's handling of the hack would create future challenges for filmmakers and studios hoping to distribute movies that are critical of foreign governments and focus on controversial issues. "What’s going to happen is, you’re going to have trouble finding distribution," the actor noted. "In general, when you’re doing films like that, the ones that are critical, those aren’t going to be studio films anyway. Most of the movies that got us in trouble, we started out by raising the money independently. But to distribute, you’ve got to go to a studio, because they’re the ones that distribute movies."
The actor, director, and producer said freedom of speech was a principal that this country was founded upon, and its citizens allowed a foreign government to impede upon these values. "The truth of the matter is, of course you should be able to make any movie you want. And you should take the ramifications for it," Clooney noted. "But to say we're going to make you pull it, we're going to censor you — that's a whole other game. That is playing in some serious waters, and it's a very dangerous pool."
Clooney noted that since Sony Pictures Entertainment pulled The Interview's theatrical release this past week, Pascal has sought out his counsel regarding the studio's next steps. "We should be in the position right now of going on offense with this," the actor said Thursday.
"I just talked to Amy an hour ago. She wants to put that movie out. What do I do? My partner Grant Heslov and I had the conversation with her this morning. Bryan and I had the conversation with her last night. 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. That's the most important part. We cannot be told we can't see something by Kim Jong Un, of all f—ing people."
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