Sony Pictures CEO says Sony had no choice but to pull ‘The Interview’

Sony Pictures Entertainment chief executive Michael Lynton, speaking in a lengthy interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, was responding to comments made by President Barack Obama that the studio erred in shelving the film after cinemas refused to show it following unspecified threats from hackers.

“In this instance the president, the press and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,” Lynton said in his first public remarks since the cyberattack began last month. Earlier on Friday, Obama said Sony should have released the film and not bowed to pressure from hackers. 

“I wish they [Sony] would have spoken to me first,” Obama said. “I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.'” Lynton said he personally talked to senior White House advisers, who were “certainly aware of the situation.” But he  did not speak with Obama.

Lynton told Zakaria he was surprised that none of the other major Hollywood studios came to Sony’s aid during the cyber-attack and their struggles to release the film. “It did make this entire enterprise to be a very, very lonely affair,” Lynton said.

Lynton said Sony Corp had “no alternative” but to pull the screwball comedy about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un because movie theatre chains said they would not screen the film.

“We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down,” Lynton said. “We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie.” Lynton, who worked previously at book publisher Penguin Press, contrasted Hollywood’s response from the support the publishing world offered Penguin when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for the death of novelist Salman Rushdie in 1988.

  “The publishers, the booksellers always stocked the book and the authors all came out in support of the book,” Lynton said. “That did not happen in this instance. In this instance we stood alone in trying to get a movie out.” Lynton added that he still would like the public to see the film.

The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, was set to be released on December 25. -Reuters

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