Hollywood giant Sony Pictures Entertainment has gone on the offensive for the first time in the hacked-and-leaked emails scandal, warning US media against using information “stolen” by cyber hackers.
Rattled by the embarrassing leak of data hacked from the studio’s computers, a lawyer hired by Sony, David Boies, cautioned the US media in a letter circulated on Sunday against using the material.
Emails between senior film executives, producers and top film stars reveal a fascinating glimpse into the back-slapping and back-stabbing, power- broking and ego-stroking, as well as petty bickering in the industry.
In the latest publication of leaked material, Hollywood A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio’s decision to pull out of a project is called “despicable;” two executives mock Will and Jada Smith’s children; and another supports a fragile George Clooney upset by bad reviews of his film The Monuments Men.
Guardians of Peace The letter from Mr Boies, a prominent litigator, was sent 20 days after Sony’s computers were hacked by a group calling themselves the “Guardians of Peace
”. Many suspect North Korea is behind the attack as the hackers demanded that the studio pull a forthcoming comedy on a fictional plot to assassinate the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.
Among the media to have received the legal missive ordering them to avoid the stolen information and destroy any material in their possession were the New York Times, Variety and the Los Angeles Times.
“If you don’t comply with this request and the stolen information is used or disseminated by you in any manner, Sony PicturesEntertainment will have no choice but to hold you responsible for any damage or loss,” wrote Mr Boies.
Sony sent the letter after hackers threatened to release more material to coincide with the Christmas Day release of the Kim Jong Un film, The Interview, starring Seth Rogenand James Franco.
“We are preparing for you a Christmas gift,” said the group in an online message. “The gift will be larger quantities of data. And it will be more interesting. The gift will surely give you much more pleasure and put Sony Pictures into the worst state.”
The studio’s reputation is already in tatters. Last week emails revealed racist remarks by Sony co-chair Amy Pascal and film producer Scott Rudin in an exchange about films featuring African-Americans that US president Barack Obama, as a black man, might enjoy. Both apologised publicly for their remarks.
In newly leaked emails film producer Mark Gordon described DiCaprio’s change of heart about playing Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in a new biopic as “horrible behaviour”. Ms Pascal replied: “Absolutely despicable.”
In other emails, Clooney told Ms Pascal he needed “protection from all reviews” of The Monuments Men.
“Let’s just make it a hit,” he wrote. “I haven’t slept in 30 hours. And it’s 7am.”
“We will protect you by making money . . . that’s the best revenge,” she wrote.
“I fear I’ve let you all down,” he replied. “Not my intention. I apologise. I’ve just lost touch . . . Who knew? Sorry. I won’t do it again.”
Bond film budget An early draft script of the forthcoming James Bond movie Spectre, being distributed by Sony, was leaked along with emails in which Ms Pascal described the film’s budget of $300 million (€241 million) as “insane
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whose private emails were among those leaked, attacked the media for reporting on the stolen material calling it “morally treasonous and spectacularly dishonourable” in an opinion article published in the New York Times on Sunday.