The Sony hacking scandal has, inadvertantly, claimed another
victim. After Sony’s The Interview was pulled from
released amid bomb threats aimed at cinemas planning to air the
North Korea-mocking comedy, film studio New Regency has cancelled
its planned movie
adaptation of acclaimed graphic novel
Pyongyang, by cartoonist Guy Delisle.
The film was set to be directed by Pirates of the
Caribbean’s Gore Verbinski, with a script by Steve Conrad. Steve
Carell was set to headline, coming off a particularly strong
reception to his dramatic turn in Foxcatcher.
Delisle’s comic was a gripping memoir of his time working in the
communist state, where he was sent to oversee animation work. At
times a whimsical look at a culture alien to westerners, at others
a chilling insight into daily life in the oppressive nation, its
original publication came about only through a loophole in the
confidentiality contract the artist had to sign to even enter the
country. The film version was to skew darker, set to be “a paranoid
thriller”, with production due to start in March 2015.
The decision to cancel was technically made by Fox, which was
set to distribute the film but pulled out in the wake of the
threats. However, while New Regency could have buddied up elsewhere
to get the movie distributed, it instead chose to can it
Delisle himself only found out the news today, writing on his blog that “What
saddens me the most are the reasons that lead to this. One would
have imagined that a huge corporation would not bend so easily
under the threats of a group of hackers from North Korea.
Apparently they hit a sensitive nerve.”
It’s an excellent point. Not only does the decision paint some
of the biggest studios in the movie business as cowardly, it also
makes them seem rather short-sighted. Presuming an average two-year
production period, chances are that the current crisis would have
long since blown over. Given the FBI has confirmed that the Sony hackers were indeed
North Korean, some caution is indeed advisable, but is binning the
entire project going too far?
In the meantime, Delisle’s Pyongyang — and his
subsequent travelogues including Shenzhen, The Burma
Chronicles, and Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy
City — remain a compelling insight into some of the world’s
most controversial locales.