by Michael THURSTON
LOS ANGELES: – Sony Pictures boss Michael Lynton denied Friday the Hollywood studio has “caved” by canceling the release of “The Interview,” and said it still hoped to release the controversial film.
He also hit back at President Barack Obama’s claim that it had made a “mistake” in pulling the movie, three and a half weeks after a massive cyber-attack blamed on North Korea angered by the film.
“We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down,” Lynton told CNN, shortly after Obama accused Sony of making a “mistake.”
In a statement a short time later, Sony said that after canceling the release, “we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform.”
“It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so,” the studio added.
The Sony film, a comedy parody that recounts a fictional CIA plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, was scheduled for release on December 25, Christmas Day.
Hackers launched a massive cyberattack on the studio on November 24, followed by a series of threats, including earlier this week invoking the September 11 attacks.
– N. Korea denies behind attack –
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had evidence that Pyongyang was behind the attack, although North Korea’s mission to the United Nations almost immediately denied the claim.
Within a couple of hours, Obama used an end-of-year press conference in Washington to say Sony Pictures had erred in canceling the movie’s release date.
“I’m sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake,” he told reporters.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States.”
But Lynton rejected Obama’s position.
“No. Actually the unfortunate part is in this instance, the president, the press and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened,” he said.
Lynton explained how Sony had made its decision after most major US theater chains announced that they would not screen the movie.
He also rebuffed Obama’s suggestion that Sony should have asked the president what to do.
“We definitely spoke to a senior advisor in the White House,” the Sony chief said.
“The White House was certainly aware of the situation.”
Lynton added that finding alternative ways to release the movie was not straightforward, basically because distributors, whether online or retail, were still apprehensive about the threat.
“Many people don’t want to come near the movie because they fear that, in some way shape or form, their systems, their servers might be infected with the malware that came to us,” he said.
The Directors Guild of America said the online attack showed the chilling power of cyber criminals — and vowed solidarity with the embattled studio and its filmmakers.
“We stand by our director members Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and hope that a way can be found to distribute the film by some means, to demonstrate that our industry is not cowed by extremists of any type,” said DGA chief Paris Barclay.
He also urged US authorities to do more to fight cyber terrorism.
The hack illustrates “the heightened need for the federal government to increase its efforts to protect our society against cyber crimes, terrorism and all of its implications,” said Barclay.