A few hours after Sony Pictures decided not to release "The Interview," American intelligence officials confirmed that North Korea played a role in the series of leaks that have plagued the studio since November.
The New York Times reports that, according to unnamed sources within the administration, the North Korean government was "centrally involved" in the cyber-attacks on Sony's computers. North Korea was long suspected of perpetrating the attacks in response to the James Franco and Seth Rogen-starring comedy, which centers on the assassination of the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.
Internal documents leaked by the hackers ranged from hilarious (Channing Tatum's "HAHAHA" email) and cringe-worthy (calling Angelina Jolie a "minimally talented spoiled brat") to gross and straight-up racist (referring to the trend of film actresses jumping to TV as "the new black baby," joking that President Obama would only want to talk about movies starring and about black people like "Django Unchained," "Think Like A Man" and "12 Years A Slave").
But, the situation became more serious earlier this week when Sony received a message from the hackers in which they threatened to attack any movie theater that screened the film. "The world will be full of fear," the threat read. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time."
Sony Pictures subsequently cancelled the release of "The Interview" on Wednesday (Dec. 17), and another feature met a similar fate that same day. Deadline reports that an as yet untitled "paranoid thriller" set in North Korea starring Steve Carell has halted production indefinitely.
Carell has since tweeted: "Sad day for creative expression #feareatsthesoul." He also posted a still of Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator." The 1940 film satirizes Adolf Hitler, who was the leader of Nazi Germany at the time of its release.
The White House is deciding what its next move shall be, according to the NYT. Accusing North Korea of perpetrating these acts of cyberterrorism risks escalation and retaliation, not only against the United States, but Japan, where Sony is headquartered.