When Sony canceled the entire theatrical release of The Interview over fears of violence from the hacker group Guardians of Peace, Judd Apatow (who, just to be clear, has no involvement in the film) was one of many Hollywood insiders to speak out against the decision, calling it “disgraceful.” John Horn, host of Southern California Public Radio’s new daily arts and entertainment show “The Frame,” talked to Apatow to get his fuller thoughts on the matter. (Listen to the full interview here and subscribe to “The Frame” at iTunes or Stitcher.)
I’m going to read aloud a tweet you just wrote: “I think it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing The Interview. Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” Clearly, you feel very strongly about this issue.
I think we’re in a dangerous situation when we give into these types of threats because it trains people to threaten us. So, unless it’s very credible information, that there’s a potential for real violence, then we have to be very careful about not presenting movies. Because tomorrow, someone else can just put in a call and where does it end? And what if somebody says, “Well, don’t use that product.” These issues are what the future is going to be about.
Are you mad that Sony basically said to the theater owners, “It’s your call,” or are you mad that the theater owners said, “We don’t want it”? Where is your anger or your frustration directed?
I think everyone has to make their own decision about how they want to handle things. I decide whether or not I want to go see that movie. Do I believe there actually is danger or it’s just somebody babbling? And we all will decide for ourselves and obviously theater chains have to decide for themselves how much they believe or don’t believe in the threats. It’s the reason why we don’t negotiate with terrorists or kidnappers. Because as soon as you say, “I’m going to commit a violent act, don’t show that movie.” Well, maybe there’ll be like a bad Nazi character in a movie and some Nazi on a computer says, “I’m going to do something.” Who knows? It could be any evil group. And then do we just shut these things down?
You are obviously very close to Seth Rogen and James Franco. You’ve made movies with them. Have you talked to them and what are they saying about what’s happening?
Well, I think they’re in a very difficult situation. Their intentions were just to make something that was very funny and entertaining. And they did. The movie’s hilarious. I’ve seen it; it’s great. And in comedy, we attack people who are bad to other people. They pick the target of somebody that has a history of being abusive to his citizenry.
If you were the director of this movie and Sony came to you and said, “You know what? We can’t release it theatrically, but we’re going to do a big push to get it on VOD.” Would you support that? Do you think that’s a reasonable alternative at this point?
I can’t speak to what all the alternatives are, but I think when a country that doesn’t have free speech threatens to shut down free speech or when a hacker threatens to shut down free speech or a disgruntled employee threatens to shut down free speech, it sets a very dangerous precedent because everything in our culture is not liked by somebody. And as soon as we say we’re going to shut it down just ‘cause someone posted something on the internet, we’re changing the world in a big way.