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Sony hack emails: Leaks mount ahead of 'Interview' premiere

Sony, beset by leaked emails, premieres 'The Interview' -- but no press, please, on the red carpet

Sony Pictures Entertainment is going through with its red carpet rollout for the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy “The Interview” on Thursday evening in Los Angeles -- but unlike other Hollywood premieres, no press interviews will be allowed. The studio has also declined to host an after-party, opting for a small pre-reception instead.

The premiere comes amid a wave of internal Sony emails leaked online in the wake of a cyber attack that crippled the Culver City-based studio late last month.

Federal officials are taking seriously the possibility that North Korea could be behind the attack and that the hack was done in retaliation for "The Interview," about an attempt to kill North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un

During the last several days, hackers have unleashed a slew of messages between Sony Pictures Co-Chairwoman Amy Pascal and big Hollywood figures including Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen and Aaron Sorkin.

The trove of messages contains racially charged comments about President Obama, fiery remarks about Angelina Jolie and the drama over the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic about Steve Jobs.

In a November 2013 email exchange between Pascal and Rudin, the Sony chairwoman asked the producer what she should ask the president at a breakfast hosted by DreamWorks Animation.

According to the emails, obtained by the Times, Rudin replied: “Would he like to finance some movies.”

Pascal said, “I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” Rudin replied: “12 Years.”

After Pascal asked whether the president would like the Kevin Hart movie “Think Like a Man,” Rudin said: “Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.”

The White House declined to comment on the Pascal emails. Pascal is known as a supporter of Democratic politicians. According to OpenSecrets.org, Pascal's donations to Obama included $2,300  in June 2007 and $5,000 in April 2011.

Pascal said in a statement on Thursday: "The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am. Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended."

Rudin has also publicly apologized for his remarks, in a statement: "Private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended. I am deeply sorry and apologize for any injury they might have caused."

According to other emails released this week, Pascal and Seth Rogen discussed how to address the violent end of the "The Interview," which Rogen co-directed and stars in. The film was so bloody that it appears to have prompted concern from Tokyo-based Sony Corp.'s Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai. North Korea has denounced the movie. 

Pascal told Rogen she had never received notes from the corporate parent during her 25 years with the studio. 

“You have the power to help me here,” Pascal wrote to Rogen. Rogen apparently agreed to make the film "less gory." 

In "The Interview," which hits U.S. theaters on Dec. 25, Rogen and Franco play a TV personality and producer who get a chance to interview North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and are recruited for an assassination attempt.

Another exchange with Rudin reveals some of the backstory of the long-anticipated movie about Steve Jobs, which has been dropped by Sony and picked up by Universal Pictures. In the exchange, producer Scott Rudin made sharp comments about industry figures including Jolie and Megan Ellison. 

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

12:08 p.m.: This post has been updated with a statement from Scott Rudin.

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