In an interview with The Times the week before a devastating cyberattack on Sony Pictures came to light, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, co-directors of the upcoming comedy "The Interview," seemed fairly cavalier about the possibility that North Korea could take serious action in response to the film.
Blustering official protests from the regime in Pyongyang, sure – those were a predictable response to a movie centered on a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But at the time, any serious threat – especially over a silly, over-the-top comedy from the duo behind such movies as "Superbad," "Pineapple Express" and "This Is the End" – seemed inconceivable.
"When they say, 'We declare war on this movie' and all that, nothing is for us," Goldberg said. "It's all for their people to see."
"It's all for show," Rogen agreed. "It's all a presentation. They do have nukes and we were told that they may even escalate to military exercises and reallocation of troops, but that’s as far as it could go."
Though North Korea has denied direct involvement in the crippling Sony hacking that has dominated headlines in recent weeks, many believe the country orchestrated the attack in retaliation for "The Interview." Tuesday morning Guardians of Peace, the group claiming responsibility, released a new threatening email, invoking Sept. 11 to stir fears among those who might go see the film when it's released on Christmas Day.
"The world will be full of fear," the hackers wrote. "Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment."
A representative for Rogen and Goldberg said the two have no comment at this time on the hackers' latest email. But Rogen and costar James Franco – who play, respectively, a TV producer and host recruited by the CIA to kill Kim – canceled upcoming media appearances to promote the film in the wake of the new threat. Rogen's rep said they will reassess the promotional plans later in the week.
In an appearance Monday night on "The Colbert Report," Rogen joked about how he would not be making any trips to North Korea soon and would also avoid Korean BBQ to be safe.
It's still unclear whether the new email represents a genuine threat or simply an effort to inflict further damage on the already embattled Sony Pictures and possibly dissuade moviegoers from going to see "The Interview."
Speaking to The Times on Nov. 19, Rogen and Goldberg pointed out that North Korea is well known for making alarming-sounding threats. They dismissed any notion that they should be personally afraid of retaliation from the regime.
"The potential repercussions there would be for killing Americans is so much more vast than what our movie could ever do, you would really hope they have better things to do," Rogen said. "If they actually somehow got agents into America you’d hope that I’m not the first thing on their to-do list. It just seems very farfetched."
"Also, like, they launched a submarine a little while ago and it just sunk, like, right away," Goldberg added. "This is the kind of country you’re dealing with."
"That’s the thing: from our research, it’s all a facade," Rogen said. "The people we talked to who had gone there were like, 'It’s all fake. The military is trained to march and look like a military.' "
A well-known marijuana enthusiast, Rogen was asked whether, following North Korea's threats in June of "a decisive and merciless countermeasure" should the U.S. government allow the film's release, he had ever gotten stoned and been hit with a wave of paranoia.
"Honestly, no," he answered. "It just seemed so silly."