The embarrassing emails that preceded Amy Pascal’s resignation

Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Amy Pascal, who stepped down from the studio on Thursday, attends "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City.
Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Amy Pascal, who stepped down from the studio on Thursday, attends “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City.
(Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal’s announcement that she would step down from her job at the studio came less than two months after thousands of her personal, often controversial emails leaked online.

A group of hackers self-identifying as the Guardians of Peace sent the contents of Pascal’s inbox to the media in December, and many outlets proceeded to publish email exchanges that proved damaging to the executive’s reputation.

Perhaps the most damning reveal was a racially insensitive back-and-forth between Pascal and high-powered producer Scott Rudin. Before heading to a November 2013 fundraising event for President Obama hosted by DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg, Pascal fretted to Rudin about what to ask the president at the “stupid” event.


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“Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” Pascal asked, referring to “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino’s slavery-themed western.

“12 YEARS,” Rudin responded, citing another movie about slavery, “12 Years a Slave.”

“Or the butler. Or think like a man? [sic]” Pascal continued, referring to movies starring predominantly African Americans.

Shortly after the emails were made public, Pascal and Rudin issued apologies and Pascal set up a metting with Al Sharpton.

Known in Hollywood for his acid tongue, Rudin was one of Pascal’s most frequent correspondents. The two exchanged fiery messages regarding potential Sony projects, including a “Cleopatra” movie starring Angelina Jolie and a fraught Steve Jobs biopic. The Jobs movie would be the pair’s undoing, as they disagreed about the movie’s budget and leading men. Unable to come to terms on who would play the Apple co-founder, Rudin took the sought-after project to Universal Pictures in November, leaving Pascal feeling as if she had made a major blunder.

“I feel like I just gave away a seminal movie like Citizen Kane for our time,” she lamented to Sony colleague Tom Rothman on Nov. 19.


“What happened is entirely my fault,” she wrote to top executives at the studio a few days later. “It is no ones job but mine to see the forest through the trees and block out temporary noise from the inside as well as the outside.”

Though the Jobs film created a big mess at Sony, it was ultimately the comedy “The Interview” that would provide Pascal with the most headaches.

As the film’s biggest champion, she fielded worries about the film’s subversive content from Sony Corp.’s Tokyo-based chief executive Kazuo Hirai. The movie, about two Americans tasked with assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, made Hirai deeply uncomfortable. After seeing a cut of the film three months before its planned December release, he expressed concern over the movie’s graphic murder scene. Subsequently, Pascal pleaded with Rogen to tone down the violence.

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“I have never gotten one note on anything from our parent company in the entire 25 years that I have worked from them,” she wrote to the actor in September. “And this isn’t some flunky it’s the chairman of the entire sony corporation who I am dealing. With.”

Rogen acquiesced, making slight changes to the scene. After watching the new version, Hirai reluctantly gave Pascal the greenlight.


“It would be much appreciated,” Hirai did tell Pascal, “if you could push them a bit further.”

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