A group of political activists in South Korea, reportedly planned to purchase one hundred thousand copies of The Interview (2014) (with Korean subtitles) and drop DVDs and U.S.B. sticks containing the film, with balloons over North Korea. It is illegal to watch this film (and other foreign media, except from China and Vietnam) in North Korea, but a black market exists, and many citizens have private access to DVD players and other media.
On June 25, 2014, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency condemned the film (without naming it), promising a "merciless" retaliation if the film is released. "Making and releasing a film on a plot to hurt our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated", KCNA said, citing a government spokesman.
With all the support from politicans and celebrities such as George Clooney, Sean Penn, Michael Moore, and even President Barack Obama, Sony Pictures Entertainment decided to release the film on the original release date of December 25, 2014 in select theaters and Video-On-Demand.
In late 2014, Sony Pictures was the victim of a major hack of their computer systems, in which confidential corporate information, and several unreleased complete movies were posted for public consumption. Among reams of other information, the budget for this movie was released, revealing (among other things) the film's total cost (forty-four million dollars) and the salaries of its stars (including 8.4 million dollars for co-Writer, co-Director, and co-star Seth Rogen; 6.5 million dollars for co-star James Franco; and five thousand dollars for Kevin Federline, who made a cameo appearance). There were also line items in the budget for seventy-four thousand dollars for two tigers, their handlers, and special "tiger accommodations", as well as two hundred fifty dollars for a "table of weed, coke, pills, and panties" (although only two hundred forty-one dollars of that was spent). The F.B.I. announced it had credible evidence the hack was orchestrated by North Korea in retaliation for the film's storyline, which involves a plot to kill the real North Korean leader, a claim that was quickly denied by the North Korean government.
This has been described as the first U.S.-made film dealing with an assassination attempt against a real-life world leader who was in power when the movie was made. It is not. In 1941, Fritz Lang, who had fled the Nazis when they took power in Germany, made Man Hunt (1941), about a British hunter (Walter Pidgeon) who attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler. When that film was made, the U.S. was not yet at war with Germany.
On December 17, 2014, the film was threatened by a group that calls themselves GOP (Guardians of Peace), the ones behind the Sony hacks. The threat mentioned attacks to any movie theaters that played this film. They also referenced 9/11 in their e-mail. Theater chains, like AMC and Regal, pulled the film from release, in concern that their customers would not be safe. The next day, December 18, 2014, Sony Pictures announced they would not show the film, and pulled the film from its Christmas wide release date. Sony added they did not have plans to release the film on VOD or DVD. The movie was ultimately released to select theaters, Video-On-Demand, and bootleg websites on December 25, 2014.
In one interview, Seth Rogen stated that he considered, among other unnamed actors, Matt Damon for the role of Dave Skylark before James Franco was cast. Also, Brad Pitt was considered for a role, but he declined.
On December 23, 2014 Seth Rogen announced on Twitter that the film will be released, saying "The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn't give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!"
When Sony was faced with an enormous backlash over their decision to cancel any release of the film after the hack and threats from North Korea, the first call that the company's leadership made, was to Google. The reason was that they wanted to find a platform to re-start the release that would not be susceptible to cyber-attacks, and felt Google could fit that bill. The Internet giant immediately agreed to put the film on their streaming services, and ignored angry North Korean threats. Soon afterwards, many other major online providers did the same thing, and the film began doing serious business right away.
The movie features a tank that was a gift to Kim Il-sung from Joseph Stalin. In fact, the Soviet T-34 tanks that were used to defeat the Japanese in North Korea, in World War II, became Kim Il-sung's property when Soviet troops left. They gave the Communists a decisive edge when war broke out, allowing the North to overrun most of the South.
When Skylark leaves the restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea, after Kim's threats, a large, triangular building is visible in the background. This is the Ryugyong Hotel. Construction began in 1987, but was halted with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the hotel remained incomplete, and was branded "the worst building in the world". In recent years, the exterior has been completed, and the opening is mooted.
Two days after Sony announced the cancellation of this movie, it was announced that it will eventually be released on different platforms. Bittorrent has been expressing that they would love to be the one that distributes the film, as a form of freedom of speech.
The scene, where the kids are playing their guitars, shows a strong reference to a YouTube video, where North Korean kids are playing almost the same way: too big guitars, smiles, excellent techniques, and even the dress up. Kids are trained to perform for their Leader in an early age.
For a short while, this was rated with a perfect ten out of ten. This was due to several online petitions to inflate the movie's rating, as a protest to those who wished to censor it. However, this rating would not be enough to get it into the IMDb top 250, because the algorithm to calculate this takes many factors into account. After the theatrical and internet release, the score dropped significantly.
Leaked memos from Sony, reveal that the studio was extremely antsy about the film, claiming the movie was "Desperately unfunny". The executives also felt that the plot was inflammatory and inappropriate, and that the frequent use of violence would be off-putting for most audiences. There was also the fact that very few foreign markets wanted to touch the movie, with reasons ranging from the touchy subject matter, to the fact that Seth Rogen apparently has very little appeal outside of the United States.
The film was originally about Kim Jong-il, but the project was put on hold until he died, and the film was about his son, Kim Jong-un, who was chosen when Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg realized that he was closer to their age.
During the scene where Aaron and Dave are leaving North Korea, the song "Winds of Change" by The Scorpions is playing. This song was recorded in 1990, and was influenced by the anti-Communist revolution, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
Seth Rogen predicted that the film would make its way to North Korea, stating that "we were told one of the reasons they're so against the movie, is that they're afraid it'll actually get into North Korea. They do have bootlegs and stuff. Maybe the tapes will make their way to North Korea and cause a revolution."
The utility vehicles used by the Korean People's Army near the end of the movie, are Volkswagen Type 183 'Iltis', a vehicle which used to be in service with the armed forces of Belgium, Canada, and Germany during the 1980s.
The fiasco caused a FOX subsidiary to cancel plans to adapt Pyongyang, a French-Canadian graphic novel based on Guy Delisle's experiences in North Korea, starring Steve Carell and directed by Gore Verbinski. Pyongyang most likely would not have warranted a response from this level from North Korea, but the film was still cancelled as a precaution. Now that this has been film released, it's possible Pyongyang may re-enter production at some point in the future.
The aircraft (twenty-two year old Boeing 747-400) Aaron flew to China for the first time, carries a fictional livery, which is similar with "Air China". Maybe the producers didn't get the permission to use Air China's image. They used the fictional "Zhangzhou Air" airliner name which is a misspell of "ZhengZhou Air". Zhengzhou is the city where Foxconn assemble iPhone for Apple.
Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un's older half-brother, was assassinated in February 2017. Preliminary autopsy shows death due to a chemical weapon, one that is passed through the skin, as the one used in this movie. VX is an odorless substance that can exist as liquid or gas. It was believed it was administered by two women touching his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. He died before arriving at the hospital.
Certain elements of the film were edited in post-production, to be less offensive to North Korea, such as the removal of certain attributes to their military uniform, and Kim Jong-un's death being somewhat censored.
On December 24, 2014, the movie was released (for a fee) via YouTube, Google Play, Xbox Live, and a Sony website, as well as in movie theaters nationwide, despite the controversy concerning the release of the movie and its story.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the script for places they knew existed in Vancouver, having grown up there, using locations as stand-ins for Beijing, China, Pyongyang, North Korea, and New York City.
Dan Sterling was hired to write the final screenplay, as opposed to having Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg writing it themselves. Sterling brought a lot of research to the film, and also created a parallel between the characters of Skylark and Kim Jong-un.
The Alamo Drafthouse independent theater chain in Texas announced they were going to air Team America: World Police (2004) in their theaters (for free) in place of the movie's premiere being cancelled. Then Paramount Pictures pulled the plug on that. Said theater announced showings of this film shortly after Sony agreed on the release.
On December 10th, Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan announced that the film would not be released in Japan, as live-action comedies do not often perform well in the market. In the Asia-Pacific region, the film would be released only in Australia and New Zealand.
This movie was planned to have a Christmas 2014 release for theaters, which got cancelled. Instead, it got a theatrical release that was severely limited, that occurred simultaneously with a digital release.
In real life, North Korea does have nuclear weapons and ICBM's, but its ICBM's only have a range of a few hundred miles and many explode on take off. Also, North Korea does not yet know how to equip its missiles with a nuclear warhead unlike in the film where Kim has several ready to launch at the end.
The finale of the movie is completely foreshadowed by Dave Skylark (James Franco) early in the film, when he's discussing his vision of how the assassination would go. He predicted that he would take a bullet in his bullet proof vest, they would escape into a secret tunnel, and eventually be brought home by S.E.A.L. Team Six on a zodiac, wrapped up in blankets. James Franco's character in This Is the End (2013) did the same thing, where he gave away the ending earlier in the movie.