Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

How 'The Interview' screenwriter Dan Sterling became 'the guy that brought down Sony'

Ways to Subscribe

The screenwriter talks about getting the studio to greenlight the James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy and how the drama surrounding it has affected him.

UPDATE Dec. 17: Today the five largest theater chains — AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Cineplex and Carmike — said they would not show "The Interview." 

"The Interview" is the first produced screenplay by Dan Sterling, whose previous work includes writing for TV shows such as "South Park" and "The Daily Show." It’s fair to say that "The Interview" is not exactly the movie debut he had in mind.

The comedy is about a pair of TV journalists, played by Seth Rogen and James Franco, who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The movie doesn’t open until Christmas Day, but it’s already sparked a massive international incident.

North Korea has declared the Sony Pictures comedy is an act of war. Many people believe the communist dictatorship is behind a huge data breach at Sony, in which a flood of embarrassing emails, personal information and movies has been hacked.

“The Interview,” co-directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, opens on Christmas Day. That’s when the hackers — known as Guardians of Peace — have vowed to release more documents they’ve stolen from Sony.

Screenwriter Dan Sterling stopped by The Frame to talk about getting Sony to green light "The Interview" and how the fallout has affected him. 

Interview Highlights:

What's one way the drama around "The Interview" and the Sony hack affected you so far?

Were you flattered by that?
What about the reaction to the film itself has been the most surprising?
What was the beginning of the story in this film? Was it something that you pitched? Was it something that you talked to Seth Rogan and his co-director Evan Goldberg about?
From the very beginning, was the idea that it would be the real leader? 
There was concern, but not resistance from the studio. In other words, they said, "I guess we're in?" Was there a negotiation about how real this person was going to be?
Resisted as in said no?
A couple things happened, the first of which is North Korea described the movie as an act of war. When that happened, were you guys a little bit flattered or were you at all concerned at that point?
You mentioned "Team America," which is by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. You worked on [their series] "South Park." "South Park" did not spare anyone from satirical skewering, but it didn't really seem to spark an international crisis like this movie has. So what's the difference between what you did on "South Park" and what you have done in "The Interview"?
This movie has a lot to say about the media and about media manipulation. Was that something you felt very strongly that you wanted to focus on, about the whole idea of how things are portrayed, whether or not you should trust your own eyes?
This was a movie that was so perilous to Sony and part of what's been leaked out is that [studio co-chief] Amy Pascal was consulting with the head of Sony in Japan about what could and could not be shown in the movie. With all of this concern she also didn't back down from what the movie was going to be. A little bit of you is probably grateful that Sony didn't cower and didn't tell you to change the ending of the film. 
That's a very interesting point.
Are you worried about that even if the movie is successful that people will say, We can't go there, we can't offend people because look what happens?
Stay Connected