Bridey Heing
December 18, 2014 9:09 am

Hollywood and geopolitics hardcore collided yesterday when Sony decided to pull the upcoming release of their pending flick The Interview, about an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-Un. The decision comes in the wake of a massive Sony hack which many have linked to North Korea. What followed next were violent threats against theaters that were planning to show the film. But the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco wasn’t the only film to get the axe as a result of the hacks. Gore Verbinski’s adaptation of Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, starring Steve Carell, has also been shelved.

The as-yet-untitled New Regency film was based on a graphic novel by Guy DeLisle, one of few Westerners who has had a first hand look at living conditions in North Korea. DeLisle, a cartoonist, was able to get a work visa to travel in and around the North Korean capital of Pyongyang for two months.

In Pyongyang, DeLisle reflects on the totalitarian state and North Korea’s more sinister eccentricities — such as inescapable propaganda and the cult of personality surrounding the Kim family. The work is biographical, so readers get a sense of the difficulties DeLisle and his colleagues encountered.

The film adaptation, directed by Verbinski (the man behind Pirates of the Caribbean), was described as a “paranoid thriller.” Unlike The Interview, the film wouldn’t have been poking fun at the North Korean government, but rather exploring living conditions in the country and the experience of being a foreigner in a very foreign land. As Hello Giggles writer Margaret Eby explains here, the decision to pull The Interview is a serious one, and it sets a dangerous precedent for avoiding films that tackle controversial issues. Carrell, for his part, let his own opinion be known, tweeting yesterday:

The decision to pull Pyongyang goes one step further, as it signals that even handling North Korea, as a subject matter, with gravity rather than humor is unsafe. As one of the most isolated countries in the world, our knowledge of North Korea is very limited. Film, particularly adaptations of the experiences of those who have visited the country, is one way to begin chipping away at the cultural wall between us. But with continued threats, and Hollywood’s compliance, all that is changing.

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