Spoiler warning: this article contains information that might reveal plot points for The Interview.
Hackers released emails from Sony this week, which revealed Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai's role in changing the ending of The Interview, which features North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un dying horrifically. Bloomberg writes that Hirai gave input on the changes and made it a point to keep Kim's exploding face from appearing on international screens. He was responsible for providing the ultimate go-ahead after selecting a toned-down version of shot 337.
In an email to Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal, Hirai wrote, "I’ve given this a lot of thought and would like to go ahead with a variation of version 337." He also said, "It would be much appreciated if you could push them a bit further as you mentioned in your e-mail. Also, please ensure that this does not make it into the international version of the release."
Recode reports that Pascal had expressed worries about the movie's finale to Seth Rogen in a series of personal correspondences, noting that this was the first time Sony had given her any input in the 25 years she worked with the company. Kim's slow-motion death involved flaming hair, burn marks, and "head chunks." However, after receiving Pascal's email, Rogen promised to reduce the gruesomeness of the scene.
"We will make it less gory. There are currently four burn marks on his face. We will take out three of them, leaving only one. We reduce the flaming hair by 50% … The head explosion can’t be more obscured than it is because we honestly feel that if it’s any more obscured you won’t be able to tell its exploding and the joke won’t work. Do you think this will help? Is it enough?"
The first revision was submitted on July 18th, but work on the 15-second sequence did not end until October 6th when Rogen sent Pascal an exultant:
"This is it!!! We removed the fire from the hair and the entire secondary wave of head chunks. Please tell us this is over now. Thanks so much!!"
Pascal did not respond, but instead forwarded Rogen's email to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton and president Doug Belgrad. The latter expressed extreme relief at the new footage.