This just might be the (exploding) face that launched a thousand hacks: one of the many variants of Kim Jong-un’s death scene from Sony’s notorious and possibly colossal-hack-causing movie The Interview. First discovered by Gawker, the clip has been leaked as part of the ongoing attack against the Japanese company; a hack that many have speculated was triggered by North Korean anger at the portrayal of their "beloved leader."
Although North Korean officials have denied any involvement in the attack, they previously described the film as an "act of war," before promising a "merciless response," and later praising the hack as a "righteous deed." The authority of North Korea's brutal, totalitarian regime leans heavily on the almost religious veneration of the ruling Kim family, and experts on the country have suggested that loyalist hackers were trying to save face on behalf of their leader.
SONY CEO KAZUO HIRAI ordered the filmmakers to scale back the gore
Leaked internal emails show that the slow-motion death scene — in which Kim Jong-un’s helicopter is hit by a shell and his head explodes — was also the subject of a long back-and-forth between worried movie executives and director and co-star Seth Rogen. Rogen and his special effects team were forced to scale back the goriness of the death at the request of Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai. "We removed the fire from the hair and the entire wave of secondary head chunks," wrote Rogen in a leaked email from October 6th. "Please tell us this is over now."
Hirai eventually approved a variant of the scene referred to as "version 337," with the above iteration labeled "v352" in an email from special effects technician Arnon Manor. It’s not clear which version will make it to theaters, although this particular take includes diplomatic changes such as making "the goop from the head pop […] darker, specifically to make it less flesh-like and more surreal."
For Sony though the ordeal is far from over, with insiders telling The Wrap that the company is still in lock-down. Fax machines, phones, and physical letters have replaced computers and smartphones at the embattled firm, and one employee is quoted as saying: "The entire company is at war." In response, Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton has promised employees that the hack "will not take us down," and the company's lawyers have begun issuing legal threats to anyone reporting the leaks.