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The Interview was originally written with a fake country, not North Korea

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Last night, Sony officially canceled The Interview's December 25th release after all major US theaters pulled out, following threats of physical violence from a hacker group that had spent days leaking massive amounts of internal Sony data. As of last night, US officials were linking the hacks to North Korea. But what if The Interview had never been about assassinating Kim Jong-un?

In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, the film's screenwriter Dan Sterling (who also wrote for South Park and King of the Hill) gave some background on origins of the story, which began in 2011 with the idea, "what if a journalist scored an interview with Osama Bin Laden?"

"Sasha (Baron Cohen) was getting ready with The Dictator, so he sort of cornered the market on Middle Eastern tyranny jokes around that time," Sterling muses. "I went and wrote the script with a fake name and fake country, but after discussing the project with Seth [Rogen], Evan [Goldberg] and the executives at Sony, we decided I ought to try writing it with Kim Jong-un. Once it was in there, we knew it was the way to go."

It's a macabre footnote to a troubling few weeks, and it's a "what if" that shouldn't matter. Sterling's interview was conducted prior to yesterday's news but after the hacks began. "The movie is intended to make fun of a lot of things — including the CIA, America's obsession with celebrity journalism, and so on," he said. "This wasn't meant to be a statement of any kind."