‘The Interview’: NYC Comedians Plan a Live Read ‘in the Name of Free Speech’

Who knows when you’ll get to see The Interview? Last week Sony execs decided to cave to vague, terroristic threats and postpone the release of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy indefinitely. Ac...
‘The Interview’: NYC Comedians Plan a Live Read ‘in the Name of Free Speech’
Written by Josh Wolford
  • Who knows when you’ll get to see The Interview?

    Last week Sony execs decided to cave to vague, terroristic threats and postpone the release of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy indefinitely. According to reports, Sony was not alone in its cowardice. At this point nobody knows when the film, which was originally scheduled for a Christmas Day release, will see the light of day. Sony has no immediate plans for DVD or VOD release. The internet is calling for someone like Netflix to buy the rights, but that seems unlikely.

    It’ll probably work its way online at some point. Some recent rumors pointed to Sony releasing the film, for free, on Crackle – but those were shot down. Sony has said that it’s considering releasing the film, but there’s definitely no timeframe. Whatever happens, this is a big loss for Sony and for some, an even bigger loss for the idea that we, as a people, won’t be threatened out of our freedom of expression.

    Sure, it’s just a movie (of questionable quality at that) – but this is not a good precedent to set, right?

    What do you think about the decision to pull The Interview? Let us know in the comments.

    Sony has made its decision. Before that, a handful of major theater groups made theirs. The film is simply too toxic to distribute right now. At this point, theaters and Sony are engaging in a bit of a back-and-forth over who is truly to blame for the film’s indefinite postponement. Some lawmakers are calling for its release. The President has input his two cents. The situation’s a mess – but it’s a fluid mess. The movie could find its way to the big screen – or at least your small screen – at some point.

    But you might not get to see The Interview anytime soon. However, if you’re in New York City next weekend, you can watch the next best thing.

    No, not Team America: World Police. Everyone’s too scared to show that either. What you can watch is a group of actors, who “feel very strongly about bringing this film to you by whatever means necessary”, perform a live read-through of the script.

    The Treehouse Theater in NYC will host A Live Read of The Interview on Saturday, Dec 27. It’s free and open to the public. I recently got the opportunity to talk to the show’s producers – Dave Hensely, Benny Scheckner, and Sean Perrotta – three friends and improv actors who just so happened to get hold of an earlier copy of the script.

    “There are three of us that are planning this show,” said Hensley, Scheckner, and Perrotta. “We’re all friends who take classes at a well-known improv school in New York [the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre]. The Treehouse Theater opened just recently. We asked and they said yes. The people there have been extremely supportive — they love that we’re doing this, and we can’t thank them enough for allowing us to use their space.”

    WPN: I know you probably can’t say too much about how you got hold of the script, but are you pretty sure it’s a final copy? Is what you have what’s on the screen?

    HSP: The script is not the final draft, but it very closely agrees with what we know about the movie (from the trailer, press coverage, etc.).

    WPN: What are your thoughts on Sony’s decision to yank the film?

    HSP: We’re huge fans of the filmmakers, and we understand that Sony was in a difficult position, and that they have been strong armed by theater chains. But ultimately, we can’t let threats of terrorism from a foreign nation inhibit free speech here in America. That’s the most important thing.

    WPN: So, have you read through the script yet? Thoughts?

    HSP: Yeah, it’s great. We think the movie is extremely positive for the people of North Korea (if not their leader).

    WPN: What do you hope to accomplish with the read-through?

    HSP: We hope the read makes people feel empowered, as well as entertained. And we hope to remind them that, as we found out a few days ago, free speech isn’t a given — it’s something we need to fight for.

    The live read has been cast, and will kick off at 7pm. It will be immediately followed by Fuck You Kim Jong Un! A Comedy Show to Benefit the People of North Koreaan improv show “based on awful North Korean propaganda films”. Admission to that is $5, all of which will go to Human Rights Watch.

    “Our feelings are that Kim Jong-un already does enough censorship in his own country, and we don’t need him deciding what movies we can and can’t watch here in the US,” said Hensley, Scheckner, and Perrotta. “Americans understand the importance of free speech. But again — and this is really the heart of the issue — we can’t have free speech if we let fear inhibit it and dictate our decisions.”

    In late November, Sony Pictures fell victim to a massive hack – one which exposed private information, including some pretty embarrassing emails from studio execs. A group that called themselves ‘Guardians of Peace” took credit for the hack. As the group dumped more and more data from the hack, it began to threaten any and all theaters who dared show The Interview.

    “The world will be full of fear,” the message read. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

    The hacker group is reportedly incensed over the content of the movie, which depicts the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

    Soon after, a handful of high-profile theaters announced cancellations of The Interview showings. And that led to a blanket decision from Sony to yank the film entirely.

    “We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” Sony said in a strangely contradictory statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.

    “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatergoers.”

    It’s still unknown what role, if any, North Korea had in the Sony cyberattacks. The FBI is saying there’s enough evidence to conclude that North Korea was behind it.

    What should Sony do? What should individual theaters do? Let us know in the comments.

    Image via The Interview, Facebook

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