Sony's 'Interview' heard 'round the world (pictures)

After a costly hack and threats to theaters from the hackers, Sony OKs release of "The Interview." Never mind the opinion of a certain North Korean dictatorship.

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James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
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1 of 15 Sony Pictures

'GOP' hacks Sony Pictures

Near the end of November, a hacker group identifying itself as GOP (or Guardians of Peace) accessed movie studio Sony Pictures' internal data and then threatened to make it public. The hack resulted in the leak of a mountain of data, including embarrassing emails and unreleased movies. Hackers initially succeeded at using threats to force studio bosses to pull "The Interview," a movie they found offensive, before the studio did an about-face and announced the movie's release. Here is a collection of the hack's highlights -- or lowlights.

2 of 15 Sony Pictures

Embarrassing comments leaked

On December 11, Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal apologized for comments made in a series of leaked email exchanges between herself and producer Scott Rudin.

In one email exchange, Pascal quipped about President Obama, "Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?" To which Rudin replied "12 YEARS," (in reference to the movie "12 Years a Slave"). Pascal then responded "Or the butler. Or think like a man?" referring to other films featuring black actors.

3 of 15 Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Snapchat's CEO rails at hackers

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said he was "angry" and "devastated" that information about his startup's business plan was revealed as a result of Sony Pictures' crippling security breach.

"I felt like I was going to cry all morning, so I went on a walk and thought through a couple things," he wrote in a memo sent to Snapchat employees.

4 of 15 Sony Pictures; screenshot by CNET

Seth Rogen and James Franco

Seth Rogen and James Franco star in Sony Pictures' $44 million comedy "The Interview," which focuses on a fictitious trip to North Korea to assassinate leader Kim Jong-un.

5 of 15 Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

North Korea, upset by "The Interview" and the (movie) plot to assassinate Kim, was behind the massive hack of the studio, according to the FBI.

6 of 15 Sony Pictures

The 'Interview' heard round the world

On December 17, Sony canceled the release of "The Interview," following threats of September 11-style attacks on moviegoers. After President Obama said the studio had made a mistake by backing down, Sony later announced that the movie would screen after all.

7 of 15 Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Hollywood's reaction

Hollywood's reaction to the pulling of the film was mixed, with many A-list celebrities criticizing Sony's action. Actor George Clooney unloaded on the North Korean dictator for his nation’s reaction to "The Interview," saying “We cannot be told we can’t see something, by Kim Jong-un, of all f---ing people,” Clooney said in an interview with Deadline Hollywood.

Here, Clooney and his wife, Amal Alamuddin, leave the Aman Hotel in Venice on September 28.

8 of 15 Alex Wong/Getty Images

'Sony made a mistake'

The opinion from the White House was much the same. “We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States,” President Obama said on December 19, during his last news conference of the year.

9 of 15 Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

Sony Pictures CEO: 'We made no mistake'

In President Obama's opinion, Sony erred by pulling "The Interview" from theaters after hackers made threats of violence. But Sony Pictures Co-Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton said, "we made no mistake." He said theaters had opted not to show the film.

Here, Sony corporation CEO Kazuo Hirai (left) shakes hands with Lynton at Sony's Tokyo headquarters in November.

10 of 15 FBI.gov

FBI blames North Korea

On December 19, the FBI released the findings of its investigation into one of the most destructive cyberattacks ever on a company on US soil, saying North Korea was to blame.

Two days later, North Korea responded to the FBI's assertion. The country's state news agency said, "Without resorting to such tortures as were used by the CIA, we have means to prove that this incident has nothing to do with us."

11 of 15 Dyn Research

Internet goes dark in North Korea

On December 22, after President Obama vowed to take action in response to the Sony Pictures hack, North Korea experienced an unusual Internet outage. Speaking with reporters the same day, a spokeswoman for the US State Department wouldn't say what steps the US would take against North Korea. "We are considering a range of options in response," Bloomberg quoted her as saying. "Some will be seen. Some may not be seen." Internet connectivity was eventually restored, after 10 hours, Bloomberg reported.

12 of 15 Twitter screenshot by CNET

'The Interview' is back on

Call it a Christmas miracle for the First Amendment, or perhaps Sony again bowing to pressure, this time from Washington instead of terrorists. But on December 23, news broke that "The Interview" would be released to some theaters on Christmas Day.

13 of 15 Screenshot by CNET

Victory for free speech

The same day, "Interview" co-star and co-director Seth Rogen sent this message to his Twitter followers, announcing that "The Interview" would be shown in theaters willing to screen it.

14 of 15 Screenshot by CNET

Online streaming option

Sony also turned to the Internet to release the movie, starting at 10 a.m. PT December 24.

Google Play, Google's YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and a dedicated Sony-built website called Seetheinterview.com were the first options out the door.

The movie can be rented for $6 or purchased for $15.

15 of 15 Natalie Weinstein/CNET

Taking a risk

Among the more than 200 independent theaters that chose to show "The Interview" once Sony gave the go-ahead is this Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in  southwest Austin.

The first showing was set for 11:50 p.m. local time on Christmas Day.

Alamo Drafthouse, a small chain of movie theaters based in Texas, was among the companies calling on Sony to let them show the film despite the threats of physical violence from the hackers who infiltrated Sony's servers.

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