Special Report: How Sony sanitized Adam Sandler movie to please Chinese censors
By Clare Baldwin and Kristina Cooke
HONG KONG/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a 2013 script for the movie “Pixels,” intergalactic aliens blast a hole in one of China’s national treasures – the Great Wall.
That scene is gone from the final version of the sci-fi comedy, starring Adam Sandler and released by Sony Pictures Entertainment this week in the United States. The aliens strike iconic sites elsewhere, smashing the Taj Mahal in India, the Washington Monument and parts of Manhattan.
Sony executives spared the Great Wall because they were anxious to get the movie approved for release in China, a review of internal Sony Pictures emails shows. It is just one of a series of changes aimed at stripping the movie of content that, Sony managers feared, Chinese authorities might have construed as casting their country in a negative light.
Along with the Great Wall scene, out went a scene in which China was mentioned as a potential culprit behind an attack, as well as a reference to a “Communist-conspiracy brother” hacking a mail server – all to increase the chances of getting “Pixels” access to the world’s second-biggest box office.
“Even though breaking a hole on the Great Wall may not be a problem as long as it is part of a worldwide phenomenon, it is actually unnecessary because it will not benefit the China release at all. I would then, recommend not to do it,” Li Chow, chief representative of Sony Pictures in China, wrote in a December 2013 email to senior Sony executives.
Li’s message is one of tens of thousands of confidential Sony emails and documents that were hacked and publicly released late last year. The U.S. government blamed North Korea for the breach. In April, WikiLeaks published the trove of emails, memos and presentations from the Sony hack in an online searchable archive.
“We are not going to comment on stolen emails or internal discussions about specific content decisions,” said a spokesman for Sony Pictures, a unit of Tokyo-based Sony Corp. “There are myriad factors that go into determining what is best for a film’s release, and creating content that has wide global appeal without compromising creative integrity is top among them.”
Chinese government and film-industry officials didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story. Continued...