In today’s Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson discusses the Hollywood movie The Interview, a bad taste comedy on the assassination of the leader of North Korea. Boris thinks they should have screened it, and laughed at North Korea.Boris begins: “Whoa, this can’t be right. Guys, guys, guys – this isn’t the end. It feels like the lights have just come on in the theatre just when I was settling down to my popcorn.
I have been watching this hilarious international espionage caper movie. Have you seen it? The drama centres on a film called The Interview, and the global convulsions it causes. The premise is that the US studio bosses decide to approve an absurdly bad taste comedy about the leader of North Korea.
This film is itself a manically implausible affair in which the nutjob commie tyrant agrees to give an interview to a pair of loud-mouthed American television show hosts. In breach of all journalistic ethics, they actually assassinate him on the urgings of the CIA – and we are given to understand that this film-within-the-film has a pretty grisly denouement, with Kim Jong-un’s head exploding like a paper bag of rice.
And it turns out, of course, that the North Koreans don’t like the idea of this comedy – not one bit. You remember how peeved they were when some London barber offered his clients a haircut in the black meringue-like style of their glorious leader: they sent some diplomats round to complain, and asked the poor fellow to take the picture out of the window.
Anyway, the communists are thoroughly cheesed off, and they warn the Americans that they will take punitive action. Which is ridiculous, of course. The Interview is just a comedy – a work of imagination. Think of all the American films that involve the killing of their own president, or the discovery that he is in fact an agent of a foreign power, or a big green lizard.
The BBC is about to use a short story about the assassination of Margaret Thatcher – one of the most venerated leaders of post-war British history – as its Book at Bedtime. Since the first cheeps of human creativity, the idea of killing the king has been an indispensable staple of drama – and in this case the thing is obviously not intended seriously.
It’s a spoof; it’s a joke; it’s a piece of hyperbolical satire. But never mind – true to form, the North Koreans have a total sense of humour failure. The next thing is they decide to launch a frenzied cyber attack on Sony Pictures – and I have to tell you, the results are side-splittingly funny. They expose the salaries of the top stars, and the sexist pay gap between the men and even the most talented female performers.
They publish loads of embarrassing emails, including the intervention by the Japanese head of Sony, who wonders whether the final shot of Kim’s exploding head contains a shade too much brain-splatter. They cause such mayhem with their hack attacks that in the end Sony Pictures decides pathetically and cravenly that they are actually going to pull the movie! Can you believe it?
The whole shebang is scrapped; Sony is refusing to release The Interview to the cinemas. It is meant to be the Christmas blockbuster – and now the pantywaist Hollywood moneymen have kowtowed to the North Koreans.
In the bit I have just been watching, the President of the United States has been forced to give a press conference, in which he says: “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the US.” I must say that there has been a certain amount of giggling in my section of the audience – because that is exactly what is happening, isn’t it? The North Koreans have only one objective in this enterprise: to protect the “dignity of the supreme leader” by suppressing this insulting American movie; and as far as we can see, they are succeeding.
As the head of Sony Pictures has plaintively observed, there is still not a single American chain that is willing to screen The Interview. No one wants to take the risk; no one wants to suffer the unspecified wrath of Pyongyang. They are frightened, frit.
Now the house lights are up, and we are all scratching our heads and feeling like Jaws has ended with the shark eating Quint. It’s like an unavenged Pearl Harbor. It’s Team North Korea 1, Team America 0.
My friends, there is only one way to take this narrative forward, and that is as follows. We meet the underpaid and idealistic Jennifer Lawrence, who has a lowly job reading scripts for Sony pictures, and whose father was an MIA fighter ace tortured by the North Koreans. She smuggles a print of The Interview in her handbag to a scuzzy old arthouse cinema, run by an eccentric Englishman (Michael Caine? Benedict Cumberbatch?).
She begs him to screen it. With tears in his eyes, he declines; he can’t afford the insurance; the authorities will close him down. She pawns her mother’s rings. They screen it together – and it is an unbelievable hit. There are queues around the block, whole families retching with laughter as they watch the bathetic North Koreans get their comeuppance.
Soon the shame-faced bureaucrats of Hollywood can see where they have gone wrong. They put the film on general release — and the US government decides to do the only honourable thing. It recognises that it is the duty of the state to fight cyber-terror, not to surrender to it, so it agrees to underwrite the insurance costs of every cinema that screens the film.
As our story comes to its triumphant climax, we go to a montage sequence with a swelling orchestral score. We see Barack and Michelle watching it in the White House screening room, with tears of joy running down their cheeks. We see audiences roiling with pleasure in London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing – and yes, in the final shot we go to a darkened room in Pyongyang where Kim Jong-un is watching it himself.
His lip twitches. He can’t help it. He smiles, he chortles, he belly laughs – and cut! Roll the credits. Isn’t that fantabulous?
Come on Sony; come on America. It’s time for everyone to come to their senses, get a grip, have some guts, rediscover the spirit of John Wayne, and give us the Hollywood ending that free speech demands.