Sony Pictures’ decision to back out of a Steve Jobs film after Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale passed on the project prompted a flurry of heated e-mails between the studio’s top executive and the film’s producer, according to data released by hackers.
The correspondence between studio head Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin makes public for the first time the financial constraints that led Sony Corp.’s entertainment unit to give up on the project, a biopic about the late Apple Inc. co-founder that was ultimately taken over by Universal Pictures.
The e-mails between Rudin and Pascal are among the latest disclosures from a devastating computer attack on Culver City, California-based Sony Pictures. Yesterday, hackers threatened to release data on Pascal and her counterpart in Sony TV production. The e-mails provide a window into movie dealmaking and the tension that can accompany film projects.
“You’ve destroyed your relationships with half the town over how you’ve behaved on this movie, and if you don’t think it’s true, wait and see,” Rudin, who won a best picture Oscar for “No Country for Old Men” in 2007, wrote in a Nov. 20 e- mail to Pascal.
Jean Guerin, a spokeswoman for Sony Pictures, said the company would have no response. Rudin didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Sony grew disenchanted with “Steve Jobs” as projected costs rose and the choice of the actor to play Apple Inc.’s co- founder shifted from DiCaprio to Bale and then to Michael Fassbender, the e-mails show. Potential backers including Megan Ellison passed on the project.
“What happened is entirely my fault,” Pascal said in a Nov. 21 e-mail to Rudin. “I have made other kinds of mistakes, but not like this.”
Before giving up on the project last month, Sony Pictures had been working for three years on a film adaptation of “Steve Jobs,” Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography. Danny Boyle, whose “Slumdog Millionaire” won a best picture Oscar in 2009, was set to direct.
As the project progressed, the studio expressed concern about the cost and its ability to find financial partners.
“I think Danny needs to rethink how he wants to do the movie,” Pascal told Rudin on Nov. 13 in a reference to director Boyle. “We are not gonna get anyone to help us out here at this cost with this cast.”
She tells Rudin she wants to “slow this down.” He responds: “If we slow it down, I think Danny walks.”
Meanwhile, sources of co-financing for the production, including Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, Village Roadshow and New Regency, have passed, Doug Belgrad, president of Sony Picture’s motion picture group, tells Pascal.
“I love the script but I can’t do this to the company,” he wrote on Nov. 13.
Sony Pictures disclosed its computers had been hacked on Nov. 25. Private security consultants and U.S. officials believe North Korea is behind the cyber-terrorism. The country has objected to the Seth Rogen film “The Interview,” a spoof about a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Sony releases on Dec. 25.
Since then, in successive disclosures, the hackers, who call themselves “Guardians of Peace,” have provided online access to unreleased films, revealed studio salary information, personal data on employees and Hollywood stars, and now are dumping executive e-mails on file-sharing websites.
In the midst of the “Steve Jobs” negotiations, talent agent Bryan Lourd, who leads the Creative Artists Agency, wrote that Scarlett Johansson was interested in a part, but was having trouble opening an electronic version of the script. “Is that a sign?” he asked Pascal.
His colleague Jim Toth pitched Matthew McConaughey for the Jobs role, later telling Pascal he let the actor know he wasn’t right for the part.
“Just said he was a tad older than Danny saw it,” Toth said in a Nov. 13 e-mail.
At the same time, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, co-head of WME/IMG LLC, wanted his client, Charlize Theron, in the picture.
“Why are we not doing this with Charlize?” he asked Pascal in a Nov. 5 e-mail. “She is a little big of a bigger star than Scarlett Johansson.”
Missy Davy, a spokeswoman for Creative Artists, said she would ask Toth and Lourd for comments. WME declined to comment.
On Nov. 21, Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures picked up the Jobs film.
“Even if this movie becomes the greatest movie ever and wins the Academy Award, we will be fine,” Pascal wrote to senior management. Then, she hints at another factor behind her decision, how Sony Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai and other senior executives might view a film about a competitor, Apple.
“And between us, how would we like to be at the screening with Kaz and Yoshida-san when they see the movie for the first time,” she said.