Was North Korea Sony Pictures cyber attack in revenge for James Franco and Seth Rogen's film The Interview?

Five Sony films were illegally distributed for free, including the eagerly anticipated remake of musical Annie and the Brad Pitt war drama Fury

Kim Jong-il was North Korea’s Barry Norman; a man with an unqualified passion for films; the “cinephile despot” of a regime where art never imitated life. His son, Kim Jong-un, evidently takes a different approach.

It has been claimed that the house of Kim is striking back at the impertinence of Hollywood and is responsible for a cyber-attack that saw five of Sony Pictures’ most eagerly anticipated projects leaked to the internet this week.

Reports today linked the free and illegal distribution of the Sony films, including the eagerly anticipated remake of musical Annie and the Brad Pitt war drama Fury, to the studio’s computers being compromised last week.

Hackers from China may have been acting on the orders of Pyongyang, claimed reports, in retribution for the Sony Pictures film The Interview, which is due out on Christmas Day. The North Korean government denounced the film as “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war” in a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June.

The same month, KCNA, the official North Korean news agency, promised a “merciless counter measure” if the film was not sent to the cutting-room floor.

Sony Pictures’ computer system crashed on Monday last week. Before screens went dark, they displayed a red skull and the phrase “Hacked By #GOP”, which reportedly stands for “Guardians of Peace”. The hackers also warned they would release “secrets” stolen from the Sony servers, the Los Angeles Times reported. “The theft of Sony Pictures Entertainment content is a criminal matter and we are working closely with law enforcement to address it,” a Sony spokeswoman told Variety.

‘The Interview’ film was denounced by a North Korean website as a conspiracy movie which deserved ‘stern punishment’

The Interview stars James Franco as the host of a tabloid television show that is enjoyed by Kim, and Seth Rogen as the show’s producer. When they are granted a rare interview in North Korea, the CIA wants to turn them into assassins.

On Friday, the North-Korean controlled website, Uriminzokkiri, was reported to have released a statement on the forthcoming release.

“The cheekiness to show this conspiracy movie, which is comprised of utter distortions of the truth and absurd imaginations, is an evil act of provocation against our highly dignified republic and an insult against our righteous people,” it said.

“The trashy film-makers, who, won over by a few dollars thrown to them by conspirators, have compromised the dignity and conscience of film-making and dared to produce and direct such a film. They must be subject to our stern punishment.”

Variety reported that the leak is the biggest act of piracy since July when Lionsgate’s The Expendables 3 popped up online, three weeks before its release date. That leak is thought to have seriously affected the film’s takings at the box office, with the Sylvester Stallone action adventure only taking $39m.

“It [cinema] is a powerful ideological weapon...” wrote Kim Jong-il in his 1987 essay The Cinema and Directing.

His son appeared today to have learnt that lesson.