Newtown School Shootings: How Hollywood Reacted

From canceling movie premieres to arranging for special tributes on "The Voice" and "SNL," the shootings in Newtown left Hollywood scrambling to rearrange schedules and respond to the tragedy

Hollywood has been scrambling in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last Friday. Glitzy movie premieres have been canceled, television schedules have been upended, and stars have taken to Twitter and other platforms to debate gun control laws.

From David Letterman's fiery monologue about the school murders to Paramount's decision to downplay firearms in trailers for "Jack Reacher," the entertainment business has been trying to find the best way to be sympathetic to a climate of national grief, while also rolling out several massively expensive films and television shows, many of them violent, in its wake.

Efforts by studios and entertainers to curb bloody content are earning high marks. Even the Parents Television Council, a vocal critic of violent and sexually explicit movies and shows, praised the industry's sensitivity, while also saying it hopes the events of last week change the business' tolerance for more provocative fare.

“The Parents Television Council applauds the action of corporations and individuals in the entertainment industry who have taken extraordinary measures to alter their business activities out of respect and concern for those impacted by the tragedy of Newtown. But we also ask those same corporations and individuals why that respect and concern would be temporary,” PTC president Tim Winter said in a statement.

Here's a look at how the entertainment business has reacted to the tragedy.


The Weinstein Company canceled the Los Angeles premiere for Quentin Tarantino's ultra-violent western “Django Unchained.”

In place of a red carpet event Monday, the studio held a private screening for industry types and the film's cast.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and in this time of national mourning we have decided to forgo our scheduled event,” a Weinstein Company spokesperson said in a statement.


Perhaps no movie has been put in a more awkward position by the shootings than Tom Cruise's upcoming "Jack Reacher." The big-screen adaptation of Lee Child's popular mystery novels opens with a sniper killing five people, making parallels with the events in Newtown unavoidable.

In response, Paramount has altered the marketing for the film to minimize the gunfire and violence. It also canceled last Saturday's Pittsburgh premiere in favor of a more low-key screening on Wednesday, sans red carpet.

"Nobody should be celebrating anything 24 hours after a tragic event like that," director and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie told TheWrap.

In addition, a planned fundraiser and screening for the Film Society of Lincoln Center was postponed out of respect for the events in Newtown.


Jay Leno openly questioned whether he should even be on the air Friday night given the events in Connecticut, but said that he ultimately decided people needed a distraction. He later discussed the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school and seemed to endorse greater gun control measures while talking with guest Tavis Smiley.

Meanwhile, Conan O'Brien kicked off his show Monday by saying he wouldn't do a monologue joking about the news because of "Friday's insanely mindless tragedy."


The school shooting prompted Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," to do an about face on gun control.

"I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand for my children," he said on Monday's episode. "Friday changed everything. It must change everything. We all must begin anew and demand that Washington's old way of doing business is no longer acceptable."

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SyFy pulled an episode of "Haven" last Friday that contained violent scenes in a high school setting. To put more space between the show and the events in Newtown, SyFy decided to reschedule it along with the series’ season three finale.

The episodes will now air back-to-back on Thursday, Jan. 17.


David Letterman spent six minutes discussing the shootings, saying he was deeply shaken in part because he is the father of a young child.

“Are we supposed to be worried about dropping our kids off at school now?” Letterman said. “I never worried about it before. I always thought, well, school is a good place where my son will be free of the idiot decisions made by his father.”

He also questioned the need for guns that sport so many rounds of ammunition, while acknowledging that the spate of school shootings is a mental health issue as well.


TLC pushed back the premiere of "Best Funeral Ever" from Dec. 26 to Jan. 6, feeling that the death-centric reality show was in poor taste given the violence in Newtown.


Like Letterman and O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel opened his ABC late night program on Monday by sending condolences to the families of the shooting victims. He also praised President Barack Obama's speech at a memorial for the dead last weekend.

“The President said what needed to be said," Kimmel said, fighting back tears.


Two leading tabloids, the New York Daily News and the New York Post, both called for stricter gun control measures in the wake of the shootings. The Daily News placed a shot of the Capitol building dripping blood and the headline "BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS" on its front page. The Post was slightly more restrained, but  called for a ban on assault weapons in an editorial.

"There are enough privately owned firearms in America almost literally to arm every adult citizen," the editorial board wrote. "And Adam Lanza’s rifle of choice — the M-16 knock-off Bushmaster — is insanely popular, just for starters."


The midseason finale of the ABC drama "Scandal" was pulled from on Monday. The episode, which aired last Thursday — the night before the shootings — featured the murder of a family of four.


Ellen DeGeneres dedicated her first show since the slaughter in Newtown to the victims of the tragedy.

"We're going to do the show today, but it's going to be a struggle because my heart is broken for all those families and for all the people in Newtown," she said in a taped message.

While she choked back tears, she added, "We're holding you in our hearts."


As the story of the Newtown shooting unfolded Friday and the death toll steadily rose, movie and television stars and personalities took to Twitter to press the case for more stringent gun control measures. Among those sounding off were "Bowling for Columbine" filmmaker Michael Moore, "Across the Universe star Evan Rachel Wood and "Parks and Recreation" actress Rashida Jones.

Actress Mia Farrow echoed the sentiments of many in Hollywood when she tweeted that "gun control is no longer debatable — it's not a 'conversation' — It's a moral mandate."


Fox pulled episodes of two Seth MacFarlane shows, "Family Guy" and "American Dad," last weekend, believing that their off-color humor would be ill-received given the climate. It has rescheduled the "Family Guy" episode entitled "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph" for this Sunday, but has not announced an air date for the "American Dad" installment, which Entertainment Weekly reports contains scenes of gun violence.


Both "Saturday Night Live" and "The Voice" offered musical tributes to the victims of the Newtown shootings.

On "The Voice," the season's contestants and coaches sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" while holding cards with the names and ages of the people killed in the school massacre.

On "Saturday Night Live," the show opened on a shot of single candle and a children's choir performing "Silent Night" in memory of the 20 children and seven adults murdered in the shooting spree.