The Sony Emails: Hollywood Preserved in Amber

In the future, the flesh and blood people revealed in the emails will recede into archetypes of Tom Wolfe proportions

Last Updated: May 1, 2015 @ 9:06 AM

In time, the treasure trove of Sony emails will cease to be a daily pipeline for gossip and schadenfreude and will harden, slowly, into a timeless artifact of Hollywood culture in the 21st century.

With distance, we will have an unprecedented 360-degree view into Hollywood’s cliqueish byways, its entitlement, pettiness, self-satisfaction and sweat-soaked fear. For those of us who know all too well the people involved, it’s literally too much information. Please don’t send me emails about someone’s marriage — I absolutely don’t want to know.

And it’s still not over: on Friday morning WikiLeaks released thousands more emails.

But in the future, the flesh and blood people revealed in the emails will recede into archetypes of Tom Wolfe proportions: the self-obsessed, manic mogul, the quietly calculating studio boss, the professional sycophant.

angelina and amy pascal

The torrent of revelations has now become a trickle, but it continues nonetheless, and is no less damaging for that. The big reveal started with the document dump that laid bare the salaries of the top 20 executives making $1 million or more, and went on to expose how much less leading women were being paid at Sony over the men. We knew most of this, more or less — but here it was, in black and white, stamped on a spread sheet. (On the salary list, those who were absent — Andrew Gumpert, Hannah Minghella — were every bit as conspicuous as those who were included.)

It didn’t improve from there. The download of Amy Pascal‘s emails became a series of embarrassments -her too-chummy sharing with producer Scott Rudin, and their casual trashing of movie stars like Angelina Jolie and racially insensitive remarks about President Obama. The irony of firing her corporate communications chief over a petty matter involving a roundtable just days before the hack occurred. Now we knew.

And yet between those embarrassments Pascal emerges as an incredibly hard-working executive, scrambling to keep projects together, juggling budget and schedule while attempting to mollify difficult directors (calling David Fincher) and give moral support to others (Cameron Crowe).

Then, just when you thought it had all subsided, Julian Assange decided to throw open the gates of knowledge, tabulated, tagged and archived. The WikiLeaks archive landed and continues to spew forth smokey plumes of cynicism.

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lyntonwith former SPE President Amy Pascal; WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Kevin Winter/Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Getty Images

The revelations trundle forward. Never mind my own self, dismissed lightly as “crazy” by a Sony executive in one email, or competitor-colleagues like Janice Min and Matt Belloni who are deemed “moveable” by the same person. Never mind the unctuous exchanges of New York Times’ Brooks Barnes loving up Pascal (“All I saw today was an executive working her guts out, trying to be in two places at once, making the correct decision to keep her eye on the prize”) and then the other way around, Pascal gushing her “loving” Mike Fleming of Deadline.

The damage has gone far and wide. How did Dr. Mehmet Oz become a victim of North Korea? Leaked emails reflect business opportunities that he explored, along with worries that he was being accused and investigated over health claims he made on his show, produced by Sony.

How did Ben Affleck have to apologize, and PBS launch an internal investigation, over deleting the fact that Affleck’s ancestral past includes slaveowners? The Sony emails.

PBS

PBS

I keep veering between pity and disgust, and I don’t think I’m the only one. The latest Gawker story about Michael Lynton’s pulling of strings to help his daughter get into Brown would be of no business relevance except that it was Tom Rothman who made nice with the university president on Lynton’s behalf. And it was Rothman who was promoted to studio chief by Lynton just a few months later. That’s the stuff you never really put together.

Information is all. Knowledge is everything. The Sony hack allows us to know more than we ever wanted to know, and ever thought possible. It has left a battlefield strewn with bodies, but once the flesh wounds have healed over and scar tissue formed, it is a museum piece for the ages.