Hollywood Pros Fear A Chilling Effect After Sony Bows To Hackers Some in the entertainment industry are wondering if they'll have to be careful now about the stories they tell or the jokes they make in the wake of Sony's withdrawal of The Interview.

Hollywood Pros Fear A Chilling Effect After Sony Bows To Hackers

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Around Hollywood the action to withdraw "The Interview" drew immediate rebuke as celebrities took to Twitter. Judd Apatow, the director and producer, said I think it is disgraceful that these theaters are not showing "The Interview." Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now? The late night host Jimmy Kimmel agreed calling it, quote, "An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent." But as NPR's Nathan Rott reports, in writing rooms and comedy clubs in Los Angeles, the conversations are little more nuanced.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: All right. Let's ignore the fact that "The Interview" is said to be a dumb comedy made by two guys that typically make stoner movies. The conversations it's evoking are anything but.

ROB KUTNER: I'm Rob Kutner. I'm a writer for Conan.

STEPHANIE STRIEGEL: My name is Stephanie Striegel. I'm an independent producer.

ROTT: Kutner also wrote for the "Daily Show" and Dennis Miller. Striegel has worked for Spyglass and New Line Cinemas and been in the industry for two decades. Both have followed the Sony story for weeks.

KUTNER: I feel like there's been, like, a schizophrenic range of reactions because I feel, like, in the sort of public realm, like, social media, people are saying, like, this is an outrage and it's so stupid of Sony and it's so cowardly and...

STRIEGEL: No one censors us. We get to watch what we want, read what we want, produce what we want, you know, that whole First Amendment thing.

KUTNER: In private conversations, sort of in the calm of what would I do, there's a little bit more trepidation.

ROTT: A little more what if we did show the movie and something did actually happen - a bombing or a shooting.

STRIEGEL: Or no one comes - that could be the other thing.

ROTT: Because they're scared of something happening. All this to say it's a very complex situation and it's one that Striegel worries could have a far-reaching effect on Hollywood.

STRIEGEL: From a creative point of view, if you're a producer or you're an actor, you're a writer, you know, it feels like the margin's narrowed about what kind of movies Hollywood will be making.

ROTT: And it may not just affect Hollywood.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Flappers Comedy Club's Flappy Hour Audition Show.

(APPLAUSE)

ROTT: At Flapper's Comedy Club in beautiful downtown Burbank, comedians, like Greg Kashmanian, are taking cracks at Kim Jong-Un.

GREG KASHMANIAN: Part of me wants to believe that he's, like, a super big cinephile and was like oh, they're doing a movie about me - who's in it? James Franco - oh, he's good. He's good. Who's killing me, though? Seth Rogan - no, no, no. I saw "Neighbors" - zero sex appeal.

ROTT: But it's not all laughs. David Reinitz is the owner of Flappers and a comedian himself and he worries that these kind of jokes could provoke an attack on his business.

DAVID REINITZ: You know, we're a little, tiny company - mom-and-pop place - but we got a server. And, you know, we've got a website and we need that for our business. So there is a chill effect you feel threatened.

ROTT: And Reinitz says that's the scariest thing because, he says, the world needs comedy.

REINITZ: Comedy helps open minds and that's why they're scared of it. That's the real reason. We're insulted. No, you're worried that your people are going to see this movie and realize how hysterical and ridiculous your tinpot dictator is and maybe try to take some action to change that system.

ROTT: He just hopes that we don't have to change our system. After all, in the words of the incomparable Mel Brooks, humor is just another defense against the universe. Nathan Rott, NPR News.

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