Sony Pictures hackers make threat over “The Interview,” reference 9/11

The hack of Sony Pictures has produced a torrent of embarrassment for the Hollywood giant, through executive emails and personal information and early scripts for much-anticipated movies.

The hackers, calling themselves the Guardians of Peace, warned Tuesday that the worst is yet to come.

In a statement, they said: “We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places ‘The Interview’ be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.”

Their statement said the move was “awful” and promised “the world will be full of fear.”

After referencing the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the group said people should stay away from “The Interview,” which is scheduled to premier Christmas Day.

In a statement, the FBI said it is “aware of recent threats and continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate the Sony attack.”

The Department of Homeland Security said there is no credible intelligence that any active plot exists, but that along with the FBI, it is still analyzing hack and the “credibility” of the threats. Private security firms are also involved in the technical investigation.

“The Interview” is a comedy in which Seth Rogen and James Franco star as television journalists involved in a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Its New York premiere is scheduled for Thursday at Manhattan’s Landmark Sunshine. It premiered in Los Angeles last week.

The hackers said: “All the world will denounce the SONY.”

Patrick Corcoran, spokeman for the National Association of Theater Owners, wouldn’t comment on the threats.

Highly sensitive material from the entertainment unit of Tokyo-based Sony Corp. has been leaked almost daily since the hackers broke into its computer networks last month.

One the same day of the latest threat from the hackers, news emerged that two former employees of Sony Pictures Entertainment are suing the company for not preventing the cyberattack.

They say the company should have done more to stop the hackers from stealing nearly 50,000 social security numbers, salary details and other personal information from current and former workers.

The federal suit alleges that emails and other information leaked by the hackers show that Sony’s information-technology department and its top lawyer believed its security system was vulnerable to attack, but that company did not act on those warnings. The plaintiffs are asking for compensation for fixing credit reports, monitoring bank account and other costs as well as damages.

The suit filed Tuesday in U.S. district court in California seeks class-action status.

Sources tell CBS News the cyberattack on Sony Pictures used an especially aggressive malware capable of erasing hard drives and crashing computer networks.

The personal information of more than 6,000 Sony employees, and four unreleased Sony films were posted to the Internet.

Now investigators are wondering if the attack might be retaliation for “The Interview,” because of the plot focused around assassinating Kim Jong-un.

Investigators wonder if the plot of that movie may have triggered retaliation against Sony. Sources say the malware code is written in Korean, and North Korean hackers have used a similar cyber weapon before in a 2013 attack on banks and broadcasters in South Korea.

North Korea has denied it was behind the hack, but did praise the cyberattack as a “righteous deed.”

In a statement, Pyongyang criticized the film for “abetting a terrorist act while hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership.”

‘The camera literally steamed up’ – how I made the video for Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean

Producer and director Steve Barron tells the inside story of one of the most influential music videos of all time

Steve Barron is responsible for some of the most iconic music videos ever made. The roll call of artists he worked with in the Eighties is impressive: A-ha; David Bowie; Fleetwood Mac; The Human League; Madonna. Top of that list, however, sits Michael Jackson. Here, Barron tells the inside story of how the video for Jackson’s 1982 hit, Billie Jean, was made.


‘By this stage [1982], I had done 15-20 music videos, including the one that was number one in the UK at the time: The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me. Michael Jackson’s name wasn’t on everyone’s lips. Remember that this is a few months before Thriller came out. There was, of course, a magic in Michael Jackson ringing you up, but in a way I was more excited about Human League. My wife was really pregnant with my first child at the time and my initial reaction was, ‘Oh, I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that.’ It wasn’t a case of, ‘we’ve got to do that.’ It was my wife who persuaded me.’


‘Michael Jackson’s manager said that Michael wanted the video to be magical, that he’d [Michael] seen Don’t You Want Me, and he liked the cinematic look and that whole vibe. Michael wanted this to be a piece of a film, as opposed to a music video with a story.’


‘$50,000. It was double the budget that I’d ever been asked to work with before. To put that in perspective, though, when Beat It was shot five weeks later, the budget was $300,000. And when they shot Thriller, it was $2 million. So, in the space of three months, the Billie Jean budget had become minute.’


‘I’d come up with the idea [for Billie Jean] based on an idea that I’d had for a previous video for Joan Armatrading: the Midas Touch thing. So the plan was that everywhere Michael went, everything would glow and turn to gold in the light. I wrote the concept down in a fax and we faxed Michael this page and a half of content and they said, ‘Michael really likes it, he really wants it to feel like a Peter Pan thing’. So, it was a case of, ‘yes, you’re on, come and do it, we like the concept.”


‘We used 16mm film. The reason we didn’t use 35mm – I’d just shot Don’t You Want Me on 35mm – is that there wasn’t enough in the budget.’


‘He was sweet, super quiet, super soft, and really inquisitive about the plans for the video and then later, he wanted to know more about me.’


‘I’d got a really good friend of mine to do the storyboards, and I sat down with Michael and showed him the frames and there were two blank frames in the chorus because the manager had said that he might be doing some dancing. He explained that Michael had been practising in front of the mirror.

I talked Michael through the idea of this private eye following him, which was loosely based on what he had told me was the basic concept for the song – something he’d read in a newspaper about a private detective.’

Steve Barron on the set of Billie Jean with the private detective


‘So, we ran through it with him, scene by scene. And when it came to the scene with the camera store, with the cameras all firing off, triggering his energy, triggering the Midas Touch again, Michael said he had this idea. ‘What about if one of the other stores in the street is a tailor shop with some mannequins in the window. When I go past it, before or after the camera store, how about the mannequins come to life, and they jump out behind me and they dance with me?’ I absolutely loved it, I thought it was an amazing concept, it enhanced everything. It was right on concept, right on story and just a genius idea.

After that meeting I got onto my producer and said, ‘Michael has come up with a great idea. We need to change that store, the third one along or whatever, we need to get some mannequins in, get some dancers in, do rehearsals. We need to get a choreographer, a costume designer, and I need a couple of hours more to shoot this in a certain way, because this will be after the first dance.’

My producer worked out that this would cost $5,000 dollars more and CBS [Michael Jackson’s record label] said no. They said, ‘No, we’re not paying you a penny more, we’ve told you, you’ve got $50,000 dollars and that’s it.”

Steve Barron talks to Michael Jackson on the set of Billie Jean


‘I presumed someone would tell Michael that we couldn’t afford his idea. I suppose half of me was hoping that he’d say, ‘I’ll pay for it’, but he didn’t. I got a phonecall on the Friday night – I was asleep, so it was one of those ‘where am I’ moments – and it was Michael on the phone, which was odd because he didn’t strike me as someone who’d make his own phone calls. And he was like, ‘Hey Steve, I’ve been thinking that we shouldn’t do the dancing in the video tomorrow’. I thought, ‘I won’t blow it. He’s cancelled, so what’s the point in telling him about the budget when he’s realised that he doesn’t want to do it anyway?’

I understand why he didn’t do it, creatively, because I think at that point, he was thinking about Beat It and he was thinking about Thriller. To not do that good idea was disappointing, it’s like the missing scene that I’d have loved to have actually shot. I think it would have made the video better.’


‘I was comfortable around set, it was just another shoot really until he started dancing.’


‘I’d been told the day before that the paving stones wouldn’t all light up, that Michael couldn’t go wherever he wanted to go. There were 11 that lit up and they were all in a hop skotch pattern that they’d had to randomly decide over night. I had to say, ‘Michael I’m sorry, but there’s this stone that lights up, and then these two do, and then these two, and then that one does.’

Having not seen any rehearsal or anything, I was guessing at what he was going to do. I think he had been practising some moves, but how we was going to string them together was going to be a mystery. He looked at it all very carefully and looked at what I’d talked him through and then I said, ‘Michael, shall we just do a few rehearsals,’ and he said, ‘can we just shoot it?’

As the chorus approached, he started moving his leg a little bit more and then the chorus hit and he sprung into this dance that was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was just extraordinary, instinctive. He pulled it all together and turned it into what we saw. I heated up, I definitely heated up off the energy that he was giving off. The camera literally steamed up, the eyepiece steamed up, because of my heat from what I was seeing. He almost disappeared into a mist through the lens, which made it even more like a totally surreal moment.’

Michael Jackson on the set of Billie Jean


‘I met Michael in Covent Garden, just by Longacre, and it was a post-production facility. I remember we were up most of the night doing it because it was a really quick turnaround, as usual. He happened to be in London so it was perfect timing. I remember him lying on the settee at the back, and at one point he looked at one of the screens and said, ‘I like that shot’, and in fact [he was looking at] a split screen. He thought the three splits were there for him to choose one… I didn’t say anything.’


‘All I remember was that, about two weeks later, I heard that MTV weren’t going to play Bille Jean. They said it’s not their audience. And then I heard, and I’ve heard many stories, that CBS phoned MTV absolutely furious: ‘How can this massive hit pop record, with a massive video, and a great artist not be your audience. Who is your audience?’

They said they represented middle America. I don’t think white or black was ever used. MTV were in their early stage. They didn’t know who they were, didn’t know what they’d become, and they certainly didn’t know that Michael Jackson was going to become MTV. They were fighting against the thing that built them into the empire they became.’

Steve Barron’s memoir Egg n Chips & Billie Jean: a Trip Through the Eighties is out now



On This Day In 1983, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ Premiered On MTV

Thirty-one years ago today (Dec. 2), MTV aired the full 13-minute version of Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” music video for the first time.

In 1984 the single peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 3 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Following Jackson’s death in 2009, the song returned to Billboard’s tallies, climbing to No. 2 on Hot Digital Songs. The same year, the video was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress — the first music video to ever receive this honor — for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.

“Thriller” is also the is the most-downloaded Halloween-themed hit of all-time, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan.

Today, on the anniversary of its premiere, we revisit the clip regarded as the most influential pop music video of all time.

The John Landis-directed video opens with a disclaimer stating that by creating the music video, Jackson in no way endorsed supernatural practices — which includes the belief that humans could ever transform into werewolves. Glad we got that out of the way! Fifteen seconds in, the tone is set with a spooky title card and the sound of wind rustling and heavy breathing in the background.

Our story begins in the ’50s. Everything is going swell for Jackson and his girl (the ring makes it official), but their happiness is cut short with the appearance of a full moon, when we learn Jackson is “not like other guys” — and we believe him when one heck of a transformation takes place. “Go away!!!”

But then, wait — it was all just a scary movie. Jackson is amused but his girlfriend is disturbed enough to walk out. “It’s only a movie,” says Jackson. 
“It’s not funny,” says girlfriend.

Note: Jackson is not at fault here, since clearly the movie wasn’t billed as a comedy.

At 4:13 in, “Thriller” (the song) begins with a shot of Thriller (the movie) starring Vincent Price on the billing of the theater.

This is where Jackson decides his girlfriend isn’t spooked enough and proceeds to fill her head with a real ghost story. “It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark…”

Fittingly, the couple walks past a graveyard, where things begin to liven up.

“The foulest stench is in the air. The funk of 40,000 years. And grisly ghouls from every tomb, are closing in to seal your doom…”

Next they come face to face with these grisly ghouls and are surrounded by the walking dead. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? To his girlfriend’s horror, Jackson becomes a zombie, too.

And then ladies and gentleman, we have reached the climax of the video — the Thriller dance! At this point, I wish I didn’t immediately think of Jennifer Garner in 13 Going On 30.

As quickly as his second transformation began, Jackson returns back to his natural state, but at this point, he’s already proven his talent can shine through any amount of make-up (even the full-blown zombie kind).

As Jackson’s girlfriend flees the scene, she runs into an abandoned house and attempts to board herself up as walkers break through windows and rise up through the floor. Basically, your worst nightmare is coming true. And as the zombies reach out to eat you…

“What’s the problem?” says Jackson.

Thank goodness, it was all a dream. Or was it? Cue Vincent Price’s evil laugh.



Jermaine Jackson speech in Berlin

Tom Sneddon Dead — Michael Jackson Prosecutor Dies at 73

Tom Sneddon — the prosecutor who tried twice to nail Michael Jackson on child molestation charges — has died.

Sneddon — who served as D.A. of Santa Barbara County for more than a quarter century — famously lost the case against Jackson in 2005, in which Jackson was accused of plying his alleged victim with wine, sexually assaulting him at Neverland and holding his family hostage.

But Sneddon went after Jackson more than a decade before, trying to prosecute the singer for allegedly molesting a boy at Neverland.  Jackson made the boy’s civil case go away at a cost of $20 million and the boy and his family refused to cooperate with Sneddon, so the case went away.

Sneddon, who had 9 kids, fiercely believed Jackson was a child molester.  For Jackson’s part, in one of his tracks you hear him say, “Tom Sneddon is a cold man.”

He died of cancer.

Thomas Sneddon died on November 1, 2014 from complications of cancer, aged 73, at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Santa Barbara, California, U.S