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Sony's Amy Pascal Steps Down In Aftermath Of Cyber Attack

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

One of the longest-serving studio chiefs in Hollywood is stepping down. Amy Pascal of Sony Pictures Entertainment says she's giving up her post as co-chairman. Pascal started in Hollywood as a secretary for a BBC producer. She ended up running Sony Pictures as it amassed box office hits like the "Spiderman" franchise and the recent "James Bond" films. But her departure was widely expected in the aftermath of the Internet hack that set off the debate over the film "The Interview." It included personal e-mails from Pascal that revealed racially-tinged jokes and insulted top stars. For more, I'm joined by Ben Fritz of The Wall Street Journal. Welcome back to the program.

BEN FRITZ: Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: So Amy Pascal actually released a statement today explaining that she was stepping down and what she's going to do next. Tell us what she had to say.

FRITZ: Yes. Amy Pascal said that she decided after, you know, more than a decade running Sony's motion picture business that she wants to become a producer, and she signed a new four-year producing deal with Sony, and that will let her make the kind of movies she wants to make. Of course this is, you know, often what somebody says when they're leaving one of the most powerful posts that you can in Hollywood, and certainly her departure comes at, you know, a tough time for the studio. It's been a very tough couple of years. They've been attacked by dissident investors for overspending. They've had to cut costs. And then most prominently, the past few months, you know, a lot of e-mails by Amy were leaked following this devastating cyber attack on the company. And there was the whole mess involving the release of "The Interview." So it's been a very tough time for her.

CORNISH: But the statement didn't mention that cyber hack. Does anyone believe that there's no connection here - the reason she's stepping down?

FRITZ: No. Nobody believes that. And I've spoken to people who know Amy and have talked to her about this decision, and certainly I think this cyber attack was a bit of a last straw. I think it's just not been as fun a job the past couple of years. You know, the movie business is a very pressured business these days, and she's really had to cut costs. And she's also had to focus on making these sort of big event movies, you know, like "Spiderman," or - the equivalent at other studios are the "Transformers" or "The Avengers." And those are not the kind of movies that are right up Amy Pascal's alley. She's more of a sort of a mid-budget drama and comedy person, and those are the kind of movies you probably would expect her to make as a producer, and she won't have to worry about making superheroes that appeal to moviegoers in China and Russia anymore.

CORNISH: Talk a little bit more about that - about kind of her legacy as a studio head. I mean what were some of her accomplishments?

FRITZ: Sure. Well, Amy Pascal is sort of the last of dying breed - the sort of studio chief that goes back to, like, Louis B. Mayer, someone who rose in the ranks of film production. As you mentioned, she started as a secretary. She's always been making movies. The kind of studio chiefs these days who you see running companies like Universal and Fox and Disney - they're more often MBAs. You can imagine them running any type of company, and they happen to be running a film studio. Amy Pascal is the type of studio chief you couldn't imagine doing anything else besides making movies. And she makes her decisions, in large part, based on her gut and her taste and her ability to get along with creative talent. And creative talent in Hollywood has always loved her.

And I think, you know, her legacy will be, you know, somebody who made sort of great mid-budget movies that succeeded like "Captain Phillips" and "American Hustle" and "Moneyball," and she released "Zero Dark Thirty." You know, these were movies that were nominated for or won Oscars and also made money. And those are tough kinds of movies to make these days. So on that front, she definitely succeeded. In the front of, you know, keeping track with a global taste of audiences who like these sort of big budget movies, that's where her legacy is not as good.

CORNISH: That's Ben Fritz of The Wall Street Journal. Ben, thanks so much for talking with us.

FRITZ: Of course. Thank you for having me, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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