The first creative casualty resulting from the Sony hack (The Interview notwithstanding) is a project that’s not even being produced by Sony; it’s the New Regency film adaptation of Guy Delisle’s graphic novel Pyongyang (reviewed in 2010 on Cartoon Brew). The project was cancelled earlier this week after Fox, which is part-owner in New Regency, pulled out of its commitment to distribute the film.

Guy Delisle.
Guy Delisle.

Director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean, Rango) was set to begin filming the movie next March, and Steve Carrell had been cast as the lead. Doubly disappointing, the film was based on Delisle’s real-life experience as an animation supervisor sent to North Korea to work on the Corto Maltese animated series. The idea had been rewritten for the screen as a “paranoid thriller.”

While Steve Carrell has already vented his frustration on Twitter (“Sad day for creative expression. #feareatsthesoul”) and Gore Verbinski has commented to Deadline (“I find it ironic that fear is eliminating the possibility to tell stories that depict our ability to overcome fear.”), we had yet to hear from the French-Canadian Delisle who created the project.

That changed yesterday when Delisle posted a statement in French on his website. Tonight, he posted the English version of that piece, entitled “Farewell Hollywood.” Below is Delisle’s statement reprinted in full:

This morning I learned that the movie adaptation of my graphic novel Pyongyang was cancelled. I didn’t have many contacts with the production team and for two years, since the rights have been sold, I have been informed of the developments by the internet. I guess it’s the Hollywood way. I knew that somewhere in California the script was being written and until a leading actor was picked I didn’t know if it was going to be an animated feature or a movie. When I sold the rights to a big American production firm I knew and was frankly happy with the fact that no one was going to ask for my advice on how to do a screen adaptation.

It’s only in December that things started to get more concrete. It was announced that Steve Carell would be the lead character in the movie. The filming was scheduled to start in March in Serbia and I got a phone call from Gore Verbinski. He shared with me how he envisioned the movie, I was excited and I feel very disappointed to learn today that the whole thing is cancelled (I can’t imagine what the producer feels like after working on this for two years). What saddens me the most are the reasons that lead to this. One would have imagined that a huge corporation would not bend so easily under the threats of a group of hackers from North Korea. Apparently they hit a sensitive nerve.

In 2001, a few months after my return from North Korea, I was sending the first pages of my book to the animation studio directors who had sent me there. I thought that they would be amused to read how life was in Pyongyang, where their TV series was produced. The reaction was cold, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to talk about my stay over there and that my contract had a confidentiality clause that prevented me from publishing a book on the subject.

I consulted with my editor at the time, L’Association, where I had published my first albums. Jean-Christophe Menu the director of this small publishing house really liked the idea and the first pages of the book. We looked for the confidentiality clause and couldn’t find it. Finally he told me: too bad if we end up in court, it’s a book we have to do.

Guy Delisle, December 19, 2014

Even though there won’t be a live-action film anymore, Delisle’s graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea can be purchased for $9.31 on Amazon.

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