You’ve really made it in Hollywood if a caricature drawing of you lands on the wall of the iconic restaurant in town, The Palm. And when The Palm opened its new location in Beverly Hills last month, Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal was picked for a drawing showing her striking a “Charlie’s Angel” guns-ready pose.
Pascal was an obvious choice. She is among a handful of power players in a male-dominated industry who decide which big films get released to the world. Her studio’s movies — including
“Spider-Man” and “Casino Royale” — have won numerous awards and brought in billions of dollars in box office sales over the years.
In the latest batch of leaked notes, Pascal and movie producer Scott Rudin discuss a fundraiser for President Obama, Buzzfeed reported late Wednesday.
The two start guessing what movies and actors Obama might like, each one tied to black characters and moviemakers.
“Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” says Pascal, according to the reported e-mails. Rudin writes back: “12 YEARS.” Pascal responds: “Or the butler. Or think like a man?” Rudin: “Ride-along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.”
Thursday, Pascal apologized, breaking weeks of silence on the building and damaging leaks.
“The content of my e-mails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am,” Pascal said in a statement, referring to her exchanges with Rudin not only about Obama, but also about various movie projects. “Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.”
It was a late response to an ongoing disaster that has been picking up steam since a hacker group that calls itself “Guardians of Peace” released data illustrating every conceivable aspect of Sony and its business, from sensitive salary information to personal feuds.
The episode casts doubt on the future of one of corporate America’s most powerful women, whose decades-long relationships with Hollywood insiders have helped Sony Pictures secure some of its biggest film deals.
Pascal’s rise is the stuff of movies. After graduating from UCLA, she entered the entertainment industry as a secretary to BBC producer Tony Garnett at Kestral Film. As she forged relationships and learned the trade, she became an insider and was named vice president of production at 20th Century Fox in 1986. Pascal’s strength was the creative side — dealing with moviemakers and actors to find and develop films.
After she joined Columbia Pictures in 1988, she oversaw such hits as “Groundhog Day,” “Little Women” and “Awakenings.”
In 2006, after a string of critically acclaimed and financial successful movies, she was named co-chair of Sony Pictures. In an unusual arrangement, she shared leadership with Michael Lynton. Their division of labor was clear: Pascal oversaw the creative side, Lynton the business side.
When Culver City, Calif.-based Sony Pictures renewed her contract in 2010, Sir Howard Stringer, chairman of parent company Sony Corp., said, “There is no doubt Amy is making Culver City the center of creativity, and a home away from home for Hollywood’s finest.”
Pascal continued to release hits, including “The Social Network” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Last year, the studio’s biggest hits were “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Evil Dead” and “Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs 2.”
Bruce Bozzi Jr., executive vice president of The Palm restaurant chain, said, “It was an honor to put Amy Pascal on the wall. She is a trailblazer.”
This year, though, Sony Pictures has lagged, ranking fourth behind 20th Century Fox, Disney’s Buena Vista and Warner Bros. for total box office sales.
Leaked e-mails showed Pascal and Rudin agonizing over the making of a Steve Jobs biopic. Sony eventually lost the contract to develop the film to Universal.
In other e-mails that have been publicized, Rudin disparaged actress Angelina Jolie, calling her a “minimally talented spoiled brat.”
Aside from Pascal’s short statement, the company has remained silent as new leaks of sensitive information have emerged.
Public relations experts say Pascal needs to step forward as the crisis unfolds.
“I would go on a national interview after the statement and apologize to the public and make herself available to explain herself,” said Jarvis Stewart, chairman of crisis communications firm IR+ Media, a Washington-based consulting firm that specializes in diversity.
There is also pressure for Sony to ensure investors, employees and others in the industry that it is taking every possible step to control the growing damage.
“Sony needs to convince talent that they can and should be trusted with content at all,” said Janet Janjigian, a managing partner at the Carmen Group and former senior vice president of communications at MGM Studios.