Amy Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a longtime staple of "Most Powerful Women in Hollywood" lists, is stepping down from her role months after an enormous hack of the studio's computer systems exposed her embarrassing e-mails and revealed the company's inner workings.
Pascal will "will launch a major new production venture," according to a Sony Pictures announcement. The announcement did not give details of the new venture, and framed Pascal's move as a voluntary one. ("I have always wanted to be a producer," she said.) But the move is clearly a link in a chain of events that began last December, when Fusion reported that the salaries of Pascal and other Sony Pictures executives had been leaked to the public. Subsequent reports showed that Pascal's e-mails had been leaked, too, and found that she had traded racially-sensitive e-mails with Hollywood mega-producer Scott Rudin, about which movies President Obama might prefer. Pascal eventually apologized for the remarks.
Since then, the headaches just keep coming. As a story in the new Vanity Fair makes clear, there was the hassle of getting the studio back online, an effort that required digging BlackBerrys out of storage. There was the Christmastime flap about The Interview, a Seth Rogen-James Franco buddy comedy that escalated into a foreign affairs crisis. There was the backlash from actresses like Charlize Theron, who demanded a $10 million raise after the hack exposed the pay differential between her and her male co-star.
Throughout all of this, Pascal apparently lost some of her political clout within the movie industry. Vanity Fair writes:
The hackers had, with the release of the Obama-related e-mails, isolated Amy Pascal from some who might have otherwise supported her. She received calls, flowers, and letters of support from too many people to name. But these were private defenders, and no one seemed eager to step up publicly. “Sony publicity asked a producer, who is high-profile and can be outspoken, to speak in support of Amy,” recalls a Hollywood agent. “The producer took a pass. Because there were still thousands of e-mails to be released, this producer didn’t want to take a stand when two days later another damaging e-mail could be released.”
Pascal's departure means that Sony Pictures is under the sole leadership of Michael Lynton, whose (decidedly tamer) e-mails were also leaked by the hackers. (And, unless something about the studio's org chart has changed in the last few months, it also means that the studio's top leadership is now entirely male.)
Lynton will have to guide the studio through its post-hack recovery, repairing damaged relationships and stockpiling goodwill wherever he can. Sony Pictures has said that the costs of investigating and repairing the hack were a relatively paltry $15 million. But, as Pascal can attest to, the psychic cost of having your secrets spilled is much, much greater, and far harder to recoup.