The realities of hacking, cyber-warfare, and intimidation in 2017 are manifesting themselves in the movie industry, as film studios are reluctant to include even passing references to Vladimir Putin in upcoming movies.
Two upcoming films, one a fictional story based off a novel about a Russian double agent in a romantic relationship with a CIA officer called Red Sparrow, the other based off the actual events of the Kursk submarine tragedy in 2000, have had all mentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin removed, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The studios reportedly removed references to the Russian strongman out of fear of reprisal from Russian hackers. Hollywood is now fair game in geopolitics, after the infamous Sony Pictures hack in 2014 after their release of a comedy film critical of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that hack was orchestrated by the North Korean government.
The Sony Pictures Hack compromised the personal information for Sony employees, and included the distribution of unreleased films in an attempt to financially harm Sony. It also included threats to conduct a September 11th-style attack on the premier of The Interview in the United States, causing Sony to cancel the premier. Many saw the hack and Sony’s reaction as an assault on free speech, and critiqued Sony for self-censorship in the face of intimidation.