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.

With a new Red Scare dominating the headlines and 24-hour news cycle in the U.S., the movie industry has responded accordingly, with a slew of films focusing on plots with Russian characters. Like the 80’s, when movies like Red Dawn and Rocky IV reflected the fears and anxieties of Americans over the Cold War. For example, Wonder Woman will be back to do battle with the Soviets after time traveling back to the Cold War. But none yet are brave enough to feature an actual Russian villain like the real-life one we already have.

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the Kremlin has any knowledge of Putin’s removal from the upcoming movies. “We do not know anything about these movies, we do not know who is shooting them and what they are all about,” he told the Russian news agency TASS.

Image courtesy of