LOS ANGELES — James Franco won’t be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
Franco’s latest movie — a comedy about two talk show hosts who are asked to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — has earned the distinction of a frothing rant from the regime in Pyongyang.
“The enemies have gone beyond the tolerance limit in their despicable moves to dare hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told the country’s state-run news agency Wednesday.
The film, titled “The Interview,” stars Franco and Seth Rogen as two lightweight talk show hosts recruited by the CIA to take out Kim. It’s not due in theaters until October, but the trailer is already drawing worldwide attention, including in the corridors of power in Pyongyang.
The distribution of the movie is “the most undisguised terrorism and a war action to deprive the service personnel and people of the DPRK of their mental mainstay and bring down its social system,” the North Korean spokesman raged, using an abbreviation of the authoritarian country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Comedians taking shots at North Korea’s dictatorial leadership is hardly new — it goes back at least a generation.
A decade ago, “Team America: World Police” used puppets to lampoon Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, memorably featuring him singing about his loneliness at the top of the despotic state.
Kim Jong Il also popped up as a waiter in NBC’s “Thirty Rock” — albeit one who claimed to be “the greatest waiter of all time.”
The situation in North Korea is no joke. A recent United Nations commission detailed a horrifying list of crimes it says the regime has committed against its own people, including the large-scale use of prison camps and torture.
The cold-blooded brutality of the system was displayed late last year when Kim Jong Un’s uncle was purged and executed.
Meanwhile, the isolated state continues to develop its nuclear weapons program, which it has used to threaten neighboring countries and the United States.
Will Kim watch?
But like his father, Kim Jong Un has also brought about bizarre moments in his two and a half years in power, such as his basketball-based friendship with Rodman.
Such peculiar behavior, along with the secrecy in which the regime cloaks itself, is hard for comedians to resist.
The Telegraph last week cited Kim Myong-chol, the executive director of the Centre for North Korea-U.S. Peace and a frequent visitor to Pyongyang, as suggesting that Kim would probably watch the new movie.
That prompted glee from Rogen, who also co-directed and wrote the film.
“Apparently Kim Jong Un plans on watching #TheInterview. I hope he likes it!!” he tweeted.
But the North Korean government showed little sign of favor toward the film on Wednesday, accusing the United States of “bribing a rogue movie maker” to produce it.
And it warned that Franco and Rogen’s comedy, which it said had touched off “the towering hatred and wrath of the service personnel and people of the DPRK,” would have consequences.
“Those who defamed our supreme leadership and committed the hostile acts against the DPRK can never escape the stern punishment to be meted out according to a law wherever they might be in the world,” the foreign ministry spokesman said.
“If the U.S. administration connives at and patronizes the screening of the film, it will invite a strong and merciless countermeasure.”