Jay Thomas appeared to shock a CNN host—and many viewers—with harsh comments about Seth Rogen and James Franco on Wednesday.
Thomas was discussing the threatened cyber-attack against film studio Sony Pictures by hackers who had denounced their movie The Interview and released a threat against potential moviegoers.
The actor, comedian and radio host's publicist later told E! News exclusively that Thomas "meant no ill" to either star.
Meanwhile, Sony Pictures announced on Wednesday it would not release the film to theaters on Christmas Day as scheduled, following the postponement of screenings at five major theater chains, who cited security concerns. In the comedy film, the actors' characters are tasked with assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"If I did the movie and I said that I wanted all of this creative integrity, how could I not have thought the guy, the crazy person that we're doing the movie about, wouldn't launch missiles?" Thomas told CNN host Brooke Baldwin, before Sony Pictures announced its decision, adding, "If they do strike Seth Rogen and James Franco, what a great end to their careers."
He also said that if it were up to him, he "probably would pull" the movie.
Rogen and Franco, whose press interviews for the film were also canceled this week, and Sony Pictures have not commented.
Thomas appeared to render Baldwin speechless for a second. He also sparked emotional reactions online, as well as mockery.
Thomas' publicist, Tom Estey, said in an exclusive statement to E! News, "That was a poor choice of words and Jay certainly meant no ill to either one of them but was emphasizing that their right to 'creative independence' has caused a fire storm that he felt they should have seen coming by stirring the hornets' nest of a dangerous dictator with weapons of mass destruction."
Thomas is a 66-year-old, Emmy award-winning actor known for roles on Murphy Brown and Ray Donovan and movies such as Mr. Holland's Opus and The Santa Clause sequels, as well as for his work as a comedian and terrestrial radio-turned-Sirius XM show host. He is also known for his near-annual Christmas-time guest spot on The Late Show With David Letterman, the last of which will air this Friday, as Letterman is retiring next year.
The hacking of Sony Pictures took place in November. Over the past month, several upcoming films and private information, including emails penned by and about actors and other famous Hollywood figures, have leaked online. The identities of the hackers have not been confirmed.
Many suspect North Korea, a totalitarian state, was involved in the cyber-attack and on Wednesday, NBC News quoted a U.S. officials as saying, "We have found linkage to the North Korean government."
North Korea has not responded. In July, UN ambassador Ja Song Nam had said in a letter to U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, "To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war." He called on U.S. authorities to ban production and distribution of the movie.
Thomas' interview aired on Wednesday morning, just after a couple of movie chains postponed their screenings and a day after the hackers said in an online threat, regarding the Christmas Day release of the film, "Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time."
"He is the craziest you can get and maybe the movie is hysterical, but what's funny about Hollywood is that everybody is...such as chicken in Hollywood," Thomas said on CNN. "Look at 'em running! Look at 'em running! So they're ally tough and they're, you know, creative, you know, integrity and all that and that becomes immediate crap when someone scares them. So they all run away. They'll all be fine."
—Reporting by Holly Passalaqua