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DN Editorial: Sony execs have no Hart

Hacked emails show how stuck-up Hollywood bigwigs are

THE FUN WE'RE all having reading the embarrassing emails of Hollywood big shots is tempered by the fact that we really shouldn't be seeing them at all.

The hacked Sony emails arise (very probably) from an attack by a foreign government. It's (very probably) a form a terrorism, it's illegal and death threats have been made, and that's unacceptable.

Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said as much recently when he labeled as "morally treasonous" and "spectacularly dishonorable" anyone who publishes the emails.

Sorkin also contended there is nothing truly newsworthy in the emails. Of that, we're not so sure.

And neither is Philadelphia native Kevin Hart.

Hart has blasted as "ignorant" the Sony executives caught mocking him in hacked emails. He was angry, and no wonder - he'd been called a "whore" by a studio that has profited handsomely from his work.

Hart has headlined three Sony movies - "Think Like a Man," its sequel and "About Last Night." They've cost, in aggregate, less than $50 million to make, and grossed $200 million. Two of them opened at No. 1, "About Last Night" at No. 2.

Yet when Sony studios chief Amy Pascal and producing big shot Scott Rudin were reportedly making private email jokes about movies President Obama might like, Rudin wrote that Obama "probably likes Kevin Hart." Get the drift?

Hart doesn't belong in their gated movie community, where they make the important deals and the prestige titles that win awards. All he does is make money for Sony, and pay the bills.

Maybe the uptown attitudes of boardroom swells like Rudin and Pascal are not surprising. What is surprising is how apparently obtuse they are about their own business, about the actual metrics behind Hart's success.

He's been grinding as a stand-up for years, carefully expanding his footprint in movies, shrewdly building what he candidly and accurately calls his "brand" - leveraging social media (he was one of the first, and is one of the best) to build a following that includes multiple racial/generational/national constituencies. That's why he sells out concert dates in Europe, drawing diverse crowds. It's why his movies open big, why he's one of the few stars who can draw the elusive under-30 male demo that's left movies for video games.

Hart understands that social media is how stars build brands that can create career options, and he works tirelessly across several online platforms to keep in touch with his growing audience.

Hart gets it: That's his livelihood. So you understand why, when Sony asked him to do noncontractual online promotional work on "Think Like a Man Too," he asked to be paid.

This caused another Sony exec (in another pilfered email) to say, "I'm not saying he's a whore, but he's a whore."

This is all too typical of the way corporate elites of all stripes treat the help these days, and Mr. Sorkin should take note of it.

He's pitching a biopic about Steve Jobs, whose own emails (produced by lawyers, not hackers) indicate Jobs colluded with other big tech honchos not to "poach" each other's top engineering talent.

When you prevent an employee from getting a better, higher paying job at a competitor, you're stealing money from that employee.

Talk about spectacularly dishonorable.