James Franco and Seth Rogan
James Franco and Seth Rogan star in cancelled film The InterviewGetty

Sony Pictures' decision to pull controversial film, The Interview, in the wake of a month-long cyber-attack on the corporation has provoked a strong response from Hollywood actors and filmakers.

In a statement, Sony confirmed that it would not be moving forward with the planned 25 December theatrical release, which portrays a CIA assassination on North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un.

"We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatre-goers.

"We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public."

It added: "We stand by our film makers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

After news broke of the cancellation, a host of industry heavyweights including Ben Stiller, West Wing star Rob Lowe and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel have voiced their opinion on Sony's decision.

Lowe described the move as a "victory" for hackers, and accused Sony bosses of "caving in". Steve Carell, star of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, insisted that it was a "sad day for creative expression".

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin also claimed that "the US succumbed to an unprecedented attack on our most cherished, bedrock principle of free speech."

The surprise cancellation comes just hours after hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace threatened a 9/11 style attack at cinemas intending to show the $50m (£32m) North Korea-baiting comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

"Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time," the hacker group wrote in a message on Tuesday [16 December].

"Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment."