How ‘Squid Game’ Turned Rage Into a Radical Hit—And Plans for Season 2

They told him no one will see. In 2009, director Hwang Dong-hyuk tried writing what would become Squid fishing game like a feature film. It was the period of the global financial crisis. Hwang himself is also indebted to his mother and grandmother. But for all his efforts, he couldn’t financially secure a movie about hundreds of desperate individuals competing to the death in a children’s game for the big cash prize. “People tell me it’s too unrealistic,” Hwang said. They said it was too absurd – and too violent – so he dropped his script. A decade on, Hwang has directed three popular films: The Crucible, Miss Granny, and Fortress. But he doesn’t forget squid fishing game, and in 2018 he found himself revisiting an old script. “It was a very strange experience,” he said, “because what seemed unrealistic at the time no longer felt unreal.”

At the time, inequality was growing worldwide, a former hate-propaganda reality host became president of the United States, and Hwang’s story about South Korean residents in debt tragically. fiercely vying for $38 million in an elaborate, ruthless game staged by hitherto unheard-of villains- fetched. Hwang gave the script to Netflix, which recently opened a division in Asia, and they agreed. It’s a wise bet. The series was expanded into a series, and within 10 days of its release, the Korean drama was the most watched TV series by Netflix in 90 countries. In countries as varied as the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia, people competed in large-scale, real-life versions of Squid fishing game—There is no part about fighting to the death. And the highly violent incest thriller wasn’t just a commercial success. Squid fishing game was the first film in a language other than English to receive a Screen Actors Guild Award, which also includes two of the central stars, Lee Jung-jae and Hoyeon.

I often joke that I turn to Korean shows and movies when I’m trying to feel less dead inside, except that it might not be a joke: Maybe I’m reviving myself. body with the strong drug that I requested . When I watch Korean works, I’m more likely to cry, scream, rejoice, mourn, and laugh. But even for a Korean drama, Squid fishing game was shot over with high emotion. I watched the nine-episode series over the course of 24 hours, pausing only for annoying tasks like working and sleeping. I forgot to eat. Sometimes I forget to even breathe.

GAMBLER Lee Jung-jae’s journey as Gi-hun begins with a disastrous trip to the racecourse.
Jacket and pants Alexander McQueen; ‘s shirt Gucci; start with Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello; called by David Yurman.

Emotional volatility has always been central to Hwang’s vision. The film begins with its protagonist, Gi-hun, heading to a horse racetrack to place some bets, and what follows is a series of ill-considered decisions and crises. hurt. (The spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the first part.) Hwang was intrigued by the idea of ​​gambling, because when people gamble, their facade disappears and they are left with only “very emotional emotions.” innocence, whether it’s despair, anger, or joy. “He knows the series is “at the extreme end of the spectrum” when it comes to raw emotions. That’s exactly what he wanted to discover.

Almost everyone is recruited for the bloody, terrifying arenas of Squid fishing game decided to compete for money because they were desperate. The three main characters, for example, are completely miserable: There is Gi-hun, an obsessive gambler and former auto worker who is heavily in debt and unable to pay for the care. emergency medical care his mother needed. There’s his childhood best friend, the ambitious Sang-woo, who stole a client’s money, invested it, then lost it and is now on the run from the law. And there’s Sae-byeok, a North Korean defector who needs money to reunite with his family.

Hoyeon, the model and actress who plays Sae-byeok, won the SAG Award for her first role. She told me that Hwang focuses on the tiniest nuances of her performance, even down to the level of individual syllables in dialogue. The director usually gives the cast modified scripts a day before shooting. He apologizes for the timing — and amount — of his changes, but Hoyeon says the actors are grateful to him: “It’s proof that the director really hasn’t stopped struggling with how to be good. best to portray these characters.” When asked for an example of a crucial last-minute change, Park Hae-soo, who plays the embezzled, treacherous Sang-woo, recalls the pivotal moment when his character was dying, he reached out to his old best friend, Gi-he. “That was not in the script,” Park said. “It was a late adjustment and I believe the director made that change because he wanted the character to show a glimpse of something inside of him.”

Lee, who plays the gambling addict Gi-hun, said the cast and crew trusted each other: “It’s a very special group of people to work with. And I say that as someone who has been in a lot of series before.” (Lee has been one of the most popular actors in Korea for 30 years, and his SAG Award is the latest in a long string of honors.) Hoyeon added, laughing. Lee has said that Gi-hun might be the hardest role he’s ever taken on. Personality is complex and ever-changing. He started off as a kind of “idiot,” as director Hwang said. Over time, he changes, but Lee says that an important and essential part of Gi-hun’s character is his anger at injustice. The actor thought deeply about how to portray it “repeatedly” with varying degrees of anger, as Gi-hun was provoked by many brutal acts. How ‘Squid Game’ Turned Rage Into a Radical Hit—And Plans for Season 2

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