Nobody Wanted To Make ‘Squid Game’ Now It’s Making History

There was no interest in making “Squid Game” for a very long period. No one, that is, but Hwang Dong-hyuk, the creator, writer, and director.

So when Korean movie star Lee Jung-jae signed on to play the show’s grubby hero with compromised morals, the meticulously designed bare-knuckle commentary on the divide between the wealthy and the impoverished took off, becoming one of the most popular Netflix series yet. Lee Jung-jae is a handsome box office champion.

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Now it has been nominated for 14 Emmy Awards, including for Hwang’s writing and directing, Lee’s performance, and the drama series category. For the first time, a foreign-language series has been nominated in these categories and more.

“The Oscars are more international, whereas the Emmys are primarily American. ” Hwang says he’s grateful to Zoom for allowing non-English programming for the first time.

Nobody Wanted To Make ‘Squid Game’ Now It’s Making History
Nobody Wanted To Make ‘Squid Game’ Now It’s Making History

Aside from the Korean language, the program had a lot of visual components that caught the attention of a worldwide audience that doesn’t know Korean. He also points out that this film’s subject matter—the disparity in wealth that exists between those who have and those who don’t—is “extremely universal.”

“JJ” (Lee) and other nominated actors, including Park Hae-soo and HoYeon Jung, were instantly contacted by the auteur, who was on an island with the producers, composing Season 2, when the Emmy announcement broke. Next, he sits down with Lee for an interview with The Envelope.

With a similar grin to Hwang’s, Lee says, “I saw it live and was very happy to share this happiness with the cast and crew,” as the video call’s camera pans over their faces. I was also looking forward to spending time with [them] again in Los Angeles and reliving those happy memories.

“I believe we have reached the end of our celebration of ‘Squid Game’ Season 1.”
A few weeks before the nominations, Netflix’s FYSee location on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles hosted a celebration of the show’s debut season.

The suave sophisticate seated with great posture in a small green room would scarcely be recognized by those who knew Lee exclusively as his Gi-hun persona. Even though he has just arrived in the United States and is back on the hamster wheel promoting his series, he is cordial and put together.

In a navy blazer, he appears to be the guest of honor at a yacht club event. It took seven months to film “Squid Game,” and they’ve been marketing it for nine months, adds Hwang (with an interpreter behind him).

They don’t seem to mind at all. Despite the challenging route, the show Hwang planned more than a decade ago and could not be realized for years is still enjoying popularity. Season 2 is currently in the works.

The first time Hwang handed the script to Jung-jae, he didn’t have any questions for the actor since, as Hwang laughs, “so many actors had said ‘No’ back in 2009.” The only thing on my mind as he spoke was, “I’m glad you heard what he had to say.

Some of those worries were Gi-occasionally hun’s unsightly “anti-hero” reputation. Jung-jae was unsure if Gi-hun would be well-received by the crowd. Then there was the scene where Gi-hun shares his fish with a stray cat, for example. No matter how damaged or depraved his character may be, there’s always that goodness in his heart.”

One of Hwang’s most memorable moments was when he realized that the character would work. An early scene shows Gi-hun going to the doll-picking machine to buy a present for his daughter because he doesn’t have much money left after losing it all.

It’s clear to see him beaming as he cradles and embraces the little child who does that for him.” I knew as soon as I saw Jung-Jae in that scene that the audience was going to fall head over heels for this character. To watch this middle-aged man’s genuine, childish enthusiasm, I could imagine Gi-hun being himself after entering the game. People would recognize the purity and beauty that he maintains inside himself, no matter how imperfect he was – he would go on to take his mother’s money.”

Despite the show’s rough surface (hundreds of deaths, life-or-death decisions, betrayals and humiliations), “Squid Game” is anchored by its protagonist’s humanity. Gi-poor hun’s circumstances and his optimistic outlook were fine-tuned by Lee with the help of Hwang, according to Lee.

It took Lee a lot of questioning to get a sense of where he was emotionally and how far he needed to go to express it. Do I treat things gravely, jokingly, or just ignore them? Gi-hun, for example, needs to return to the sleeping quarters and eat the food after witnessing people die in front of him. ‘How much of the meal will he be able to enjoy?’ Is he a good person or a bad person?”

It’s Hwang’s opinion that if Gi-hun had merely been good, he would have been one-dimensional and superficial. That’s why he was prepared to fool Il-nam and take advantage of his dementia to win the game of marbles,” says the author.

That could be any one of us, in my opinion. He stands out because he expresses remorse. It’s a good experience for him. When the audience saw him in episodes one and nine, I wanted them to see someone entirely different because he’d learned something new in that time.

Despite Hwang’s detailed analysis of the show’s critical take on a socioeconomic system that produces such ecstatic victors and heartbroken losers, Lee believes that the show’s ultimate message lies in its examination of some of the characters’ most basic human qualities: kindness and compassion.

It may need them to win over other people’s bodies, but even under the most terrible of circumstances, humanity must not lose sight of anything, according to the actor. When it came to writing that detail into the narrative, director Hwang excelled.

Lee’s inclusion in “Squid Game” is now a given (both agree that Gi-hun will return for Season 2), but his selection was even more of a long shot than Hwang’s claim that “so many actors” had turned the show down may imply.

One of the country’s most famous actors, Lee, has been in several of Korea’s most famous films. When no one in Hollywood wants to work on your nasty, capitalism-scorching TV program, then Tom Cruise jumps on your sofa at the notion of working on it.

Hwang describes Lee as “the biggest, the hottest celebrity Korea has ever seen since I was approximately 20 years old.” ‘What must it be like to be born like him?'” he adds, sighing. Throughout his career, he was known for his charming performances, but there was something about him when he portrayed these imperfect people that I felt was wonderful. That sarcastic wit. To bring Gi-hun to life, I felt it would be a great combination.”

So, where does Gi-hun go from here? Season 2’s most challenging obstacle, according to Hwang. At the end of the first season, he returns to where we left him.” So, the fact that I cannot maintain that degree of character development is a significant obstacle.

Gi-hun remarks in the last episode, “I’m not a horse and I’m interested to know who did this to us,” without giving away any surprises. Gi-hun will prove that we are not horses, and that we are all human, on this voyage. It’s also important to remember that we’re all essentially good.

Lee is generally upbeat about the thought of going to Los Angeles with his other candidates — including one of his immediate opponents — following the outpouring of Emmy accolades.

According to Zoom, “Of course I watched a bunch of the series; I’m a big fan of Ozark and Succession,” making special reference to those two shows.

I’ve seen Jeremy Strong at many awards shows, and he’s one of my favorites. I ran into him at Cannes, the Cannes Film Festival, a few months back. We were hugging and kissing one other with excitement at the prospect of seeing each other again. I think he did a fantastic job. So rooted in reality. When you see him work, you know he’s giving it his best. The problems Hwang faced in having the program created are still a mystery to him, though.

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It’s hard for him to believe this has happened, mainly because no one wanted to do the program in 2009. What a miracle.” I didn’t think we’d get nominated, yet here we are with 14 nominations. It’s like something out of a sci-fi movie. There is more drama in the creation of ‘Squid Game’ than the program itself, I believe.

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