Bong Joon-ho Reacts To ‘Parasite’s Historic Oscar Noms, Reveals Details Of HBO TV Adaptation With Adam McKay

'Parasite' director Bong Joon-ho
Michael Buckner

Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite continued its storybook trajectory today, becoming the first Korean film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and picking up additional nods for Bong for Best Director, International Film and Original Screenplay with Jin Won Han, as well as craft nods for Editing and Production Design. It is only the sixth movie in Oscar history to get both the Picture and International Film nods, and the 11th foreign language film nominated for Best Picture.

Director Bong this morning struggled to reconcile with the extraordinary reaction since the movie won the Palme d’Or after its Cannes Film Festival premiere. “I feel it’s like Inception,” he joked through his translator and filmmaker Sharon Choi, who has followed him throughout the season. “Soon I’m going to wake up and realize this was all a dream, I’m still in the middle of Parasite and all the equipment is malfunctioning. I see the catering truck on fire and I’m wailing. But right now, everything is great and I’m so happy.”

News emerged last week that Bong would soon adapt Parasite into an HBO series with Adam McKay. McKay tweeted in August how he had seen and loved Parasite. “I really liked Adam McKay’s The Big Short and I loved his sense of humour, and the sharp satire he conveyed about the current American politics,” Bong said today. “With Parasite, while I was writing the script I had so many more ideas I couldn’t convey into the two-hour running time of the film. I knew that if I had a longer running time, I would be able to tell these stories, and I that’s what I plan to talk about with Adam pretty soon.”

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He cited the extended Fanny and Alexander miniseries from 1983 as proof that the concept of an expanded story could work on TV. “Though I’m not very familiar with the TV industry, I really consider this limited series an expanded film that can delve deeper into the stories that didn’t make it into Parasite. Adam McKay and HBO have created the amazing show Succession, so they’re very reliable and amazing partners to have.”

Whether the series will be in English or Korean, the director said, was open for discussion as plans started to form around March. But Parasite’s success this morning includes a remarkable first Best Picture nomination for Korean cinema, which has a storied history. After winning the Golden Globe last weekend, the director spoke of the need for audiences to assail the “one-inch tall barrier of subtitles,” to discover more cinema. “I think this was the case not only for the US but for most countries including Korea, where audiences mainly watch domestic films or Hollywood blockbusters,” Director Bong said today. “It wasn’t very common for diverse films to cross continents and access different audiences. But I think audiences are opening up to these films and the fact that this Korean-language film was nominated for Oscars, and was really embraced by US audiences reflects that change of attitude. It’s sort of like a proof for how audiences are opening up.

“When I was creating this film, I didn’t intend or aim for any of these things to happen. Everything that’s happened from Cannes to now, our intention was to really create a delicate and meticulous craft piece like a luxury Swiss watch. This is very rare for Asia and Korea for a movie to be nominated for categories like Best Picture and Best Director. We never expected any of this and I think all of this is thanks to the pure passion that all our great actors and crew members had in their pursuit to create a high-quality film and take on new challenges. I think the Academy members really recognized that as fellow filmmakers.”

He was familiar, he said, with the Twitter fandom for Parasite known as the #bonghive. “Unfortunately, I don’t have Twitter or Instagram – or any social media – so I’ve just been hearing about these things,” he laughed. “People would show me some of the memes. I’m just grateful for the responses, I’ve never gone through any of that. For me, although it’s very fun and enjoyable, the priority is to spend my time writing scripts. It’s a very lonely place for a person to be, and I think people would understand that I can’t be there to enjoy all of it because I’m so busy trying to work on my scripts.”

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