Hwang Dong-hyuk is laughing astatine maine from his bureau successful Seoul. I’ve conscionable asked the creator of Squid Game, Netflix’s smash deed show, if its astonishing occurrence has made him rich. In the dystopian endurance drama, a mysterious organisation challenges 456 players from each walks of beingness – each profoundly successful indebtedness – to play a bid of children’s games. Win and they spell location with 4.6bn won (£28m). Lose and they get a slug successful the head.
Perhaps Hwang is present arsenic affluent arsenic the contestant who wins the apical prize? “I’m not that rich,” helium says. “But I bash person enough. I person capable to enactment nutrient connected the table. And it’s not similar Netflix is paying maine a bonus. Netflix paid maine according to the archetypal contract.” That seems unfair. After all, the 50-year-old South Korean film-maker has made hundreds of millions for his paymasters. Squid Game earlier this period overtook Bridgerton arsenic the astir palmy Netflix amusement ever. According to leaked documents, the nine-episode tally outgo £15.5m to produce, which works retired astatine £1.75m per instalment. Its instrumentality connected that has been extraordinary. The bid – which Netflix estimates has been watched by 142m households and boosted its subscriber figures by 4.4m – is thought to beryllium worthy £650m to the streaming service.
Perhaps Hwang should person negotiated a performance-related clause, peculiarly arsenic creating, penning and directing it caused him truthful overmuch accent that helium mislaid six teeth successful the process. “It was physically, mentally and emotionally draining. I kept having caller ideas and revising the episodes arsenic we were filming truthful the magnitude of enactment multiplied.”
The thought for Squid Game came retired of Hwang’s ain household concern successful 2009, aft the planetary fiscal situation that hit his homeland hard. “I was precise financially straitened due to the fact that my parent retired from the institution she was moving for. There was a movie I was moving connected but we failed to get finance. So I couldn’t enactment for astir a year. We had to instrumentality retired loans – my mother, myself and my grandmother.”
Hwang sought alleviation successful Seoul’s comic publication cafes. “I work Battle Royal and Liar Game and different endurance crippled comics. I related to the radical successful them, who were hopeless for wealth and success. That was a debased constituent successful my life. If determination was a endurance crippled similar these successful reality, I wondered, would I articulation it to marque wealth for my family? I realised that, since I was a film-maker, I could enactment my ain interaction to these kinds of stories truthful I started connected the script.”
He drew connected a mentation of tag helium played arsenic a lad called squid game, named aft the assorted squid-bodypart shapes that were drawn connected to immoderate tract it was played on. “I utilized to beryllium bully astatine warring my mode to the squid’s head,” Hwang says. “You had to combat to win.”
In the archetypal crippled successful the show, each 456 contestants tin lone determination erstwhile the look of a sinister mechanised doll is turned distant from them. Those caught retired are mown down with machine-gun fire. Why did Hwang make a horrifyingly brutal contention that holds quality beingness truthful cheap? “Because the amusement is motivated by a elemental idea,” helium says. “We are warring for our lives successful precise unequal circumstances.”
Are you making a profound constituent astir capitalism? “It’s not profound! It’s precise simple! I bash judge that the wide planetary economical bid is unequal and that astir 90% of the radical judge that it’s unfair. During the pandemic, poorer countries can’t get their radical vaccinated. They’re contracting viruses connected the streets and adjacent dying. So I did effort to convey a connection astir modern capitalism. As I said, it’s not profound.”
But isn’t determination a contradiction successful that, without wealth from an planetary corporation, i.e. Netflix, your critique of planetary capitalism would ne'er person been seen? Hwang laughs astatine maine again and says: “Oh, the Guardian, asking profound questions! Well, Netflix is simply a planetary corp but I don’t deliberation it is aggravating inequalities. I don’t deliberation determination is simply a contradiction. When I was moving connected the project, the extremity was to fertile No 1 connected the Netflix US illustration for astatine slightest a day. But it ended up being overmuch much successful, the astir watched amusement connected Netflix ever. It’s precise surprising. It shows that the planetary assemblage is resonating with the connection I wanted to reflect.”
Did Hwang ticker Bridgerton to survey the competition? “I find it hard to ticker immoderate bid successful full. There are lone 2 I’ve watched done to the end: Breaking Bad and Mind Hunter. People said Bridgerton was precise bully truthful I tried watching occurrence 1 but I gave up successful the middle. I’m not truly into TV romance stories due to the fact that it’s been six oregon 7 years since I was successful a relationship. I find it truly hard to subordinate to.”
Perhaps that’s wherefore the enactment scenes successful Squid Game are truthful grim. I’m reasoning of the 1 successful occurrence 4 erstwhile 2 players, 1 a macho gangster, person enactment successful a bathroom. There is nary emotion successful Squid Game, is there? “Yes determination is!” Hwang insists. “It’s a antithetic benignant of emotion successful a bizarre, strange, hopeless situation. The pistillate relies connected the strongest antheral successful the group. She has to find thing to trust on. She believes it’s emotion – different it’s excessively sad, you know, to merchantability enactment to the feline conscionable to survive. So she believes her emotion is love, but not romanticist emotion similar successful Bridgerton.”
Hwang says helium wrote this country aft watching a TV world amusement successful which contestants are stranded connected a godforsaken island. “It was astir people’s science successful utmost situations. They are sexually attracted to radical they judge are stronger and the champion astatine hunting, erstwhile they wouldn’t person been before.” Aren’t you depicting women arsenic sexualised commodities? For once, Hwang’s grin fades: “Why are you asking astir excessive intersexual practice of women?” He says his lone intent was “to amusement that, careless of gender, women and men thin to execute hopeless actions successful utmost situations”.
One Squid Game contestant is simply a North Korean defector. “They’re astir apt the biggest number successful South Korea now,” says Hwang. “That’s lone going to increase. I deliberation speech betwixt the 2 Koreas is going to expand. We are going to scope reunification astatine immoderate point. I anticipation so.” North Korea has not taken specified a benevolent enactment connected the show. According to propaganda tract Arirang Meari, Hwang’s play shows South Korea is “infested by the rules of endurance of the fittest, corruption and immorality”. Not words, of course, that could ever use to genuinely egalitarian North Korea.
But Squid Game is hardly conscionable a snapshot of his location country. “I wanted to make thing that would resonate not conscionable for Korean radical but globally. This was my dream.” In this beingness and decease struggle, societal norms are torn distant and the contestants are trapped successful a warfare of each against all, successful which quality beingness is nasty, brutish and short. “We are surviving successful a Squid Game world,” says Hwang, but helium says not everybody successful his play is selfishly looking aft fig one, climbing implicit losers’ faces to triumph the money.
Some viewers person recovered the denouement – successful which the victor makes 2 astonishment decisions to bash with household and prize wealth – exasperating. US hoops fable LeBron James, who loved the show, had this to say: “I didn’t similar the ending though. What are you doing?”
Is James wrong? Hwang giggles from Seoul, earlier referencing 1 of James’s movie vocation highlights. “Have you seen Space Jam 2?” helium asks. Not each the mode through, I reply. “LeBron James is chill and tin accidental what helium wants. I respect that. I’m precise thankful helium watched the full series. But I wouldn’t alteration my ending. That’s my ending. If helium has his ain ending that would fulfill him, possibly helium could marque his ain sequel. I’ll cheque it retired and possibly nonstop him a connection saying, ‘I liked your full show, but the ending.’”
But surely determination is different crushed for that ending: it’s teed up nicely for a sequel, with the victor capable to instrumentality connected the diabolical concealed organisation that runs Squid Game. No announcement has been made and Hwang isn’t definite determination volition beryllium a play two, nor what its communicative would be. “Of people determination is talk. That’s inevitable due to the fact that it’s been specified a success. I americium considering it. I person a precise high-level representation successful my mind, but I’m not going to enactment connected it consecutive away. There’s a movie I truly privation to make. I’m reasoning astir which to bash first. I’m going to speech to Netflix.”
He doesn’t privation to go conscionable the Squid Game feline and is present lobbying Netflix to surface 3 movies helium made successful the past decade. But helium surely hasn’t ruled a sequel retired – if lone for 1 precise worldly reason. “It’s possible,” helium says with 1 past laugh, “that I person to bash play 2 to go arsenic affluent arsenic Squid Game’s winner.”