It’s a good day for Parasite. Monday saw the release of this year’s Oscar nominations, and the Korean film from director Bong Joon Ho walked away with six — including in the major categories of Best Picture and Best Director.
In an interview last October, Bong said of the film’s award-season buzz, “the Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.” Parasite already won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last summer and cleaned up at South Korea’s Blue Dragon Awards, which may explain why star Song Kang Ho seemed so chill in a reaction video from today’s nominations. Even so, Bong tells EW he and everyone else involved in Parasite are very excited about today’s nominations.
“At the time I was comparing the Oscars to Cannes, Venice, and these film festivals that have a different structure. That’s why I brought up the word ‘local,'” Bong explains. “But today it’s very weird for an Asian film to be nominated for the Oscars, especially in the major categories. To get six nominations is such a great joy, it’s something that doesn’t happen very often. I’m very happy to think I have made a small contribution to the Academy embracing more diverse films.”
Bong continues, “When Parasite was released in October in North America, we gained much more attention than we originally anticipated, from social media and audiences. There were memes like the Jessica jingle. Every moment for us is a big surprise. All these things that are happening to us feel like they’re happening to other people. For all of us, it’s the first time we’re going through this, so it can be perplexing, but it’s a great joy. It’s a mixture of all these emotions.”
Parasite already won Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes earlier this month, giving it a strong chance to win that same category at the Oscars next month. Bong used his acceptance speech at the Oscars to gently chide viewers to be more open to foreign language films and films with subtitles.
“I don’t think a single film can change things overnight, but in the past couple of years the industry has gone through several changes. With streaming services like Netflix and the proliferation of social media, we’re seeing a lot of cross-cultural, cross-continental exchanges amongst the industry and with cinema and with audiences. I think the entire society is going through a time when the language barrier isn’t as significant. I almost think that Parasite is benefitting from that general trend that’s going on. So I’m hopeful for the future of audiences’ reception to subtitles and foreign films. I think we’ll see more and more cases of things that are happening to Parasite.”
In the midst of all this, last week HBO announced that it had acquired the rights to a TV limited series version of Parasite, with the involvement of both Bong and The Big Short director Adam McKay. There was some confusion at first: Is this just an English-language translation of a successful foreign film, or some kind of expansion of it? Bong admits the project is still in its very early stages, but tells EW his general vision for it.
“So when I was writing the script for Parasite, I had so many more ideas that I couldn’t fit into the film: Significant plots that can happen between sequences, background stories for each character,” Bong says. “My aim with the TV series is to expand the film. As of now we don’t really have a specific direction, but I want to create a six-hour film that expands the story of Parasite, kind of like the TV version of Fanny and Alexander. I don’t think as of now it’s easy to categorize what it will be, whether it’s a sequel or prequel, because we’re still very much in the early stages, but I do hope that people who have watched the movie can still be surprised and find it unpredictable. Soon I will meet with Adam to have further discussions of what this series will be like.”
New York’s Lincoln Center is currently hosting a retrospective of Bong’s past films like Memories of Murder (2003) and The Host (2006). When asked what Parasite has in common with his past work, Bong laughingly notes, “they all star Song Kang Ho.”