How did Bong Joon Ho celebrate six historic Oscar nominations on Monday for his hit thriller "Parasite"? First, he woke up early in Los Angeles and searched for a Wi-Fi signal, much like the protagonists of his acclaimed Korean class-warfare tale. Then he livestreamed the good news.
A toasting menu suggestion for the filmmaker and his devoted #BongHive: Peaches for the competition. Ramdon for all!
Calling later Monday and speaking with assistance from his translator, Bong said he still feels like he’s dreaming. He is nominated thrice for "Parasite" ("Gisaenchung" in Korean) in the directing, original screenplay (with co-writer Han Jin Won) and best picture categories (alongside producer Kwak Sin Ae).
"Parasite," starring longtime Bong muse Song Kang Ho, Chang Hyae Jin, Choi Woo Shik, Park So Dam, Lee Sun Kyun, Cho Yeo Jeong and Lee Jung Eun, is up for three more Oscars including best international feature.
The nominations mark Bong’s first Academy Award nods in a two-decade feature directing career and are the first Oscar nominations ever for a film from South Korea. Earlier this month, "Parasite" became the first Korean film to win a Golden Globe award, taking the foreign language film statuette.
Sharing insights from his dazzling awards tour so far, as well as some cinephile love for the fellow filmmakers he’s met along the way, Bong looked forward to his "Parasite" team joining him in L.A. ahead of the Feb. 9 Academy Awards. "It will be the Avengers assembling!"
Q: Congratulations! How do you feel after getting those six Oscar nominations?
A: It’s very hectic! This is the first time that we’re going through this, and of course more experienced teams are helping us, but all the Korean team members were all very happy but at the same time perplexed. It feels like if I take the wrong step I’ll wake up from my dream and find that we’re still a day before the kickoff of [making] "Parasite."
You premiered in Cannes last May and won the Palme d’Or, but the past few months have been particularly busy for you, screening "Parasite" and collecting awards and honors leading up to today’s Oscar announcements. Where were you when you heard the news and what were you doing?
I was in my apartment lying on the couch. I woke up to the alarm, connected my iPad to the Wi-Fi like in the opening of "Parasite," and went on YouTube to watch the livestream. They announced it so fast. I noticed that John Cho was one of the announcers. He’s a great actor and I met him many years ago. He’s an amazing guy.
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Recently, I really enjoyed his film "Searching," and because I know him it was good to see a friendly face. With all the nominations for "Parasite" they have to announce several Korean names, and I felt like his pronunciation was relatively exact, so for a second I thought, "Maybe the Oscars are being considerate!" Either way, it was great.
We’ve seen you at every stop along this awards tour bonding with your fellow filmmakers. Saturday at the L.A. Film Critics Awards, for example, you were the first person on your feet for "Pain and Glory" director Pedro Almodóvar. Even after bringing your previous films stateside, do you feel with "Parasite" that you’ve been embraced by Hollywood and the global filmmaking community to an even greater degree?
I didn’t realize I was the first person to get up; I obviously thought everyone would give a standing ovation! He’s such a great respected filmmaker, and I’ve always loved his films. His earlier work like "Matador," "All About My Mother," "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," I’ve always been inspired by his films and it’s been a great honor to be with him throughout this journey from Cannes to now the Oscars. If I remember correctly he won the best screenplay Academy Award once, so it’s been a great honor to be with him during this process.
This is a very rare and precious event to happen to Asian and Korean film, and I think for me what’s really important is that before all these nominations the film did really well at the box office once it was released in North America. So to receive all these nominations amongst a great box office is what truly makes me happy.
It’s a historic moment for Korean cinema, which has never before had a film nominated for an Oscar. Is that a realization that hit you in a profound way this morning?
I never create films to represent my country. That’s never my desire. My pursuit is always my personal obsessions I have with cinema. But this is a great thing to happen to the Korean film industry. The Korean press is going crazy, and there are so many articles pouring out right now. I hope this serves as an inspiration for young filmmakers in Korea. I think it’s great that a film I created for personal reasons ends up contributing to the entire industry.
Throughout this tour we’ve seen Song Kang Ho and your ensemble acknowledged for their performances, and even your translator Sharon Choi has become a popular presence for fans. What does it mean to you to see your whole "Parasite" team embraced this way?
Thank you for bringing up what I really wanted to talk about today. Out of all the nominations, "Parasite" was recognized for the craft of the film — best production design [Lee Ha Jun, set decorator Cho Won Woo], best editing [Yang Jinmo] — and I’m very happy to see them acknowledged and getting attention for their work. For everyone on our team, this is the first time they’re experiencing something like this, but I was particularly happy for those nominations.
Yesterday was the Critics Choice Awards and we were nominated for best editing and production design, so the production designer and editor happened to be in L.A. It was great to receive the amazing news with them here. We’re also nominated for the best ensemble award for SAG, which will take place on [Jan.] 19. It was great news for us. For this tour we’ve mostly seen it with Song but I think for the SAG Awards we’ll see the largest number of actors participating and coming to L.A.. I think at least four or five actors will join us.
Usually foreign-language films tend to be trapped in this framework of art house films from distant countries. It’s a very lonely journey for the director to be on tour, and that was the case for me with my previous films. So it’s been such a great joy to see the entire team being acknowledged for their great work in various ways and have them join me in this process.
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After the Golden Globes ceremony you visited a Koreatown soon tofu restaurant in Los Angeles, and that restaurant was so excited to have you …
How did you know that?!
They posted it proudly on their social media! Do you have a place in mind to share a celebration meal with your whole "Parasite" team after these nominations?
It’s only been a couple of hours since the nominations came out so we have to start planning right now. I don’t know how we will celebrate but right now instead of eating Korean food, I’m having ice cream.
Well deserved. The actress Zhao Shuzhen of "The Farewell" crashed the L.A. Film Critics awards this weekend just to say hello because she’s so fond of you. You are known to be a passionate cinephile and you’ve befriended so many filmmakers and actors on this awards circuit. If you could point to a film or a performance this year that you loved, what would you encourage people to see?
I ran into the "Farewell" team a lot during this campaign and we always wished each other luck. I was always happy to see Awkwafina, Zhao Shuzhen and Lulu Wang. With Zhao Shuzhen, she’s so beautiful and I would always tell her she’s the best dresser. She would love hearing that. So it’s very unfortunate that she, Awkwafina and also Song Kang Ho weren’t nominated for the acting categories this year. But nonetheless, regardless of the nominations they’re such gems. For Asia they’re such precious actors.
There were so many great films this year but I have to mention "Uncut Gems" by the Safdie brothers. They unfortunately didn’t receive any nominations. Adam Sandler was great. All the supporting actors were great, particularly the actors who played the Mafia members. Idina Menzel was also great. That entire cast deserves recognition.
The other great thing to come out of this awards tour, according to Song Kang Ho last weekend, is that he discovered that U.S. audiences find him handsome. What do you say to that?
He was always handsome! From the very beginning.