Bong Joon-ho, ‘Parasite’ Movie Director: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Bong Joon Ho Parasite Director

Getty Bong Joon-ho poses in the press room with the Best International Film award for the film "Parasite" during the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards on February 08, 2020 in Santa Monica, California.

Bong Joon-ho is the director of the foreign film Parasite, which has taken the 2020 film award season by storm. The film could be the first to ever win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and it won Best Ensemble Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards earlier in the year.

Bong was born in South Korea in 1969. He’s the youngest child of graphic and industrial design professor Bong Sang-gyun and full-time housewife Park So-young.

Bong’s grandfather, Park Taewon was a famous author during the Japanese colonial period, and his older brother Bong Joon-soo is a professor of Englihs at the Seoul National University. His older sister, Bong Ji-hee teaches fashion styling at Anyang University.

Parasite is the first South Korean film to be nominated for Best Picture, and it has also been nominated for best director, best screenplay, best foreign language film, best editing, and best production design. The film also won the Film Independent Spirit Award for best international feature.

Here’s what you should know about Bong:

1. Bong Was Surprised By Parasite’s Success

Bong Joon Ho speaks onstage at the 72nd Writers Guild Awards at Edison Ballroom on February 01, 2020 in New York City.

Bong told Variety that he does not really understand why Parasite has resonated with audiences around the world and he didn’t expect the amount of success.

“To be honest, my job ended in late March when I completed the film,” he said. “Everything that happened from Cannes to now, I didn’t anticipate, predict or plan. The story is very universal. It’s a story about rich and poor. Maybe there is something more.”

Parasite is a movie about Kim Ki-woo, who lives in a basement-level apartment with his family. When his friend offers him a position as a tutor for a wealthy family, he sees an opportunity to get jobs for the rest of his family as well.

The idea for Parasite was inspired by Bong’s own experiences in his early 20s. He told the Hollywood Reporter that although he was not good at math, he was hired as a math tutor. He was introduced to the family he worked for through his girlfriend, who was working for them as an English tutor.

2. Parasite Is Being Developed as an HBO Limited Series

Getty(L-R) Choi Woo-shik, Lee Sun Gyun, Bong Joon-ho, Song Kang Ho, Park So-dam, and Jeong-eun Lee winners of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for ‘Parasite’, pose in the trophy room during the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

Bong will be pairing up with Adam McKay, who is best known for his work on the award-winning HBO drama Succession. The series will not be a remake of his film.

“When I think of a limited series, I really think of it as an expanded film, so my goal is to create a high quality expanded version of Parasite,” he said. “When 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.”

Creative details for the series are in early stages, but the series would be English and produced by McKay and Bong. McKay is also currently working on a 1980s-era Los Angeles Lakers drama series and a limited series focusing on Jeffrey Epstein, accoring to The Hollywood Reporter

3. Bong Attended the Korean Academy of Film Arts

Winner of the Best Director award for ‘Parasite’ Bong Joon-ho poses in the press room during the 25th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California.

Bong graduated from the Korean Academy of Film Arts in the early 1990s.

While attending the academy, Bong made 16mm short films including Memory Within the Frame and Incoherence, which were both invited to screen at the Vancouver and Hong Kong international film festivals. He worked on the highly acclaimed short 2001 Imagine and was lighting director on shorts Sounds From Heaven and Earth and The Love of a Grape Seed. 

A few years later, Bong received screenplay and assistant director credits on Park Ki-yong’s 1997 Motel Cactus. He was also one of four writers credited for the 1999 screenplay Phantom the Submarine. He has since worked on short films, omnibus films, and feature-length films.

4. His Previous Films are Internationally Acclaimed

(L-R) DGA Feature Film Award nominee Bong Joon-ho poses in the press room with Lee Jeong-eun during the 72nd Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at The Ritz Carlton on January 25, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

Bong’s film The Hostwhich released in 2006, earned several awards including the Best Film at the Asian Film Awards and the Blue Dragon Film Awards. The remake rights were purchased by US Studio Universal.

Bong directed his first English-language film in 2013. Snowpiercer stars Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Go Ah-sung, John Hurt and Ed Harris. The movie appeared on many film critics’ best movies of 2014 list. It is the most expensive Korean production ever made.

In 2017, Bong’s film Okja premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The film, which was produced by Netflix, received a four-minute standing ovation following its premiere. It also received positive reviews after its Netflix release.

5. He Would Never Direct a Superhero Movie

Bong told Variety that while he enjoys some superhero films, he would never direct a Marvel movie.

“I respect the creativity that goes into superhero films, but in real life and in movies, I can’t stand people wearing tight-fitting clothes…” he told Variety. “Most superheroes wear tight suits, so I can never direct one. I don’t think anyone will offer that project to me either. If there is a superhero who has a very boxy costume, maybe I can try.”

Bong also said that while he respects Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, he looks at the films individually and can consider them cinema. He specifically said he enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, Logan and Winter Soldier. 

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