As ‘Parasite’ Oscar Buzz Soars, Bong Joon-ho Stays Resistant to Hollywood Offers

Speaking to IndieWire's Anne Thompson at TIFF, the "Parasite" filmmaker says he is modeling his career after Quentin Tarantino.
Bong Joon-Ho'Parasite' premiere, 66th Sydney Film Festival, Australia - 15 Jun 2019
Bong Joon Ho
Richard Milnes/Shutterstock

Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May but still managed to be the talk of the fall film festivals despite competing against an onslaught of world premieres. Anyone at Telluride or TIFF will tell you that the “Parasite” screenings were some of the most attended and most raved about, leaving the family thriller with strong Oscar buzz ahead of its October theatrical release. “Parasite” is so beloved that talks of an English-language remake are already underway, but don’t except Bong to personally take “Parasite” to Hollywood.

Speaking to IndieWire’s Anne Thompson at TIFF, Bong stressed that he remains somewhat resistant to taking on Hollywood studio offers. The only way Bong would join a major Hollywood studio is if he wrote the movie himself, which most likely takes him out of the running for a majority of Hollywood franchise films. Bong cited Quentin Tarantino as a filmmaker he is modeling his career after because his intention is to only direct scripts he writes himself. When Hollywood script offers have come knocking in the past, Bong has politely turned them all down.

“I received a lot of [Hollywood] offers after ‘The Host’ in 2006,” Bong said. “Lots of science-fiction, horror, and action films. I was just like, ‘Wow, a Hollywood script!’ I didn’t accept any of them. My agent is a very nice guy and they already know that I like to direct my own scripts like Quentin Tarantino. Sometimes I do get a little disappointed that he doesn’t send me anything. He doesn’t send me any scripts now knowing that I always write my own.”

Bong has made English-language movies in the past with “Snowpiercer” and “Okja,” both of which were original scripts (though “Snowpiercer” was adapted from a French graphic novel) that were picked up for U.S. distribution by studios outside of the majors at the time. “Snowpiercer” was bought by The Weinstein Company (which led to some much-publicized release issues), while Bong’s “Okja” script caught the eye of Netflix and was produced by Plan B Entertainment. These would be the kinds of movies Bong is interested in making at a major Hollywood studio, but pre-existing franchise and tentpole scripts won’t do the trick.

Bong made history at Cannes this year as “Parasite” is the first South Korean movie to win the Palme d’Or. If “Parasite” earns an Oscar nomination for Best International Film (the new name for the Best Foreign Language Film category), then it will become the first South Korean film nominated in history.

U.S. distributor Neon is hoping for more than just a Best International Film nomination and is set to campaign “Parasite” for Best Picture, Best Director, and more. “Roma” proved last year that foreign films can break out of the international category with the right acclaim and momentum (“Roma” was nominated for 10 Oscars), and that’s certainly what Neon is hoping for “Parasite” this awards season.

“Parasite” opens in U.S. theaters beginning October 11. Watch IndieWire’s sit-down with Bong at TIFF in the video below.

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