How did Bong Joon Ho celebrate six historic Oscar nominations on Monday for his hit thriller “Parasite”? First, he searched for a Wi-Fi signal, much like the protagonists of his acclaimed Korean class-warfare tale.
Speaking with assistance from his translator, Bong said he felt 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 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 award.
Here are some excerpts from an interview with Bong conducted shortly after he learned of the nominations.
QUESTION: Congratulations! How do you feel after getting those six Oscar nominations?
ANSWER: 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.”
Q: Where were you when you heard the news and what were you doing?
A: 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.
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.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: 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.
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.
Q: If you could point to a film or a performance this year that you loved, what would you encourage people to see?
A: 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.
Q: The other great thing to come out of this awards tour, according to Song Kang Ho, is that he discovered that U.S. audiences find him handsome. What do you say to that?
A: He was always handsome! From the very beginning.