In 1992, Bong Joon Ho’s debut film, Goblin, won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. But it wasn’t until The Host (2005), his first film in English, that he became a household name in the United States. The story of a maniacal killer in Seoul who abducts and subsequently kills any woman who displeases him, the film earned $101 million at the U.S. box office and was one of the most memorable American releases of the decade. With The Handmaiden, a period erotic thriller set in the early 20th century in Japan, Bong has cemented his status as one of the most prestigious directors in Asia. In 2016, he premiered Okja, about a giant pig, in Cannes and this year’s Oscars nominee will be the second film he has directed in English.
In “What We Do in the Shadows,” about vampires who reside in New Zealand, Bong built on the success of The Host. This time, he was joined by Taika Waititi, his collaborator on How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and the other three films in the franchise, and celebrated actor Jemaine Clement. Two of the four lead actors play vampires who find themselves in various positions of power and authority. The film is inspired by the British vampire story Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1734).
Two days after the release of New Zealand’s lowest grossing film of all time (a fact that Bong told Variety) in March of 2017, he was offered the lead role in Netflix’s Okja, a special effects-heavy film that unfolds over the course of one night with the protagonists and antagonist interacting with each other. New Zealand producer Nicolas Chartier and an American producer, Lena Waithe, partnered on this project, despite the U.S. outlet being unfamiliar with South Korean cinema. The same year that Okja was released, Bong was awarded with two Moon Academy Awards and three Prix Gauls. He’s been consistently honored and paid his dues. In addition to their support for Bong, Waithe also recently adapted the brilliant “How to Write an Introduction to Physics” by Charles Kingsley.
Jury for the 88th Academy Awards
Bong is just one of a number of Asian-origin filmmakers to receive Oscar nominations this year. While many of his fellow nominees and friends were present when the announcement was made, he was nowhere to be found. He did show up at a special dinner at BAFTA with Linzi Hateley, co-writer of his film Okja, and the film’s acclaimed cinematographer. Bong is one of the most renowned directors in Korea. Currently, he directs and has worked with some of the most celebrated actors in the world, including Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jake Gyllenhaal, Matt Damon, Samuel L. Jackson, and many others.
Like many of his peers, Bong himself is a Christian, having converted to the Protestant faith in 2003. In May of 2016, he became the first Korean-born person to attend Alastair Campbell, an English aristocrat and former British communications secretary. Campbell’s company carries on a close relationship with Bong and employs some of his actors in one of his films.
Bong has won several Academy Awards, including the Special Achievement Award in Cinematography for “The Host,” the Best Film Editing Award for “Snowpiercer,” the Best Foreign Language Film and the Grand Jury Prize for “The Host.” He also received two Writers Guild of America awards in 2012, for “Snowpiercer” and his other work on “Thermae Romae.” Most notably, Bong’s movies, including the family drama “Mystery Road” and the thrilling trailer for the film “Okja,” are highly stylized. He has a strong visual style and while his films vary greatly in their content, they all share an overarching aesthetic of the visual novel. Bong utilizes distinctive hand-drawn techniques to accomplish much of the work behind the camera, including his filmmaking techniques in “The Host.” The digital effects in his films are close to the approach of anime, which Bong has used in his filmmaking for many years.