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Steven Spielberg explains how Netflix's 'Squid Game' has upended the entertainment landscape
Not even the king of Hollywood can deny the cultural impact of the South Korean hit.
Despite his previous gripes with the world of streaming, not even the king of Hollywood can deny the cultural impact of Netflix's Squid Game. Speaking at a panel ahead of the Producers Guild of America Awards Sunday, Steven Spielberg explained how the sleeper hit from South Korea has totally upended the natural order of the entertainment industry for the better.
“Squid Game comes along and changes the math entirely for all of us. Thank you, Ted," said the Oscar-winning filmmaker (via Deadline), referring to the company's co-CEO, Ted Sarandos. He continued: “A long time ago it was domestic stars that brought the audience into movies. Today, it’s interesting, unknown people can star entire miniseries, can be in movies.”
“What’s interesting is you can mix and match them also,” added Todd Black, a producer on Amazon's Being the Ricardos. “It’s really wonderful to be able to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to have a star in a smaller role. I’m going to have an unknown in the lead role' ... Now, you can go to the streaming service or the studio and say, ‘Okay, well, I’ll get name the name to play for three days in this role but I’m going to go with a total unknown.' Nine times out of 10 if the script is good enough and the budget is small enough, you can pull that off.”
Using Black's comments as a springboard, Spielberg clarified that hiring more obscure faces is an enticing prospect for studios if the director can also lock down a household name to draw in audiences. “They do need an anchor,” he explained. "If there’s an anchor they’re familiar with you can surround them with lesser-known faces."
Created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, who was nearly destitute when he wrote the series, Squid Game is centered around a high-stakes tournament where individuals in serious financial problems partake in a series of children's games for a mind-boggling sum of prize money that could solve all their problems. The competition, however, is all or nothing: if a person loses a round, they're immediately killed on the spot. Similar to Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite, the series serves as an allegory for socioeconomic divides and class inequity. At one point, the show was the hottest title on the planet with an estimated five percent of humanity tuning in.
The project recently took home three prizes — Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series (Lee Jung-jae), Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series (Jung Ho-yeon), and Outstanding Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series — at the 2022 SAG Awards.
All nine episodes of Squid Game's debut season are now streaming on Netflix, with a second (and potential third) season currently in development. In fact, the streaming titan seems to be committed to building an entire "universe" of Squid Game content.
“There will be more great games, that’s all I can say.” Dong-hyuk recently told Deadline when asked about the status of the second season. “I’m just still brainstorming and collecting the ideas for Season 2. I haven’t even started with the writing yet.”
While many of the original characters are no longer among the living, the writer-director teased he might "try something to bring them back" in the next batch of episodes. That may or may not involve a reveal of North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon) having a secret twin sister. “I could change my hair color," Ho-yeon joked. "Let’s do a little like plastic surgery.”