“Squid Game” creator and director Hwang Dong-hyuk had to endure his own level of financial “hell” to get the series started.
A long wait: With his show ranked as Netflix’s No. 1 most-watched show across the world and on track to becoming the best-performing series ever on the streaming giant, it’s hard to imagine a time when Hwang had to sell his $675 laptop to make ends meet.
Although he wasn’t under an astronomically enormous amount of debt like his “Squid Game” players, Hwang did have to jump through hoops to get the ball rolling on his series. The writer-director’s financial struggles were brought to light in a viral tweet by The Numbers Game which stated that the show was originally written in 2009 but was continuously rejected by studios, investors and actors for 10 years.
‘Squid Game’ creator Hwang Dong-hyuk wrote the show in 2009 but was rejected by studios for 10 years.
He once had to stop writing the script + sell his $675 laptop due to money struggles.
Today, it’s #1 in 90 countries + set to become the most-watched show in Netflix history. pic.twitter.com/RbFr8JeW1m
— The Numbers Game (@Tngtweets1) October 4, 2021
As he told Variety, he got “great inspiration from Japanese comics and animation over the years,” such as “Battle Royale” and “Liar Game” to name a few. And when he was in “financial straits” himself, he would spend time in cafes reading those comics and think about how he would survive in those worlds.
He came to find that those survival games were far too complex, so he opted for his series to focus on murderous children’s games instead.
“I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life. But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we’ve all met in real life,” he said. “As a survival game, it is entertainment and human drama. The games portrayed are extremely simple and easy to understand. That allows viewers to focus on the characters, rather than being distracted by trying to interpret the rules.”
However, early potential investors were still worried about the premise despite the games’ simplification. Hwang told RadioTimes that “[investors] thought it was a little too complex and not commercial. I wasn’t able to get enough investment and casting was difficult. I dabbled in it for about a year, but I had to put it to sleep then,” Sportskeeda reported.
What’s next: As a lone wolf sort of director, Hwang was stretched thin to make “Squid Game.” “I’m not great at teamwork,” he admitted.
When he was younger, he would only need to drink half a bottle of soju to feel creative, but he explained the practice is no longer enough.
“Writing [‘Squid Game’] was harder than normal for me as it was a series, not a film. It took me six months to write and rewrite the first two episodes,” he said. “Then I consulted verbally with friends, and picked up clues for improvements through my own pitching and from their responses.”
A “Squid Game” sequel isn’t out of the question but it could be a good while before it shows up on viewers’ screens. He’s considering returning to feature films before working on the sequel and said it’s “quite tiring” to even think about it.
“But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I’d consider using a writers’ room and would want multiple experienced directors,” Hwang added.
He’s currently writing the draft of a film with the working title “KO Club,” or “Killing Old Men Club,” about an inter-generational war.
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