Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk reveals he originally wrote the series as a film, prior to Netflix ordering its expansion into a series.
Squid Game writer and director, Hwang Dong-hyuk, has revealed the series was originally conceived as a movie. Squid Game premiered on Netflix on September 17, and has turned out to be an unrivalled success. Within weeks of its debut, the show quickly became the most popular series on the streaming service across the globe. Squid Game is a South Korean survival drama that follows 456 contestants, who are all severely in debt, as they compete in deadly children’s games in hopes of winning an enormous cash prize.
Despite its brutality and bloodiness, the series has garnered critical acclaim and international attention. In fact, Squid Game Halloween costumes spiked Vans’ sales by 7,800%, as fans of the show clamor to recreate the iconic green jumpsuits and white shoes worn by the contestants in the show. Viewers simply can’t get enough of the series’ thrills, complex character arcs, and capitalist allegories. Now that many have made their way through Squid Game, they are starting in on the background story, as well. Dong-hyuk surprised viewers when he revealed the show was in development for over a decade; a period in which he faced rejection and financial crisis. Now, he is further detailing the years between the show’s conception and production.
In an interview with THR, Squid Game director Dong-hyuk revealed that the series was originally conceived as a film. Dong-hyuk admitted that shortly before he was struck with the idea for Squid Game, he had penned another script for a movie. However, that endeavor fell through and the film wasn’t made, leaving him in financial distress. This led to him “killing time” by exploring content featuring survival death games, and wishing he himself could partake in these games to remedy his financial situation. This eventually led to the inspiration for Squid Game and the writing of the original script was for a “feature-length film.” Check out his full explanation below:
“So back in 2008, I had a script that I had written, which I was running around with trying to get investment, but it didn’t work out and it wasn’t made into a movie. So that actually put me into a really difficult financial situation — I was broke. So I spent a lot of time killing time in comic book cafes, reading. And I read a lot of comic books revolving around surviving death games — manga like Liar Game, Kaiji and Battle Royale. And well, I read some stories about these indebted people entering into these life-and-death games, and that became really immersive for me because I was struggling financially myself. I was even thinking that I would love to join a game like that, if it existed, to make a bunch of cash and get out of this terrible situation. And then that got me thinking, “Well, I’m a director. Why don’t I just make a movie with this kind of storyline?” So that’s how it all got started. I decided that I wanted to create a Korean survival game piece in my own way. That’s how Squid Game was initially conceived in 2008, and then I wrote a script for a feature-length film version throughout 2009.”
That Dong-hyuk’s iconic series originally was conceived as a film isn’t too surprising, considering that is the area that he has predominantly worked in. Prior to Squid Game, Dong-hyuk directed and wrote screenplays for multiple films and shorts, but didn’t have much experience with the small screen. Meanwhile, Squid Game was rejected numerous times by studios in its feature-length form. Over a decade after the original script was penned, however, Netflix stepped in and saw the potential, greenlighting the project and expanding it into a series. The nine-part TV show ended up being a much better format, expanding the details and allowing for the complex and complete character arcs seen in Squid Game.
Ultimately, the revelation that the series was originally conceived as a film makes one wonder what a feature-length Squid Game film would have looked like. Likely, it would have had far less detail and character development. The sheer brutality of the series would’ve been difficult to fit into a single film and might have been more difficult for fans to stomach, or to make meaning of without concrete context. Meanwhile, Dong-hyuk very effectively utilized the opportunity to expand his original concept and to make it more ripe with meaning. However, the process was not an easy one, and the Squid Game director lost six teeth while developing the script for the series due to stress. In the end, though, his work paid off, as did Netflix’s investment in the series. The effort that Dong-hyuk and Netflix put into transforming Squid Game from a film into a series resulted in a masterful and meaningful allegory that has enamored viewers across the globe.