Introducing the world to its current Korean pop-cultural high, Hwang Dong-hyuk’s recent Netflix release, Squid Game is a nine-episode series that has broken countless records on the streaming platform. It has become one of Netflix’s most popular releases.
Starring Lee Jung Jae, Park Hae Soo, Jung Ho Yeon and Wi Ha Jun in lead roles, the show sees 456 participants being confined in a particular place to play games to win prize money of 45.6 billion Korean Won.
With a bloody and gruesome premise, set in modern-day Korea, it is a brilliant commentary on socio-political power, class conflicts, power play and capitalism. Brimming with tension, frustration and chaos, the show has already been renewed for a second season which is great news for fans who are desperately waiting to see how Seong Gi-hun’s fate unravels.
Before the second season premieres on the platform, here are the 5 insane behind-the-scenes secrets from Netflix’s Squid Game:
5 insane behind-the-scenes secrets from Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’
Tedious pre-production procedures
It took ten years for Hwang’s script to get picked up by Netflix after umpteen rejections. Hwang had reportedly written two episodes in six months. The name of the show was also supposed to be ‘Round Six’ instead of Squid Game. However, the creators thought that the latter was a befitting name owing to the premise that was a twisted take on childhood games, shattering the innocence and naivete of the participants.
The production cost amounted to a staggering £12.3 million and Netflix reportedly paid £15.5 million for the nine-episode series. The crew also used very little CGI and built humongous sets. The whole show is set in modern-day Seoul. Filming took place in the city of Daejeon, an hour away from Seoul. Since the production team stuck to a singular location, they were able to spend handsomely on the sets. They also reportedly hired the creepy doll from the first episode from a museum. The doll has now become a significant emblem of the series.
Extensive filming process
Hwang Dong-hyuk and his production team had gone all out to produce a series that would go down in history as one of the greatest Netflix originals ever. With its twisted ideas and scathing commentary on various socio-political issues within a dystopian society, the crew did not hold back from pushing the cast to their very limits. Filled with various symbolic imagery, even the sleeping dorm for the participants was shaped like an Amazon warehouse which was actually the art director’s idea according to Hwang.
She wanted to remove every semblance of humanity and treat the contestants “like objects piled on warehouse shelves” to assert the bleakness and helplessness of the players. If one pays close attention to the final episodes, with the number of eliminated participants on the rise, the bunks are removed which give away the games that have been played, as illustrated on the walls. From using real tempered glass to shoot the stepping stones game to gaining set design inspiration from renowned artworks, Squid Game is Hwang’s magnum opus and a brilliant watch.
The cast’s tryst with the game
Squid Game had a huge cast that involved over 400 performers. The cast members had a pretty difficult time enduring the tiring production process. Even the Tug-of-war scene was shot against a machine which left the participants exhausted and nauseous. The game had a huge impact on them, especially the stepping stones game that emotionally affected them. According to actress HoYeon Jung, it was a “terrifying” scene to shoot. Hwang confirmed by saying, “The game was real and they felt real fear.”
The green tracksuits that the participants wore were actually nightmarish in real life, since the material of the costumes were similar to that of “old gym clothes”, making the sets “really dusty”, the material caused an allergy outbreak among some of the cast members whose faces apparently “turned red because of allergies”.
Donald Trump was an inspiration
The whole premise of Squid Game is extremely unsettling. The idea of power play and class struggle that is enmeshed into the inherent tendency of the rich to have fun at the expense of the poor is horrifying and realistic. Well into the nine episodes, the Front Man is seen entertaining a group of VIPs who have paid huge amounts of money to watch the misery of the participants as they fight for survival. The VIPs are clad in animal masks and have a lavish lifestyle and equally lecherous interests.
One of these twisted VIPs was, according to Hwang Dong-hyuk, inspired by Donald Trump. The creator said that the former United States President had a close resemblance to the madness of the mega-rich men in the show. It’s almost like he’s running a game show, not a country, like giving people horror,” said Hwang. “After all these issues happened, I thought it was about time that this show goes out into the world.”
The curious case of the masked men
The masked men clad in the pink overalls were a huge highlight of the show. They maintained the sanctity of the game and there was a distinct hierarchy. Their masks were inspired by both fencing masks and traditional Korean masks known as Haehotal. The shapes on their mask were inspired by the hierarchy that works in ant colonies. The ones with the circles were the workers while the ones with the triangles were armed soldiers. Those with the square held maximum power in the group and worked as a manager for the groundlings.
However, the creator revealed that their strikingly pink jumpsuits, which became an instant favourite this Halloween season, were initially supposed to be Boy Scout uniforms. But the idea was scrapped as it would give away their identities and no longer help maintain the sinister anonymity.