(Credit: Netflix)

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Why 'Squid Game' struggled to get picked before Netflix

Directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the Korean survival thriller series Squid Game went on to become the most popular series released by the streamer ever since its premiere in September of this year. 

Gory and terrifying, this K-Original sees a group of 456 strangers betting their lives against whooping prize money of 45.6 billion Korean Won, which amounts to nearly $40 million. 

They find themselves wandering through an open maze into a field from where the games begin. Those who defy the game’s rules are killed, as are those who fail to complete their assigned mission. It’s a bloodthirsty premise that has seen Squid Game take on unprecedented success.  

Starring Lee Jung Jae, Park Hae Soo, Jung Ho Yeon and Wi Ha Jun, the contestants are forced into confined spaces governed by a triad of shapes under the panoptic gaze of the sinister forces whose identities are concealed by masks. 

This dystopian narrative is set in modern-day Korea and deals with a subtle commentary on capitalism, power struggle, economic crises and gambling problems. Vulnerability and frustration run high as the contestants struggle for survival

While the director had to deal with various allegations regarding plagiarism, he opened up about the multiple inspirations, especially for the title. 

Talking about the title, which is derived from a children’s game popular in Korea, Dong-hyuk said, “Squid Game is a game I used to play as a child in the schoolyard or the streets of the neighbourhood.” He said it was one of the “most physical” games and his “favourite”. Elaborating on the series, he said, “This is a story about people who used to play this game as children and return to play it as adults.”

While talking about why he chose this particular game, he said, “I felt that this game could be the most symbolic children’s game that could represent the kind of society we live in today.”

Dong-hyuk is famous for having directed previous features, namely The Fortress and Miss Granny, that garnered quite the acclaim. He had begun developing the series way back in 2018 and had completed the script by 2019. However, he struggled with the series getting picked by production houses which had their own inhibitions regarding the series. 

“I was reading a lot of comic books, and I finished the script in 2009,” said Hwang. “At the time, it seemed very unfamiliar and violent”. Talking about why the series got rejected various times, he said, “There were people who 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.”

After facing rejection quite a number of times, almost a decade later, Netflix picked up the project and became immensely successful in their venture, benefiting both parties. 

Stream Squid Game on Netflix now.