I am a film director and I always make weird but funny movies.

I am doing this AMA on behalf of Snowpiercer, in select theaters this Friday (6/27), expanding 7/4.

Trailer: http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/snowpiercer/ Website: http://snowpiercer-film.com

Victoria from reddit will be assisting me today. AMA.


Edit: So as audiences of the films, sometimes we like to know what we see and enjoy films that are conventional perhaps, but also sometimes you want to see new things or strange things, and if you have that desire, please look for my films. You will enjoy them. Please look for those films and watch them, you will enjoy them.

Comments: 110 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

eatbutter39 karma

My favorite of your films is Memories of Murder, and I find myself watching it every few months. As a young filmmaker I find it filled with so much inspiration. One thing I love so much about it is the way it seamlessly mixes tension, beauty, and comedy.

My question is about the comedy. Did the comedy in the film just come about naturally, or was it a more conscious decision? Were you afraid that the comedy would not mix well with the otherwise very dark subject matter? Was there a specific purpose to comedy, or was it just there to make the film enjoyable?

Thank you, and can’t wait to see Snowpiercer this weekend!

BongJoonHo72 karma

Just the idea of whether it be a comedy or a thriller or a sad film, to maintain one tone throughout is very hard to accomplish and feels MORE artificial. I think that in life, comedy and drama and terrifying moments are all mixed together, don't you agree? That's how life is, so it's not like I deliberately or consciously calculates these types of contrasts, it happens naturally. And it's more challenging to do a scene or movie in one tone. Like with very serious moments in life, if you take one step back, it could be very funny if you look at it with a cynical point of view, or very very happy moments in life, you take a few steps back and it could be very sad. It's really all about distance, how far away you are can change the way you see it drastically.

Frajer32 karma

What was Tilda Swinton like to work with?

BongJoonHo67 karma

So she had new ideas every second, and from a director's point of view, she had even more ideas than me, and I was busy picking up the fruits that were left behind by her. You will see in the film, she has a very unique look, and her transformation is so extreme you can barely tell that is her, and most of that was Tilda's idea. And at one point, I had to bring it back a little bit.

Auwriii31 karma

What were Snowpiercer's protein blocks (the food of the tail section) really made of on set?

BongJoonHo70 karma

Actually, it was made out of a combination of sugar and seaweed, the results were not a very tasty one, to create that jelly-like feeling we had to use this combination. And the actors, Chris and Octavia and Tilda, had to actually eat them on-set, they were edible but tasted terrible. Have you ever been to Japan or Korea? they have a tasty dessert called Yanggaeng that is a tasty dessert, so when the audiences in those countries saw the protein block they had a very different reaction.

cowsaysmooie27 karma

Hi! Can't describe how excited I am that a high-profile figure who I actually know and care about is doing an AmA...

My question is this: I had the awesome opportunity to watch the movie in South Korea, and I'm definitely going to watch it again in the states when it comes out! But I've heard that the U.S. distributor cut some parts of the original movie out. Is that true?

BongJoonHo64 karma

There was the test of a different version and we tried different things with the editing, but the Weinstein company decided to release the director's cut, and we have released the same version everywhere. And in the 27th, this Friday it will be in theaters as the director's cut, and I am very happy and I hope you all enjoy it. Just because it's a director's cut does not mean the movie is very long. If you take out the credits it is 1 hour and 59 minutes. I heard the new Transformers movie is 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

irongiant9323 karma

Hello there! I'm a huge fan of your film, "The Host", as it was a unique take on a monster movie that was packed with exciting action, hilarious moments and great family drama.

I wanted to ask, do you think that the monster movie genre is something you would be willing to return to, whether it be for a "The Host sequel or an entirely new direction? Thank you!

BongJoonHo30 karma

Actually, there is a Host sequel that is in the works. And I actually gave all the rights to the Host to the production company that made the first film as a thankful gesture for making such a successful and great film. Apparently there is a new director but it seems like the script is taking a long time. It has not been shot yet, but they have made a 3-D demo skull that you can see on YouTube. I have no involvement on that project. As far as the monster genre, I do enjoy that genre and would like to return to it sometime because it can be so unique and funny and you can add all kinds of symbolism into a monster film.

bedtimebonzob19 karma

Hi Director Bong, big fan of the way you use visual motifs and symbolism.

On a recent rewatch of Mother I noticed many shots of the characters' feet and was wondering what meaning those shots were intended to convey?

Also, will we have see a Blu-Ray release of Memories of Murder in North America? Maybe on Criterion?

BongJoonHo30 karma

So character's feet, in my films I often use feet or hands to talk about the characters. For example in Memories of Murder, there is a detective who kicks the innocent suspects with his boots, and in the end, his foot gets cut off. As you mentioned there are feet in Mother, but also hands, like after the Mother kills the old man witness, she looks down at her guilt-ridden hands. And also when she is chopping the herbs, it's almost as if her fingers are going to be cut off. And in Snowpiercer, regarding Chris Evans there is something involving his arm, I don't want to spoil it for those of you who have not seen the film yet. If you watch it through to the end, you will see what happens to his arm.

Actually there is a korean blu-ray that works for the region of the U.S and you can find that on the internet. And also Palm Pictures has released the DVD, and you can find a few copies out there.

SonuvaPreacher18 karma

I remember reading that Park Chan-wook had some issues with his English language debut film Stoker (mostly issues with the studio). Did you experience anything along those lines with Snowpiercer?

BongJoonHo35 karma

So actually in the case of director Park, it was a project that was developed by Fox Searchlight and others and he came onboard as a director. In the cast of Snowpiercer, I developed it myself and it was all financed and produced out of Korea with Korean financing, and the actors and the crew were a combination of people form various countries. I did not set out to make an international film, it just turned out that way because the film is about all of mankind existing on a train.

AgentPeggyCarter17 karma

I'm very excited to see Snowpiercer! I've been looking forward to it since the film was announced. You've assembled what looks to be an outstanding cast and I've heard nothing but great things about the film itself.

What was your favorite part about making Snowpiercer? What was it like working with Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton?

Also, what advice would you have for an aspiring filmmaker?

Thank you so much for doing this AMA!

BongJoonHo63 karma

so in terms of Chris Evans, he has 2 sides to him: obviously, he is a great action star, he is an action machine, he never makes a mistake, if anything the other stunt guys make mistakes. Chris was just really, really good, and he surprised all the stunt guys by how precise he was. So just watching him live doing these action sequences on-set. I wondered at times how someone could move so precisely and so dynamically. But at the same time he also has the ability to convey deep emotions and has a very delicate way of acting, and he is very very focused. Actually you see Chris cry two times in the film and it is strange to see this big hero, Captain America, cry in the film. And actually the hardest part about working with Chris was figuring out ways to hide his muscle mass. In the movie he is a revolutionary leader in the back of the train, the tail where people are hungry all the time, and the trick was to hide his beautiful muscles, and we did that with various ways with costume. And in the case of Tilda Swinton, she is so passionate and full of ideas, always overflowing with ideas, that even when she was done shooting her scenes, she is not the type of actor to go into a trailer and stay out of sight. She likes to stay on set, be around the crew, and likes to have a lot of fun. So in the movie, she plays a character called Mason and actually she made a calendar, a photo calendar of Mason in the different sections of the train, even in the train cars she did not appear in, she took many photos to create this calendar of the character throughout, and actually this is something people don't know but Tilda actually plays 2 roles in the movie. It's like finding the hidden picture. I will give you a hint that she comes back in the later part of the film, but it'll be fun to try to find where she appears.

So as a director, it's really about an image or a character that you want to explore, and it's really an obsession. And that obsession probably already exists within yourself. Don't quit and don't give up on that obsession. Keep working at it until you see it on a big screen and you see that beautiful image projected up there.

Kemintiri14 karma


I really enjoyed Memories of Murder and was so goddamn angry when I read that it was based on real events and as you portrayed, the murders went unsolved.

What are your next projects and who would you like to work with?

How do you feel about the Korean genre of film (revenge, revenge, revenge!), and how it's growing in appeal in global cinema?

Which has been your favorite film to make so far?

Have you been watching the World Cup?

I look forward to going to see Snowpiercer and thank you so much for the IamA.

BongJoonHo31 karma

Actually, Memories of Murder was based on real events, similar to David Fincher's Zodiac. And the real murderer was never caught, and perhaps he saw it in a movie theater, and whenever I think about that I have complicated feelings about it. Presently I am working on 2 scripts, one is a very unique adventure movie about a young woman that takes place in Korea and New York. And the other script, I am not sure how to describe the genre, but it is about a weird family, 4 person family. What makes them weird is a secret.

Especially one of the producers of Snowpiercer, Park Chan-Wook, he made a revenge trilogy that got a lot of interest. One of them is Oldboy, the others include Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and the other one is Lady Vengeance. And just this idea of revenge is tied into this very Korean emotion called "Han" which is a bit hard to describe and translate, but it's an idea of frustration and if you try and fail to exact revenge, this mood can overcome you, and it's a very unique, very Korean / Asian aspect or mood. They have that spirit in those films.

Mother, it's a very dark story but the vibe on the set was really comfy. And Snowpiercer because it was so new, working with an international cast and crew, it was chaotic but a fun kind of chaos.

I am actually a HUGE soccer buff and I have been watching the World Cup very closely even though I'm in the US to promote the film, I've been watching games on ESPN or highlights on my iPad. And of course it's really depressing about Korea's loss to Algeria, but just enjoying the beauty of the game and watching soccer. It seems like the US team is doing very very well in this world cup, especially the game against Portugal, they played a great game.

OprahOpera14 karma

How do you feel about Americans wanting to remake your films? Do you find it flattering or offensive?

BongJoonHo129 karma

Actually, Universal talked about wanting to remake The Host a while ago. And I am fine with it either way, if the remake comes out successful I can take credit for being the original creator and writer. And if it comes out terrible, well people will say the first one is better. So I am fine with it either way.

Pharoside13 karma

Hi Bong, loved Memories of Murder. I saw Snowpiercer recently (It was awesome) and the scene with the fire in the tunnel during new year was amazing. How long did that take to film?

BongJoonHo31 karma

That was a difficult sequence to shoot. We shot from morning until night and it took a long time. It was physically intense, not just for the actors and stunt guys but also for me. It was a very loud scene and it took about 2 weeks, I think. And there are many different levels or sections of that battle. It goes into the tunnel, to the bridge where the train crashes through the ice, to the torch sequence, it really took a lot. And the torch fight sequence, all of that was lit with real flames, there was not a single electric light used, and it was challenging.

midgarden13 karma

Just wanted to say that I loved Snowpiercer, you made a beautiful film that was very easy to emotionally connect, and invest in. I have to ask, was the fish-train-section fight an homage to the corridor fight scene in Old Boy?

BongJoonHo24 karma

Actually when we were doing storyboarding, that sequence, it was not like I was conscious of that scene in Old Boy but perhaps there was a similarity in the space as the train is a very long narrow space and the scene in Old Boy takes place in a hallway. So perhaps you can make a connection. But as far as the slow motion shots, I think it's very different than the way Old Boy was photographed. And as far as what happens in Snowpiercer, it's a very complicated fight scene with 2 groups of people colliding, and fighting, but I also wanted to show that within all those people or amongst all those people that Curtis, Chris Evans, is lonely, and outside you see a beautiful frozen landscape passing by, and I wanted to create a very dreamlike feeling.

raphus_cucullatus11 karma

What was it like adapting a comic book into a film? Were there any challenges? I know Steven Spielberg had various copies of Tintin for everyone while on set. Also, is there another comic book would you like to see made into a film? (Either by you or any other director.)

BongJoonHo26 karma

Actually because of the release of the film, the original graphic novel was published in english in the United States, so please check it out. It's very different and has its own feeling and vibe to it. But the movie was an all-new creation. I created all of the characters, and the scenes and episodes, and even the protein blocks is something you don't find in the graphic novel. I find it's much easier to start from the beginning and create a whole new story rather than try to maintain certain aspects of the original. I took the basic concepts, that there is a new ice age and the last survivors of mankind are inside this moving train. And there's a comic book artist called Charles Burns, he has a very unique style and he also wrote a comic called Black Hole. It's very dark and weird and probably won't be easy to adapt, but I am very curious to see what the results will be like. I look forward to seeing that film and for those of you who haven't heard of Charles Burns, he has also written Skin Deep, Black Hole and The Hive.

raphus_cucullatus11 karma

What was it like meeting Quentin Tarantino? I know he is a big fan of The Host.

BongJoonHo48 karma

I first met Quentin at the Busan Film Festival, it's the largest film festival in Asia, and when we were both in LA recently we had dinner. We are both movie buffs and when we talk movies, we don't feel time passing, so before becoming directors we were film fans. And Quentin was very interested in the Korean genre masters from the 60's and 70's, so I found some of my rare DVDS and gave him a box set of the films, and in return Quentin gave me an old TV series called Garrison's Gorillas which is about WWII. It's a very old show. It can slightly remind you of Inglorious Bastards. I don't know how he found it but it's very rare and he gave it to me so it's a good friendship that started.

styten11 karma

What movies did you draw the most inspiration from while you were creating this film?

BongJoonHo26 karma

It's really just the idea of a train, there are so many comics and movies about that subject. But it's a train movie, so all the inspiration came from trains, it's like a living snake that moves, and it going through a tunnel and becoming light and dark, and all kinds of metallic sounds, metal scraping against metal, that's a very unique cinematic space. And during the film, I rode a lot of trains to stimulate my imagination, I looked at a lot of photos of trains, and in America they have photographers that only take pictures of trains.

raphus_cucullatus10 karma

What are some of your favorite Korean or other international films that you think need more attention?

BongJoonHo34 karma

Both are Korean films: one is called The Yellow Sea by Nahong Jin, and it's a really unique and different thriller which I highly recommend. And by director Kimjee Woon, he made a film called The Good, The Bad and The Weird which I think IFC released, and it is a sort of hybrid western, a Manchurian western, if you will, which is very thrilling and exciting.

asenathn9 karma

What was it like to work with composer Marco Beltrami?

BongJoonHo22 karma

He's done so many films before but particularly the 3:10 to Yuma and the Hurt Locker were films that i really enjoyed, and I decided to work with him. But Marco as a human being is a really sweet guy and he has a studio in Malibu overlooking the ocean, and it's a really cool studio, just going there to record the music I enjoyed. And his team that he works with are just terrific. And he also has a young son in high school who wants to be a director, and I remember watching that and enjoying it, and just the environment was a very comfortable and warm one. I am very happy with the results. and at the end of the movie, there is a piece called "This is the Beginning" that gives me a strange feeling of excitement whenever i hear that piece.

mcsuppes8 karma

Congratulations on the movie, sir, it's one of my favorites of the year. I have two for you, hope it isn't a bother.

What are some movies that have inspired you, recently or otherwise?

minor casting spoiler below

How did you decide on casting Ed Harris in Snowpiercer, and was he someone you had in mind early on? His character is one of my favorite parts of the movie and casting Harris feels like the perfect choice.

Thank you for all the great movies you've made, can't wait for the next one!

BongJoonHo25 karma

So recently I saw Spike Jonze's Her and really enjoyed it. It's kind of scifi but not really about loneliness and the voice of Scarlett Johannson, listening to her speak was kind of addictive and I wanted to listen to her voice. And I recently saw the Criterion edition of Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, back then there was no CGI, and he was able to create this wonderful spectacle.

And in terms of the order of casting, Ed was the final piece of casting. He was the last person to board the train. But after reading the script, he thought about the role and who could play it, I thought of different actors. I wanted somebody who without even trying to act, has a natural presence and aura about him, not doing anything. That was what was needed, and when you think about it there are not many choices. I thought Ed would be interesting for it and it was an honor to work with him. In the film you spend hours talking about this character, and the idea of working with him was great and i am grateful that Ed decided to do the film. And once we finally see Ed's performance, it's not a very showy or exaggerated charismatic performance, he is a real person wearing pajamas and in one moment, he kind of changes and you really see the dark side or the terrifying side. And that kind of aspect is something only Ed could have done.

jonemillard7 karma

Do you have any memorable stories to tell about the filming of Snowpiercer? This film has such a fantastic cast. I admire Tilda Swinton and John Hurt as much as possible. Did you originally want them in the cast? They were amazing in their roles.

BongJoonHo26 karma

Actually I wanted to work with both Tilda and John, and they were the start of the whole casting process, even before I was done writing the script and there was an official offer, they were wanting to work on the film and I feel very grateful to them. And perhaps you have heard that originally the character that Tilda played was written as a middle-aged man, but I wanted to work with Tilda so I changed the gender for her. So even in the dialogue, there's a moment when one of the officers calls her "sir" and I left it in there because I felt it would work, and Tilda in a strange way transcends gender. Also, the great Korean actor Song Kang-Ho, the other cast members like Chris and Tilda were very interested in him because they saw him in the host, especially Chris and Jamie. they saw some of the stunt moments in Memories of Murder and realized that it was not a stunt, and they asked me and I said "Yes, sometimes they really hit the other actor." And then Jamie got very concerned, because there's a moment when they hit each other in the film, and said "Well if he hits me I will hit him back too." But of course that never really happened on set.

WestBromBrazil7 karma

I really enjoyed this film I saw it whilst in Thailand in December; who did you enjoy working with most on the film?

BongJoonHo16 karma

Wow you saw it in Thailand! I only saw the poster with Thai lettering. It was really cool to look at it. Everything was enjoyable, I enjoyed working with everyone. But I really liked working with the actresses in the film, like Tilda, Octavia, Allison - that's not to suggest that I did not like working with the male actors.

somjuan4 karma

Hey, this movie really stuck with me for weeks after seeing it. Did you have a specific message you were trying to convey with the movie, or did the story just go that way?

BongJoonHo22 karma

It's not like i made the film to convey a message and that's all it was. I was trying to create a beautiful and exciting story. Of course the message is conveyed quietly, and from the very beginning of the scriptwriting process I had an idea of what i wanted to convey, and it's really a movie about systems, those who try to maintain the existing system on the train and those who want to destroy that system. And it's ultimately about escaping the system and asking new questions and whether it's possible to escape the system we are inside of.

testnameplzignore4 karma

You've been making movies since the early 90's so you were active directly in the time frame that cgi and virtual studios started coming up.

Would you have liked to make a film like snow piercer with more practical effects or do you view cgi as a tool that allows you to focus on other things?

BongJoonHo18 karma

So in the case of Snowpiercer, there are many VFX shots but they are very limited, and I wanted to get as high quality from these shots as possible. But of course, the physical space was the approach in terms of building the train cars and realizing that part of it, all the train cars were created except for the aquarium section. But in terms of shooting a movie, it's better to shoot within a real space. Like the Bourne Ultimatum, it has a quality about it that is exciting, rather than relying so much on visual effects.