‘Squid Game’ Was a Movie First, but Left out These Parts

Squid Game
was an absolute phenomenon on Netflix. Would it have had the same reach as a movie? That was writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s original plan when he first wrote Squid Game in 2008. Several circumstances led Hwang to revisit the project 10 years later and turn it into a series. 

'Squid Game' players line up in the barracks
Squid Game | Noh Juhan/Netflix

Hwang was at a Q&A with the cast of Squid Game at Chapman University which The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast released on March 29. Here’s how Squid Game went from movie to Netflix series and what you would have missed if it remained a movie. 

Hwang Dong-hyuk had to get famous to make ‘Squid Game’

Hwang directed his first feature film, My Father, in 2007. That still wasn’t enough clout to make Squid Game as a movie. 

“So I started writing Squid Game at around 2008,” Hwang said through a translator on the Awards Chatter podcast. “After I failed in financing it, I went through quite a challenging time. It was not easy to live then.”

‘Squid Game’ was almost animated before Netflix

After making hit films like Miss Granny and acclaimed ones like Silenced and The Fortress, Hwang tried Squid Game again. But, he had given up on making it as a movie. 

“I never forgot about this project,” Hwang said himself. “It was in my mind for like 10 years because nobody liked it back then. So I was like I’ll show you. This is going to work someday. It was like my own revenge to those people who rejected this project.”

Hwang thought if Squid Game couldn’t work as a movie, maybe it could be an animated series. 

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“So after I finished The Fortress, my original plan was making that story into a webtoon which is very popular in Korea,” Hwang said. “So I met the person who works in the webtoon company and I introduced the story to her. She said, ‘Let me see it. Let me see the script.’ So I opened my laptop back home and I read the script that I wrote 10 years ago. All of a sudden it just became alive. Wow, it’s not bad.”

But a live-action series sounded like an even better idea. 

“Then it came up to my mind, there is Netflix in Korea,” Hwang said. “So yeah, there’s Netflix, maybe they’ll love this idea. Doesn’t have to be a feature, it could be a series. So I called someone at Netflix that I know and she said, ‘Okay, bring it to me.’ I’ll e-mail her the script and she loved it so it happened.”

The ‘Squid Game’ movie would have missed out on all this 

Looking back at his original Squid Game movie script, even Hwang realized he left a lot out. Making it as a nine part Netflix series allowed him to explore every character competing in the game.

“So when I was writing the feature script, I even felt I wanted to have more space and time to describe more characters and more stories,” Hwang said. “In that feature script it was only game after game after game. There was no story between those games. I though it’s better to have it in series, so it’s longer.”

Hwang also knew he couldn’t get away with all the violence in a Squid Game movie. 

You’ve seen the whole episode. This is too violent, this is very absurd, this is unrealistic. That’s what they told me back in 2009. You’ve seen it. I thought still, in 2018, I thought they are not going to like it because it’s too violent to make into a commercial feature. It’s going to be rated as 19 years or older. The investment company might ask me to make it PG-13, less violent. I didn’t want to do that and I knew Netflix will allow me to do anything I want in terms of the violence and the sex scene

Hwang Dong-hyuk, Awards Chatter podcast, 3/29/22

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