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Bong Joon Ho on ‘Parasite’ Golden Globes nods and the Jessica Jingle TikTok that tickled him

Bong Joon Ho
Sing along with “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho: “Jessica, only child, Illinois, Chicago.”
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

It was a busy weekend for “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho. He was in the clouds as he earned the first Golden Globes nominations of his career for his searing, genre-blending social thriller about a Korean family that infiltrates the household of a wealthy family.

Prior to boarding a cross-Atlantic flight on Sunday, he’d celebrated the news that he, the film and longtime muse Song Kang Ho had won awards from the L.A. Film Critics Assn.

By the time his plane landed Monday morning, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. had added three more nominations to the film’s growing collection of award season laurels, for director, screenplay and foreign language film. (By HFPA rules, foreign language films are not eligible to compete in the drama or comedy film categories.) Ringing from London with the help of his translator, Bong recapped a very busy awards weekend and took stock of his career-first Globes nods.

Where were you the moment you heard the news of your Golden Globes nominations?

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We heard about the L.A. Film Critics nominations and we were all cheering for the win. Then we got off the flight and heard about the Golden Globe nominations. So it’s been a crazy, hectic but very happy day.

“Parasite” unanimously won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year — or, “Bong D’Or,” if you will — but this is your first recognition from the Golden Globes. Several of your previous films have won awards from all over the world. How does this honor feel distinct?

It’s my first time being nominated for the Golden Globes, and I was so surprised when I saw the list of fellow nominees for best director. There are filmmakers that I always admired, particularly Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese — these are filmmakers that I studied, so just to be nominated amongst them is a huge honor. It already feels like I won the award and there’s nothing more I can hope for, to be honest.

“Parasite” is also nominated for the Golden Globe for foreign language film. Do you feel that awards should separate films into foreign language and English language categories?

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I was already aware of the Golden Globes regulations and because foreign language films can be included in screenplay, director and other categories, I do understand their rules. Each award ceremony has their own regulations and traditions, and I respect that. Also, foreign language includes amazing filmmakers like [Pedro] Almodóvar, so I’m also very honored to be nominated for that category as well.

Jake Gyllenhaal, whom you worked with on “Okja,” and Donald Glover recently hosted special screenings of “Parasite.” What does it mean to have fellow artists like these championing your film?

Donald Glover reached out to say how much he loved the film and very naturally we had the opportunity for him to present the film. Of course, I was so amazed by his music video “This is America” and his performance on “Atlanta.” The whole promotional and campaigning process, it’s not really the main job of a filmmaker. Mostly I do it for the sake of the film. But it also provides opportunities to meet great artists along the way, and that’s always such a huge joy, where we are able to exchange our opinions and thoughts about each other’s work that have been incredibly enjoyable and fun.

The first time we spoke about “Parasite” earlier this year, you had just seen “Uncut Gems” and told me how much you loved the Safdie brothers, who have also been in the awards mix this season. As a fan of the film, were you sad to see Adam Sandler not receive a Golden Globes nomination?

I have seen that Adam Sandler has received awards and recognition from other critics associations … but you know, there are so many more awards and ceremonies to come, with the Oscars and the guild awards. I’m looking forward to Adam Sandler being recognized in those, because of all the films that came out this year, “Uncut Gems” had the most explosive energy. It was so rough and so alive, I really love that film.

So many viewers love your film, meanwhile, and have been deeply discussing details and themes and moments from it for months. But it’s not only the experiences your characters go through; there are also memes, gifs, the jjapaguri recipes, Jessica’s Jingle. Which of the ways that people have found to celebrate “Parasite” have been your favorite to discover existing in the world?

It’s a TikTok video that someone showed me. In this TikTok video, a woman was dancing to the Jessica song, and she had a really dynamic and strange choreography. It was pretty amazing, and I was surprised to see it.


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