The emotional celebration began moments after the cast of director Bong Joon Ho’s South Korean heavyweight “Parasite” stepped offstage at the SAG Awards after winning the prize for best ensemble, the first foreign-language film ever to do so.
Spilling offstage with stunned looks on their faces, stars Song Kang Ho, Lee Sun Kyun, Choi Woo Shik, Park So Dam and Lee Jung Eun warmly embraced one another in a scrum of exhilarated shouts and huge grins.
Within seconds, a publicist’s voice cried out frantically in English: “Where’s Bong?! Find him!”
The “Parasite” quintet, representing five additional nominated cast members who were unable to make the trip stateside, made their way to a trophy station where “Marriage Story” supporting actress winner Laura Dern offered her congratulations.
Song was one of the first to receive his award, lifting it high in the air in triumph. Right on cue, director Bong came striding down the tunnel from inside the awards ballroom. He raised his fists in the air with a joyful cry and eyes only for his cast, who erupted in cheers. “Yeah!”
Handed the winning envelope, still open, with “Parasite” emblazoned in black lettering, he held it like a precious treasure. Moving with his cast through a backstage circuit of photos and interviews, frequently raising his cellphone high in the air to photograph and film them like a proud dad, Bong never stopped marveling.
And he held on to that envelope.
Running into “Fosse/Verdon” acting winner Sam Rockwell outside the photo call stage, he shared a hug and mutual congratulations. “Crazy,” Bong shook his head, speaking to himself and no one in particular, all at once. “You never expect it.”
Despite snagging a historic Golden Globes win and six Academy Award nominations, the prospects for “Parasite” remained in question at SAG, which has only once before nominated a foreign-language film, “Life Is Beautiful,” for its top prize.
Even the cast weren’t sure if they had a shot, they said — until the audience of Hollywood peers rose to its feet when they took the stage as presenters early in the telecast. But by the end of the night the “Parasite” love was unmistakable.
“It is true that the momentum is building and we are part of the awards race and campaign, but I think today what’s truly important is that these actors were acknowledged by fellow peers, acknowledged as the best ensemble cast of this year, and that’s the greatest joy of this night,” Bong told journalists in the media room.
Standing behind his actors as they gave televised interviews, he did bicep curls with Song’s award. In his left hand he still clutched the envelope, now carefully resealed. As the actors made their way through televised post-awards interviews, he used it to fan himself.
Park clutched the skirt of her gown in one hand and her statuette in the other before trading it temporarily for a glass of Champagne. Choi cradled his tenderly in his arms. “It’s really heavy!” he said.
Shouts of “Congratulations, Bong!” rang out at every stop backstage. A journalist chased after Choi, asking him to pronounce his name. “Choi Woo Shik,” he smiled, offering a handy mnemonic. “You know, how you get ‘sick’?”
The “Parasite” crew headed down a labyrinth of private hallways en route to the after-party, pausing to collect themselves before walking through heavy black curtains and into the hot-pink-hued soiree. As they passed, an events staffer lit up. “That movie was so good!”
In one hand, Bong still held that envelope — the proof of a historic night for them all. “They have trophies,” he said with a smile. “So I’ll keep the envelope.”
Dorany Pineda contributed to this report.