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Partying with ‘Parasite’: How the history-making Oscar winner celebrated the big night

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Bong Joon Ho, winner of directing, writing and the best picture Oscar for “Parasite” cradles multiple trophies at the Governors Ball after the Academy Awards.
(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

First, they made history. But Oscar-winning director Bong Joon Ho and his “Parasite” cast and crew were still pinching themselves as their whirlwind night of celebration unfolded after the 92nd Academy Awards.

“It feels unreal,” said actor Choi Woo Shik, beaming in the middle of the packed Governors Ball immediately following the Oscars telecast. “92 years...”

He had just taken a selfie with Korean American actor John Cho — at Cho’s request — who’d announced “Parasite’s” nominations himself on live television. The biggest shock of the night, he said, was seeing his on-screen dad Song Kang Ho cry as “Parasite” won best picture.

Later, he said he’d even partake in celebratory karaoke at the Korean-themed party hosted by “Parasite” distributor Neon.

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South Korea’s “Parasite,” the first non-English language film to win the Oscar for best picture, took home four awards including best director, original screenplay and international feature.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

But many more tears of joy and celebration were in store for the South Koreans on Sunday night, where they were the toast of Hollywood as they walked into party after party together, greeted as heroes.

Partyers danced, drank Champagne and dined on sushi, crab legs, boba parfait and caviar-topped tater tots at the official post-Oscars bash.

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As Cho went on to chat up more members of the “Parasite” cast including actress Chang Hyae Jin, across the Governors Ball partygoers were buzzing over the film’s huge wins.

“I voted for ‘Parasite’!” said Amazon Studios head Ted Hope, not specifying in which category. He complimented the strong year for cinema and breakthrough voices including Lulu Wang’s Spirit Award-winning “The Farewell” and French helmer Ladj Ly, whose “Les Miserables” was Amazon’s nominee for the international feature Oscar.

Miky Lee, vice chairwoman of Korean media giant CJ Group and the executive producer of “Parasite” who dazzled audiences inside and outside the Dolby Theatre with her acceptance speech, took a moment to chat. “It’s a historic moment,” she said. “I don’t know what it means for Hollywood but I definitely know what it means for us. This opens up doors for Korean moviemakers.”

After midnight the “Parasite” cast and crew had made their way across town to the buzziest party of the night: Neon’s own sprawling bash at Soho House, where faux peaches hung from trees and Lee held court in front of a stage.

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The cast of “Parasite” celebrates its best picture victory at the Academy Awards on Sunday.
(A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images)

Just before 1 a.m., Bong arrived and shared a special moment with “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” director Céline Sciamma, whose acclaimed film also premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was released by Neon.

Inside a sea of people, Sciamma and Bong embraced. He grinned and placed his Oscar in her hands to hold. “Incredible!” she said. “This is like the future. You made this. You made it for us all.

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He beamed at her: “Tonight, we drink.”

And then Bong took the stage. Korean pop group A.C.E. had already opened for him earlier in the evening, performing as revelers packed two Soho House floors and several bars and dance floors waiting to glimpse the “Parasite” helmer.

Neon co-founder Tom Quinn introduced Bong to the stage and the entire party cheered and swarmed toward the front. “It’s still unbelievable,” said Bong, raising one of his three Academy Awards in the air.

Everyone’s favorite interpreter, Sharon Choi, stepped up to translate for him. Still clutching his Oscar in one hand and a microphone in the other, he stopped her with a smile.

“Tonight, Sharon — it’s OK,” said Bong, relieving Choi of the translating duties that made her an unexpected awards favorite all season. “Just drink!”

Joining him onstage, Lee shouted out “die-hard K-pop lover” Quincy Jones in the front row. Elsewhere, Roger Corman, filmmaker Mary Lambert, Neon co-founder Tim League and Korean star Lee Honey made the eclectic scene.

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Quinn, whose relationship with Bong began when he released his 2006 hit “The Host,” declared: “This is a win for all of us tonight.”

Earlier he pondered what it took for upstart Neon to take “Parasite” all the way to its historic Oscars triumph. “Twenty years of knowing that Korean film has been overlooked as the best cinema in the world,” he replied.

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Song Kang Ho in a scene from “Parasite.”
(Neon/Neon)

Throughout the evening guests enjoyed cocktails that would send Lee Jung Eun’s housekeeper character running, including peach gimlets and spicy peach margaritas. The party favors: take-home “Parasite” soaps in the shape of Scholar’s Rocks. So metaphorical.

Esconced in a corner VIP section, Park So Dam, Lee Sun Kyun and Choi led a crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to “Parasite” co-star Cho Yeo Jeong, who celebrated her birthday at the stroke of midnight.

Alas, karaoke plans were abandoned in favor of continued revelry, although the “Parasite” crew may have partaken after leaving around 1:30 a.m. A Koreatown after-after-party was rumored to be their destination.

Before capping his historic night, Bong reflected on the showstopping moment during the telecast when, accepting the Oscar for best director, he quoted fellow nominee Martin Scorsese, leading to an impromptu standing ovation for the “Irishman” helmer.

Like many of Bong’s hits from this awards season it was an unplanned, off-the-cuff speech that became, movingly and eloquently, a celebration of others. He had no idea where his fellow nominees were sitting as he called them by their names.

Overcome with emotion with his Oscar statuette in hand, he’d simply scanned the crowd from the stage. “I made eye contact with Martin Scorsese,” said Bong. “I was so moved.”

Times staff writer Deborah Vankin and Times film critic Justin Chang contributed to this report.


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