With The Host currently scaring viewers across the country, we were given a chance to interview the film's director, Bong Joon-ho. Filled with amazing effects this movie truly pushes the boundaries of monster films.
Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) works at a food-stand on the banks of the Han River. Dozing on the job, he is awakened by his daughter, Hyun-seo ( Ah-sung Ko), who is angry with him for missing a teacher-parent meeting at school. As Gang-du walks out to the riverbank with a delivery, he notices that a large crowd of people has gathered, taking pictures and talking about something hanging from the Han River Bridge. The otherwise idyllic landscape turns suddenly to bedlam when a terrifying creature climbs up onto the riverbank and begins to crush and eat people. Gang-du and his daughter run for their lives but suddenly the thing grabs Hyun-seo and disappears back into the river. The government announces that the thing apparently is the Host of an unidentified virus. Having feared the worst, Gang-du receives a phone call from his daughter who is frightened, but very much alive. Gang-du makes plans to infiltrate the forbidden zone near the Han River to rescue his daughter from the clutches of the horrifying Host...
How did you come up with the idea for The Host?
Bong Joon-ho: I used to live nearby the Han River when I was younger, and I liked to daydream, watching the River. I was also a great fan of monsters like Nessie of Loch Ness and so on. When I was looking at the Han River one day, I thought how it would be if a monster like Nessie coming out of the Han River, the ordinary and everyday space of Seoul Citizens. What will happen if the sci-fi creature comes out of the most ordinary space the Han River - that was the start of the film. And when the toxic chemical dumping case happened in 2000, to the person, who was preparing a story of a monster at the Han River, it was just the perfect for my monster's birth.
How long did it take you to write the screenplay for this film?
Bong Joon-ho: It took one and a half year during that period I also proceeded the designing of the creature with my creature designer.
What were people's reactions when they first read the script and realized how effects intensive the movie was going to be?
Bong Joon-ho: A lot of people were perplexed as they felt it unfamiliar. I am not sure it was because the genre itself was not common in Korea or I made a somewhat different and unique genre film. Many opinions broke out, but most of them liked the character of a loser family.
How did the WETA Workshop come to be involved with The Host?
Bong Joon-ho: There are of course great visual workshops in Korea. But there is none who's done very difficult CG, especially the 3-D creature animation. I had also no experience in the 3-D creature animation, so I wanted to work with a company and a supervisor with a lot of experiences and know-how in that specific area. So it led me to work with Australia's John Cox's Creature Workshop, New Zealand's WETA Workshop and the U.S.'s The Orphanage and the visual supervisor Kevin Rafferty. Rafferty has supervised the visual effects of Jurassic Park II, so he was perfect for the job.
What do you think the theme of The Host is? What would you like for viewers to come away with after screening the film?
Bong Joon-ho: I wanted to show that the weak people are neglected by the government, the society and the nation, but they help the weaker, struggling on their own. Little girl Hyun-seo sacrifices herself to protect weaker Se-joo while the loser families try to save her. The family are not helped by others, but there is only one who assist them - the homeless.
What for you was the most difficult aspect of bringing The Host to the big screen?
Bong Joon-ho: In Korea, there's no tradition of the genre film, and people consider it as childish and juvenile. So when I first announced to do this project, everyone, even my friends and people in the industry strongly objected. They were worried if I might ruin my career and so on.
Was it difficult finding a young girl to play the role of Hyun-seo?
Bong Joon-ho: The Other main characters of the family were determined before writing the screenplay because they've worked with me once or twice before. But Ah-sung Ko was a new comer actress picked through hundreds of auditions. Casting her took much time and efforts. Hyun-seo is the real main character in the film who gives the hottest impressions. So I pondered upon a lot to cast the part.
What do you have coming up next?
Bong Joon-ho:La Transperceneige is my second next project. Between The Host and La Transperceneige, I am planning to make a small but intense drama film. La Transperceneige will be a big scale Sci-Fi film where I'd like to depict everybody's admiration or yearning for the trains.
The Host is currently in limited release nationwide from Magnolia Pictures.