Given the storm that has been brewing on the internet in recent weeks, you’d half-expect Bong Joon-ho to have a permanently furrowed brow and comic strip-style clouds massing over his head.
The South Korean director’s eclectic and acclaimed career has made him a firm favourite among the film industry’s fan boys and girls. They have been railing en masse at the news that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has picked up the rights to Bong’s latest blockbuster. The American has made it clear he plans to shave about 20 minutes of action from Snowpiercer before he’ll release it in English-speaking markets.
“Sacrilege!” is the cry. Insiders are saying that Bong is furious at the news. If that is the case, the 44-year-old certainly knows how to play politics. While admitting he’s not entirely thrilled by the decision, Bong points out that if you want to play with Hollywood, you have to abide by its rules.
“After I make the film, I have to let it go,” he says. “What happens to it after that is beyond my power, it is beyond my will. For me, it is the first time to do such a thing, so that is difficult. But Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster and Quentin Tarantino’s films have all been [through] the same process. It is what Weinstein does, so you have to get used to it.”
While the American’s detractors have dubbed him “Harvey Scissorhands” – a master of the dark editing arts – it bears noting that box office success, and Oscar wins, are Weinstein’s business. And by picking up Snowpiercer for release across North America, Britain and beyond, Weinstein is bringing Bong’s considerable talents to much of the world.
Snowpiercer is the perfect vehicle for this. Bong’s post-apocalyptic thriller brings together an international cast featuring his own regular lead Song Kang-ho, alongside Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Jamie Bell and Ed Harris.
Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, it is set in a frozen future world where what’s left of humanity exists only on a train that continuously circles the globe – protecting its passengers but also creating a bizarre microcosm of all societies, where class tensions are simmering towards boiling point.
Hong Kong audiences get to see the full uncut version – the one which played at last month’s Busan International Film Festival and left critics and audiences raving.
“Fortunately, it was loved by Korean viewers, and now I hope the world will love it, too,” Bong says.
Snowpiercer opens on November 28
Read the full story in the November 28 issue of 48 Hours