Magazine article Screen International

Bong Joon Ho, Snowpiercer

Magazine article Screen International

Bong Joon Ho, Snowpiercer

Article excerpt

Bong Joon Ho makes his English-language debut with $40m sci-fi feature Snowpiercer. Jean Noh meets the acclaimed South Korean director.

Snowpiercer is not only the first English-language film for Bong Joon Ho, it is also, at $40m, his most expensive project to date.

Set during a post-apocalyptic ice age, where the only survivors are the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer train, the ambitious film's cast includes Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, John Hurt and Tilda Swinton, who was the first to come on board the project after meeting Mother director Bong in Cannes in 2011.

"Before I even gave her the script, we decided person to person that we wanted to work together," says Bong. "She is like a female Song Kang-ho. She created a distinctive character that transcends gender. Her motto on set was 'F. U. N.'," adds the South Korean director.

When it came to casting the lead, Bong says it was luck and fate that brought him to Evans. "If it hadn't been for Chris, there wouldn't have been a Snowpiercer. He looks like a superhero or an American football player but he's a very subtle person. We took those delicate sensibilities and created layers for his character. He doesn't just smash through everything and shoot guns. In those moments when action is suspended, Chris's face could show that subtlety and sensitivity."

Meanwhile, veteran actor John Hurt was a great source of morale, according to Bong. "John Hurt's more than just an actor to me. He told me how he'd seen Mother as a British Film Institute member and he wanted to do all he could to make Snowpiercer a success. He brought so much support for me and his younger colleagues on set," says Bong, adding: "There were scenes only he could have pulled off."

Short, sharp shoot

The team shot the film in the Czech Republic over 72 days. "We shot on set in Barrandov Studios so we weren't affected by weather or travel. The shoot was the shortest I've done for a feature," says Bong, who once again teamed up with cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo.

"As with Mother, he was able to make the images in my head real without CGI."

'Tilda Swinton created a character that transcends gender. Her motto on set was F.U.N.'

Having shot his Tokyo! …

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