From left, Lee Jung-jae, Jung Hoyeon, Hwang Dong-hyuk and Park Hae Soo arrive at a red carpet event for "Squid Game" on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, at NeueHouse Hollywood in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

“Squid Game” Gets Praise From Steven Spielberg For Casting Unknown Actors

Steven Spielberg, the legendary director, commended the blockbuster Netflix series “Squid Game” for employing actors who were previously unknown in the western entertainment industry. The South Korean drama revolves around a game show in which 456 competitors, all of whom are in desperate financial straits, compete for a chance to win $45.6 billion (approximately $38 million) by playing a series of traditional Korean children’s games, including the show’s title game. However, the penalty for losing is death, putting far more than just financial ruin on the line for the players. Squid Game has been Netflix’s most-watched series since its September 2021 launch, gathering 1.65 billion viewing hours in its first four weeks and gaining great critical acclaim. “Squid Game” season 2 has been confirmed by Netflix, following its global success.

The survival drama was bought by Netflix in 2019 as part of the streaming service’s effort to extend its portfolio of original foreign-language programming. It stars a number of South Korean actors who were previously unknown in Hollywood. Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Kim Joo-ryoung, Heo Sung-tae, and Anupam Tripathi garnered international acclaim for their roles in Squid Game in an instant. The cast was also nominated for a number of foreign accolades, with O Yeong-su taking up the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-yeon getting SAG Awards for Outstanding Male and Female Actor, respectively.

One of Hollywood’s most venerable and legendary directors has now praised the casting of “Squid Game”. According to Deadline, Spielberg praised the drama for “[changing] the math entirely for all of us” by hiring performers who were new to most western audiences. The director complimented Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, for his contribution in changing traditional ideas of how well-known personalities and performers normally garner audiences, during a panel discussion at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. Read the rest of his reply below:

“Squid Game comes along and changes the math entirely for all of us. Thank you, Ted. A long time ago it was domestic stars that brought the audience into movies. Today, it’s interesting, unknown people can star entire miniseries, can be in movies.”

Spielberg is no stranger to the habit of employing new and unknown performers in prominent roles. He recently cast Rachel Zegler as Maria Vasquez in his West Side Story remake, which marked the actor’s feature film debut and won her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. As a result, Spielberg’s appreciation for “Squid Game” isn’t surprising. However, his comment that the series “changes the math altogether” means that it has changed Spielberg’s own notions about casting for high-budget movies and TV shows, and his gratitude to Sarandos implies that Squid Game has opened the door to new possibilities for the filmmaker.

With Spielberg expressing his enthusiasm for “Squid Game”, many may question if the director will follow Netflix’s approach with his future films. The exceptional success of “Squid Game”, along with the critical acclaim for Zegler’s casting in West Side Story, may motivate Spielberg to try to push the casting boat even further out for his forthcoming projects by employing even more novices in starring roles. Regardless of how much Spielberg draws inspiration from “Squid Game”, his admiration for the Netflix drama has eloquently reflected how much it has fundamentally challenged the industry’s belief in the need for big stars in ensuring a project’s success.