Weird & unrealistic: 'Squid Game' rejected by investors & actors for 10 years before it became a hit

He had to stop writing when he had to sell his laptop (worth S$917.12) for money.

Karen Lui | October 07, 2021, 12:56 PM

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The television and cinema industry can be just as brutal as a deadly survival game, and writer-director of hit television series "Squid Game", Hwang Dong Hyuk, can attest to that.

Hwang first wrote the gamified thriller in 2008 but it was only picked up in 2019 after numerous rejections over the decade.

Rejected due to weirdness

According to Wall Street Journal, Hwang was living with his mother and grandmother when he conceptualised the show more than a decade ago.

Hwang struggled to entice potential investors and actors who turned away from the brutal idea of a survival game whereby contestants risk their lives for a cash prize back then.

According to Allkpop, he told a media outlet in an interview:

"There were a lot of people who told me that ['Squid Game'] was a project that was weird and too unrealistic. I continuously got rejected from investors and actors."

The constant rejections caused him to believe that such content was "too unfamiliar to the society and culture at the time" and "it was too premature" to introduce it to the audience.

Deadly survival games

However, Hwang's idea for a deadly survival game was not completely unheard of back then.

The writer-director revealed that his development of the script in 2008 was inspired by Japanese survival manga series such as "Battle Royale" (2000), "Liar Game" (2005), and "Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji" (1996) while he was grappling with a bad financial situation.

He was even forced to stop writing at some point when he was so cash-strapped that he had to sell his laptop worth US$675 (S$917.12) for money.

In 2019, streaming platform Netflix saw potential in the series and picked it up.

The explosive success of "Squid Game" follows that of recent television and film adaptations of the same genre such as "Alice in Borderland" (2020) and "The Hunger Games" (2012).

Netflix's co-CEO and head of content Ted Sarandos even came out to say that "Squid Game" is set to be Netflix's "biggest show ever".

Hwang attributes the successful launch of "Squid Game" to a few factors such as the presence of over-the-top media services, the widening gap between the rich and poor, and the increased idealisation of get-rich-quick schemes.

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Top images via Netflix.