If you're one of the few people who haven't yet watched the South Korean dystopian survival series Squid Game, you should close this tab and read no further because there are some serious spoilers ahead.
The drama-thriller premiered on Netflix and quickly skyrocketed to secure the position of the most streamed show on the platform ever.
Squid Game Has Broken World Streaming Records
The debut of the show has cemented its place in entertainment history as a giant international success.
Still, some of the least known facts about the show are what make it so excellent. Buckle up for the backstory players, because we're taking you behind the scenes.
The Concept For The Show Was Originally Created In 2008
Director and show creator Hwang Dong-hyuk, 50, was thrown into the spotlight after the show's breakthrough success. But he wasn't always sure that his show would ever exist, let alone be successful.
The Seoul-born director originally came up with the concept for the show in 2008 when he and his family, who he described as "poor," faced the crippling realities of significant debt.
The Script Was Rejected By Production Companies For Over A Decade
Initially, the script took one year to write and was completed in 2009, but it faced multiple rejections when it was pitched.
Hwang Dong-hyuk's script was turned down by production companies for over a decade before finally being picked up by Netflix in 2019.
The Concept Was Deemed Too Violent For Commercial TV
He believes the reason that it didn't land was that "At the time, it seemed very unfamiliar and violent. There were people who thought it was a little too complex and not commercial."
After about a year of pushing the project, Hwang Dong-hyuk gave up and moved on to other projects, abandoning Squid Game until he got the call from Netflix in 2019.
Squid Game Was Originally Supposed To Be A Movie
Hwang originally wrote the series as a film but realized the story could be better told as a series.
The episodes gave him the ability to flesh out the relationships formed between players and the specifics of some of the deadly games featured in the show.
Jun-ho's Character Was Not In The Original Script
Reframing the film as a show also gave Hwang the opportunity to add sub-plots like Jun-ho's undercover police character, who wasn't in the original script.
Jun-ho ends up being a large part of the main story and his character helped Wi Ha-joon gain some recognition as a more serious dramatic actor.
The Series Is Named After A Children's Schoolyard Game
Hwang has spoken about his decision to name the series Squid Game after a popular children's game that he played in the schoolyard growing up.
It wasn't the first or only name pitched and early titles included "Round Six" and then "Squid Game: Play to Die" before settling on the more intriguing Squid Game.
The Director Said The Aggressive Nature of Squid Game Is An Image of Today's Society
The game, featured in the final episode, is one that Hwang describes as "one of the most physical. And it's also one of my favorite games."
He also revealed that he thinks it's the children's game that best reflects "the image of today's society" referencing the growing national debt in Korea.
Hwang Already Knew Who He Wanted For The Leading Roles
Hwang already knew who he wanted to play leading characters Gi-hun and Sang-woo before the show was picked up. He had his mind made up on Lee Jung-jae and Park Hae-soo for the roles.
However, when it came to casting the other leading players like Sae-byeok, Il-nam, and Ali, Hwang specifically wanted to find actors that were lesser-known to audiences.
Sae-byeok Was Played By A Korean Super Model
Fan-favorite Sae-byeok was played by Korean supermodel Jung Ho-yeon who competed in Korea's Next Top Model in 2013.
She has graced the cover of Vogue, and been hailed as "one of Korea's most beautiful women."
Jung Ho-yeon Was Walking In New York Fashion Week When She Recorded A Video Audition (Her First Ever)
Jung Ho-yeon was working as a fashion model in New York when she auditioned for Sae-byeok in her first audition ever. After seeing her video submission, Hwang knew she was perfect for the role.
Her acting debut has established that she's also got what it takes for the big screen.
Anupam Tripathi Moved From India To Korea To Study Acting
Anupam Tripathi, who plays Ali, moved to Korea from India to study acting. Hwang said that casting foreign actors in Korea was extremely difficult but that Anupam nailed his audition and spoke fluent Korean, making him perfect for the role.
His emotional performances became super memorable in the show and he was a driving force behind the morality theme.
Ji-young's Character Was Initially Written To Be A Boy
Lee Yoo-mi's character, Ji-young, partners up with Sae-byeok for one of the show's more psychological games played with marbles.
Hwang revealed that Ji-young's character was originally written as a boy. He decided to switch the role to a girl in order to explore the bond between two women, which is immediately established when the two women meet in the game.
The Robot Doll Was Modeled After Children's Textbooks From The 70s and 80s
The gigantic animatronic murder doll featured in the first episode for the deadly game of "Red Light, Green Light" was actually based on popular Korean textbook illustrations from the 70s and 80s called Cheolsoo and Younghee.
The doll has since risen to meme stardom online and you'd be hard-pressed not to encounter her somewhere on social media.
The Film Crew Hired An Expert To Make The Traditional Honeycomb Dalgona
The Dalgona Challenge was the second game featured in Episode 3 "The Man with the Umbrella." The film crew brought in a "honeycomb master" to help make real dalgona for the duration of filming the scene.
The actors said having the expert on-site meant that the set smelled incredible and sweet for three days straight.
The Sets Were Designed To Be Larger Than Life On Purpose
The elaborate playground-inspired sets were individually designed for each episode. Everything from the bunk beds to the play equipment was built to make the "players" feel as though they were children again.
As a result, the majority of the sets are exaggerated in size and huge next to the players without the help of any CGI.
The Tug-of-War Scene Was Filmed Using A Machine
The particularly morbid game of Tug-of-War was filmed using a machine that was responsible for "tugging" the other end of the rope.
The cast said that using the machine made the scene especially difficult and exhausting, adding to the authenticity.
The Glass Stepping Stones Game Was Built Over A Meter Off The Ground
The set that was built for the deadly game "Glass Stepping Stones" was designed to induce some anxiety in the actors, and it worked because Jung Ho-yeon said filming the scene was "terrifying."
The director and fellow cast member had real tempered glass panels installed about 1.5m above the ground and said "A mere 1.5 meters can make you frightened."
The Coffin Giftboxes Were A Comment On The Creator Of The Game's God Complex
Victims of the games were carted off in surprisingly chic gift box coffins marked with a large red bow before being wheeled to incineration (or worse).
Hwang revealed that the coffins were intentionally decorated like gift boxes to demonstrate how the creator of the game believes he is giving the participants a gift, even in death. He views himself as a sort of god and the gift boxes help symbolize that.
The Incinerator Room Was Modeled After Auschwitz
If you felt particularly disturbed watching all the "gift" boxes roll down to the basement-level incinerator room, you're not alone and that was by design.
During an interview, Hwang confirmed that the incineration room was modeled specifically after the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Actors Spent Time Bonding Off Screen To Add Reality To Their Relationships During Filming
The director worked with the actors to help make each relationship on screen feel as authentic as possible.
As a result, a few of them spent extra time together when they weren't working to help build their rapport. This was especially true for Jung Ho-yeon and Lee Yoo-mi as well as Lee Jung-jae and Park Hae-soo.
The Cast Improvised A Lot And This Blooper Made The Final Cut
Lee Jung-jae explained that the cast was confident when it came to improvising scenes, especially when they did multiple takes.
He mentioned his favorite moment was when Gi-hun is trying to put a straw back in Sae-byeok's coffee but keeps missing. Jung Ho-yeon ended up laughing so hard she had to hide her face. The scene ended up in the final cut anyway.