From James Beard Award-Winning Chef David Chang and Academy Award-Winning Director Morgan Neville comes “Ugly Delicious,” a Netflix original documentary series that challenges both our taste buds and minds.
Over eight episodes, David travels the world with writers and chefs, activists and artists, who use food as a vehicle to break down cultural barriers, tackle misconceptions and uncover shared experiences. Ugly Delicious ventures out of polished kitchens into the wider world to explore Viet-Cajun cuisine in Houston, Neapolitan Pizza in Tokyo, home cooking in Copenhagen, and much more.
Special guests include: Ali Wong, Eric Wareheim, Gillian Jacobs, Jimmy Kimmel, Alan Yang, Steve Yuen, and Nick Kroll; chefs René and Nadine Redzepi, Rosio Sanchez, Enrique Olvera, Jessica Koslow, Massimo Bottura, Alex Raij and Eder Montero, Sean Brock, Diep Tran, Ray Garcia, Nina Compton, Roy Choi, Dollye Graham-Matthews, Chris Shepherd, Edouardo Jordan, Asha Gomez, Justin Yu, Zaiyu Hasegawa, Mark Iacono, Nick Bishop Jr. and Tootsie Tomanetz; and writers Peter Meehan, Ruth Reichl, Jonathan Gold, Evan Kleiman, Lolis Elie, David Simon, Ian Mosby, Alison Cook, Fuchsia Dunlop, Gillian Ferguson, Chris Nuttall-Smith, Amelia Gray, Gustavo Arellano, Psyche Williams-Forson, and Serena Dai.
“Food is something we all have in common. It’s an essential part of who we are and how we create connections across cultures,” says David Chang. “In that spirit, we brought together some of the people we admire most to make Ugly Delicious a collaborative forum, a place where it’s okay to have strong opinions and honest conversations about food.”
“Ugly Delicious” is produced by Tremolo Productions. Morgan Neville, David Chang, Eddie Schmidt, Peter Meehan, Christopher Chen, Lisa Nishimura, Ben Cotner and Adam Del Deo serve as Executive Producers.
David Chang is the chef and founder of Momofuku, which includes restaurants in New York City, Washington DC, Sydney, Toronto, Las Vegas; and Los Angeles in early 2018. Since opening Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004, David has been honored with five James Beard Foundation Awards, and Momofuku Ko has two Michelin stars it has retained since 2009. His cookbook, Momofuku, is a New York Times bestseller.
Tremolo Productions is an Academy Award, Emmy Award and Grammy Award-winning production company run by filmmaker Morgan Neville. Projects include “20 Feet From Stardom,” “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” “Best of Enemies,” “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” and “Crossfire Hurricane.” Television series include “Chelsea Does” (with Chelsea Handler) and “Abstract: The Art of Design.”
Netflix has announced that it has fired actor Danny Masterson from its comedy TV series “The Ranch,” after four women have come forward with claims that Masterson raped them in the early 2000s, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “The Ranch,” which premiered in 2016, is set to begin airing the second half of its second season on December 15, 2017. The show is about a dysfunctional family that owns a ranch in Colorado. The cast includes Ashton Kutcher, Debra Winger and Sam Elliott.
Masterson is best known for co-starring with Kutcher in the sitcom “That ’70s Show,” which was on the air from 1998 to 2006. In the U.S., “That ’70s Show” aired on Fox. Masterson has denied all the rape allegations, and issued a statement saying that he was “disappointed” in Netflix’s decision to fire him from “The Ranch.”
Netflix’s firing of Masterson comes a little over a month after the streaming network did the same thing to “House of Cards” star/executive producer Kevin Spacey after numerous men (including “House of Cards” employees) came forward in October 2017 to claim that Spacey sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Spacey allegedly committed sexual harassment against males over several decades, according to published reports. Spacey issued a public apology to actor Anthony Rapp, who claimed in an October 2017 article published by BuzzFeed that Spacey tried to have sex with him in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. Spacey has not publicly commented on the other allegations, but said that he is taking time off from his career to seek treatment. Spacey has since been removed from the Columbia Pictures drama “All the Money in the World” and replaced by Christopher Plummer.
In late 2017, other actors who have lost TV shows, movies or other business deals after being accused of sexual misconduct include Louis C.K., Ed Westwick, Jeremy Piven and Jeffrey Tambor. Prominent TV journalists Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Mark Halperin have also had disgraceful exits from their jobs after numerous women accused them of sexual harassment going back several years. An even larger number of high-ranking executives who work behind the scenes at various entertainment and media companies have been fired, placed on leave or have resigned in late 2017 after being accused of sexual misconduct by several people. The companies with these major shake-ups include Amazon Studios, DC Comics, Def Jam, National Public Radio, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Rush Communications, Vox Media, Warner Bros. Television and The Weinstein Company.
Although people being fired for sexual misconduct is nothing new, this unprecedented tidal wave of accusations and scandalous ousters in the entertainment industry seems to have been triggered by entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein’s massive fall from grace in early October 2017, when numerous women went public with stories that he sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. As of this writing, more than 60 women have come forward with sexual misconduct stories about Weinstein, with the stories spanning various years over several decades, going as far back as the 1970s.
Emmy-winning comedian Louis C.K. has admitted that “those stories are true” that he committed sexual misconduct by asking several women (who were co-workers or colleagues) if he could masturbate or expose his penis in front of them. In a statement issued on November 10, 2017, Louis C.K. (whose real name is Louis Székely) expressed regret that he abused his power, and said he was remorseful that his actions hurt the women he mistreated, his friends, loved ones and other people. The allegations were first reported in a New York Times article (published on November 9, 2017) that detailed experiences from five women who said that Louis C.K. sexually propositioned them by showing them his penis without their consent and/or asked if he could masturbate in front of them.
After the New York Times article was published, the backlash against Louis C.K. was swift and severe: FX, HBO and Netflix have all issued statements saying that they will not work with him anymore. The Orchard, the distributor of his film “I Love You, Daddy,” cancelled the movie’s New York City premiere (which was scheduled to take place on November 9, 2017), and has decided not to release the movie. (In the movie, which was written and directed by Louis C.K., one of the characters in the movie has a penchant for masturbating in front of people.) In addition, several public appearances from Louis C.K. have been cancelled.
The 50-year-old entertainer is known for his raunchy stand-up comedy routine, in which he often talks about sex and sometimes mentions that his addiction to porn caused problems in his marriage. Louis C.K. and artist Alix Bailey got divorced in 2008, after 13 years of marriage. The former spouses have two daughters together.
Louis C.K. is among the growing list of celebrities whose reputations and careers have been ruined in 2017, after several people went to the media to accuse them of sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct. Entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and filmmaker Brett Ratner are just three examples of those who have been accused of committing physical sexual assault in addition to verbal harassment. Weinstein and Ratner have denied any sexual contact that was non-consensual. Spacey made an apology to his first public accuser (actor Anthony Rapp, who told BuzzFeed his story), but Spacey claimed to not remember making any sexual advances on Rapp, who said he was 14 when a 26-year-old Spacey tried to have sex with him in 1986. Weinstein and Spacey have issued public statements saying that they are seeking treatment for their harmful actions that led to these problems. It remains to be seen if there will be any criminal charges or lawsuits filed against the accused as a result of the accusers going public.
Actress/writer/producer Pamela Adlon, who worked with Louis C.K. on the FX comedy shows “Louie” and “Better Things,” issued this statement on November 10, 2017: “Hi. I’m here. I have to say something. It’s so important. My family and I are devastated and in shock after the admission of abhorrent behavior by my friend and partner, Louis C.K. I feel deep sorrow and empathy for the women who have come forward. I am asking for privacy at this time for myself and my family. I am processing and grieving and hope to say more as soon as I am able.”
Although FX has cut ties with Louis C.K. and his Pig Newton production company, which co-created “Better Things,” the show has not yet been taken off of the network’s schedule.
Netflix has suspended production of “House of Cards” following allegations that the show’s star Kevin Spacey (who is also an executive producer of “House of Cards”) made a sexual advance on actor Anthony Rapp in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. Rapp detailed the story in article published by Buzzfeed on October 29, 2017.
Spacey then issued this statement on his Twitter account on October 30, 2017:
“I have a lot of respect and admiration for Anthony Rapp as an actor. I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.
“This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me and that some have been fuelled by the fact that I have been so protective of my privacy. As those closest to me know, in my life I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior.”
On October 30, 2017, after Spacey released that statement, Netflix announced that “House of Cards” would end with the show’s sixth season that was set to premiere in 2018. The show’s fifth season premiered on May 30, 2017. Netflix claimed that the cancellation of “House of Cards” had already been planned before the scandal. But suspending production in the midst of filming the show’s sixth season indicates that the “House of Cards” could end sooner than expected. Netflix and “House of Cards” production company Media Rights Capital issued a joint statement saying that production of “House of Cards” was halted “until further notice, to give us time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew.”
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the abrupt suspension of “House of Cards” could mean the beginning of serious career damage for Spacey, who has won several major awards, including two Oscars, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, one Golden Globe Award and one Tony Award. Spacey hosted the Tony Awards in 2017, but it’s highly unlikely he will ever be offered that kind of job again. Several high-profile organizations are already distancing themselves from Spacey, and more backlash can occur if more people come out against him accusing Spacey of sexual misconduct. If allegations come out against Spacey that he actually raped anyone (as Weinstein is accused of doing), then the damage to his career will be permanent.
November 8, 2017 UPDATE: After several other men (including “House of Cards” employees) came forward with stories about Spacey sexually harassing or abusing them, Netflix and Media Rights Capital announced that they have completely severed ties with Spacey. In addition, Creative Artists Agency and publicist Staci Wolfe of Polaris PR have dropped Spacey from their client rosters and will no longer represent him. Spacey has also been removed from the movie “All the Money in the World,” and has been replaced by Christopher Plummer. The AFI Fest premiere of “All the Money in the World” (which was set for November 16, 2017) has been cancelled. According to Sony Pictures Entertainment, despite the abruptly scheduled reshoots and re-edits required for the movie, “All the Money in the World” is still set to be released in December 2017.
December 5, 2017 UPDATE: Netflix has announced that the sixth and final season of “House of Cards” will be filmed with Robin Wright (who plays Claire Underwood, Frank Underwood’s wife) as the star. It has not been announced yet how the Frank Underwood character will be written out of the show.
David Letterman, the longest-serving host in U.S. late night television – the original host of” Late Night”(NBC) and “The Late Show” (CBS) – is returning to television for a new series for Netflix.
The yet-to-be-named, six-episode series has Letterman combining two interests for which he is renowned: in-depth conversations with extraordinary people, and in-the-field segments expressing his curiosity and humor. In each hour-long episode, Letterman will conduct a long-form conversation with a singular guest – and will also explore topics on his own, away from the studio. The series is set to premiere in 2018.
Said Letterman, “I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here’s what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely.”
“Just meeting David Letterman was a thrill; imagine how exciting it is for me to announce that we will be working together,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix. “David Letterman is a true television icon, and I can’t wait to see him out in the wild, out from behind the desk and interviewing the people he finds most interesting. We’ll have to see if he keeps the beard.”
The project is being produced by RadicalMedia, the Academy Award® and Emmy-winning company behind Netflix’s What Happened, Miss Simone?, Oh Hello on Broadway and Abstract: The Art of Design, and Letterman’s Worldwide Pants.
In 33 years on late-night television, David Letterman hosted 6,028 episodes of “Late Night” (NBC) and “The Late Show” (CBS), and is the longest-running late-night broadcaster in American history.
As a writer, performer and producer, Letterman is one of the most-nominated individuals in Emmy Award history, with 52 nominations, resulting in 10 wins. Letterman is also a two-time Peabody-Award winner, a Kennedy Center Honoree, and will receive the Mark Twain Prize in October.
From his roots in comedy, Letterman also became renowned as an interviewer, sharing the stage with U.S. presidents, cabinet officials, Medal of Honor recipients, and virtually every presidential candidate for more than 20 years. Through his guest interviews, Letterman also brought to light important global issues such as world hunger and climate change.
Letterman announced his departure from The Late Show in 2014, and aired his final episode on May 20, 2015 to an audience of 13.76 million people.
David Letterman resides in New York with his wife Regina and son Harry.
Netflix has announced its plans for the 2017 edition of Comic-Con International, which takes place July 20 to July 23 in San Diego. The following is information from a Netflix press release:
Thursday, July 20 – Sunday, July 23
THE NETFLIX BOOTH #3729, found on the convention floor, fans will enter an interactive brand experience where they will be surrounded by 360 Degrees of Netflix originals. The booth will feature exclusive content, the latest information regarding cast appearances and giveaways.
Fans are invited to step into the world of Netflix at THE NETFLIX EXPERIENCE, located at the Hilton Gaslamp, will include sneak peeks of upcoming originals, exclusive giveaways, and more! Visit the virtual [reality] Upside Down with “Stranger Things,” get immersed into the world of “Bright,” and dive into the streets of New York with “Marvel’s The Defenders. ” Come by Thursday, Friday or Saturday between 11:00am – 8:00pm, and Sunday between 11:00am – 3:00pm.
Thursday, July 20, 3:15 p.m. in Hall H
NETFLIX FILMS: “BRIGHT” AND “DEATH NOTE”
Experience a sneak peek at David Ayer’s new film “Bright.” Set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves and fairies have co-existed since the beginning of time, this action-packed and completely original film will make for a must-see panel with stars Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez and David Ayer — featuring exclusive footage and Q&A. Attendees will also be treated to a first-look at the edgy thriller “Death Note,” based on the Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Cast and filmmakers will debut footage and discuss the project’s transition from graphic novel to film.
Thursday, July 20, 10:00 p.m. in The Horton Grand Theater
A NETFLIX SURPRISE SCREENING
Netflix presents a surprise screening of an upcoming original film. Fans are invited to the Convention Center lobby before the screening for interactive activities that include costume and prop displays, interactive activities and autograph signings. Visit the Netflix booth on the convention floor to learn more!
Friday, July 21, 5:15 p.m. in Hall H
NETFLIX PRESENTS: MARVEL’S THE DEFENDERS
Daredevil. Jessica Jones. Luke Cage. Iron Fist. Four iconic super heroes. One stage. Nuff Said! Join Jeph Loeb and surprise guests of the highly-anticipated Netflix original series Marvel’s The Defenders as they band together for a panel you do not want to miss! Be the first to get an exclusive look into the super hero team-up that everyone is talking about before its August 18th global launch on Netflix.
Saturday, July 22. 3:00 p.m. in Hall H
NETFLIX’S: STRANGER THINGS 2
Netflix invites fans to join the cast and creators of the pop culture phenomenon Stranger Things, to view never-before-seen footage from the second season that picks up in the chaotic aftermath of Will Beyer’s return to a world that will never be the same.
Genetically modified organisms in food, animal rights and corporate greed are issues that are explored in the Netflix film “Okja,” a satirical drama directed by Bong Joon Ho. “Okja” is available for streaming on Netflix and has a limited release in cinemas. For 10 idyllic years, young Mija (played by An Seo Hyun) has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja—a massive animal and an even bigger friend—at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when a family-owned multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for itself and transports her to New York, where image-obsessed and self-promoting CEO Lucy Mirando (played by Tilda Swinton) has big plans for Mija’s dearest friend. She is aided by her right-hand man, Frank Dawson (played by Giancarlo Esposito). Also interested in Okja is Dr. Johnny Wilcox (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), an eccentric TV personality who hosts his own show about nature.
With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission, but her already daunting journey quickly becomes more complicated when she crosses paths with disparate groups of capitalists, demonstrators and consumers, each battling to control the fate of Okja, while all Mija wants to do is bring her friend home. “Okja” also stars Paul Dano, Steven Yeun and Lily Collis as animal-rights activists who are determined to help save Okja and other animals that are being bred for human consumption. Here is what Swinton, Dano, Yeun, Collins, Hyun and Bong had to say at a New York City press conference for “Okja.”
What was the most challenging thing about blending the emotions and the action in “Okja” that An Seo Hyun had to convey?
Hyun: On set, I was always thinking about how Mija would perceive all the things that are happening. I would say she was in a “Mija” state. Director Bong helped me constantly think about “Why Mija would do this?” and “What would Mija think?” That helped me maximize how Mija would think in the story.
Bong: An is very experienced, and she is very energetic and curious. She has enough energy to confront Tilda. And because of this high energy, when we filmed those scenic mountain scenes, we tried to distract Mija as best as we could. I would talk about catering, talk about snacks. I tried to distract her because if she tried too hard, the performance wouldn’t come out right. There are so many great actors and actresses around her, she might have been pressured into a poor performance. I did my best to try to relax her as much as possible.
Tilda, what can you say about your performance in “Okja”?
Swinton: It’s a very simple and relaxed business when you’re working with someone like Director Bong, who invited a kind of playfulness. He just described the relaxedness in all of his comedies, not just performance, but in all departments. Being a very intelligent person in what he knows is that he really wants people to be relaxed and bring something fresh and creative. That’s an environment that I love. It’s like a playpen, like a sandbox to me. It’s like kindergarten, especially working with him. He’s like my playmate.
Tilda, there was a similar fanaticism shown by Lucy Mirando in “Okja” and your Minister Mason character in director Bong Joon Ho’s “Snowpiercer” movie. What kinds of outside influences went into portraying someone like these characters?
Swinton: We worked on “Snowpiercer” together—Director Bong and I—and we whipped up this insane burlesque of Mason, who’s supposed to be beyond any reality, but as it happens, it seems we were behind the curve.
And for [Lucy Mirando], we wanted to have the idea of a full-clown villain in a slightly different way. We wanted to find different places of high capitalism and exploitation. And so we decided to split [the characters into twins]. We wanted to look at two different ways of messing the world up. She we had Nancy [Mirando, Lucy’s twin]—who doesn’t fall from the tree of her toxic, horrendous father—and Lucy, who’s so determined to be different. She’s driving 180 degrees from that and trying to be all user-friendly and woke and squeaky-clean and lovable. It was an opportunity to look at these two different places.
I suppose, especially when you’re working together in collaboration over projects, the conversation is kind of the same conversation, but it just evolved into a whole new area. There were all sorts of conversations we had about Mason sort of moved into conversations about Miranda. So they are cut from the same circle—and they all have teeth!
Director Bong, what is about monsters that make them so effective in talking about social issues?
Bong: I’m always drawn to creature films … [which usually] have the monster attack people. But in “Okja,” the creature was a very intimate friend of the protagonist, Mija. They stick together, they have lots of interaction, and they hug each other. It required a lot of cutting-edge visual effects work, which was the first challenge.
When I contemplate why I chose a pig as the animal, there’s no better animal than a pig that humans associate with food. There’s ham, sausage, jerky, etc. In reality, pigs are very delicate, sophisticated and smart. I think the true aspects of how we look at animals are coalesced inside a pig.
There’s one aspect where we look at animals as family, as friends, as pets. And the other perspective is when we look at animals as food. Those two aspects co-exist inside a pig. In our everyday lives, people try to separate these two universes. We play with our pets during the day, and at night, we have a steak dinner. But in this film, we tried to merge those two universes together and create a sense of discomfort. Like you said, a creature is a very effective tool to create social commentary in the world that we live in.
After doing such an unusual movie like “Okja,” where there’s a lot of absurdity in reality, do you go from here?
Esposito: We’re in that moment now in society. We’re right where should be. When I think of it, I think of working with people who have an interesting vision, who are deeply interconnected with pleasure and entertainment but also allowing my intellect to soar and my imagination to also take off and take wings. So when those get connected, you can’t help but leave this particular film without it resounding in your head. You not only were entertained, but you also have something to think about that is relatable to your life. I don’t know what’s next for me or any of us as actors, but we certainly hope to have the opportunity to work with visionary directors who have something to say, not just something to blow up.
Dano: I’ve always felt that the more personal something is, the more universal it can be. I think whatever means something to me is hopefully going to mean something to somebody else. I don’t know what that is. I think it’s different for everybody. I can’t think about it externally. I think it has to come through and then hopefully it speaks to somebody, whether it’s a big, absurd revelation or something very intimate or whatever the medium is.
Collins: I very much agree with the all sentiments that were said already, but for me, I just want to start conversations. I just want to do films that prompt conversations, whether they’re positive, negative or indifferent—ones where you leave wanting to know more and wanting to watch the film over and over again. I’ve always been a fan of people watching. I find that sometimes when you create a character and you think, “Oh, that’s too much.” And then you walk down the street and you think, “Yeah, it’s too little” or “That’s so subdued.” And then you watch someone and you think, “Actually, that more the way I want to go with it.”
I’m constantly surprised by human nature and humanity. And I think that’s why I love what I do, because I love to storytell and bring new characters to life. And every time I play a character, I discover more about myself as a human being. But I surround myself with interesting people. It doesn’t matter that I’m in this industry, I think in life, we want to surround ourselves with people who make us think and question ourselves. Those are the types of films I want to do and the types of characters that I hope I get to continue to play.
Did working on “Okja” affect the way you felt about animal-rights groups, how GMOs are used, and the corporate responsibility of the food industry?
Collins: I’ve always been weirdly interested in food documentaries. During the prep for this movie, I watched more. Director Bong gave us this ALF [Animal Liberation Front] handbook. I saw this really difficult images of animals and their treatment and the facilities. I’m not a red-meat eater anyway, so it wasn’t necessarily that I changed my food habits or eating habits, but I definitely became more of a conscious consumer in many other types of products.
I think the great thing about this film is that it speaks to so many different types of themes—nutrition, environment, politics, love, innocence lost. There’s just so many different things to be taken from this film that are dealt in a way that never tutorialize but always prompt conversation. I feel like what Director Bong is so amazing at is taking so many different things and presenting them to you—never telling you how to think, but if you leave the theater thinking something, then we’ve done our job right.
Yeun: I really enjoyed working with Director Bong mostly because he likes just to tell it to you how it is with all the gray. And so when you get to dive into something like the ALF, I know that we were playing a characterization of people who are really doing stuff like this. I feel like one thing it sheds a light on—at least for myself—is “Why does an individual sign up for something like this?”
And they’re all different, especially in our own [“Okja”] little subgroup of the ALF. Every single character had a different reason for being there or had different ethics that [made the individuals] willing to go farther or less than the other person next to them. It was an interesting study in that regard, because sometimes you see the ALF, as they intend, to be this giant, glob organization. But when you take apart the specific individuals who take part in something like this, it’s interesting to see that not all of interests necessarily align.
How did you reconcile that many of the protagonists in “Okja” condemn violence yet they use violent methods to achieve their goals?
Bong: There is definitely a level of contradiction in the ALF. Even in the film, the ALF [members] shout that they hate violence, but you can see throughout the film that they constantly inflict it. They have a very noble cause—you can understand the cause—but the film also portrays them to at times look foolish and making very human mistakes. They’re humans just like us.
Mirando isn’t a villainess in the pure sense. She has her flaws and fragilities … So whether that be people in the Mirando corporation or whether that be the ALF members, he wanted to embrace them within the boundaries of humanity where they make flaws and make human mistakes.
Dano: Just thinking about what Director Bong said, I was thinking how complicated it is to put a beautiful young girl in the middle of all that contradiction. It’s really one of the special things about the story. It’s a curious line between somebody like [my
Okja” character\ Jay and somebody like Lucy. Jay’s cause seems a lot nobler, but I think we believe in our own causes to the extent that it causes us to do something we don’t want to do, and often without knowing it or being able to justify it or look the other.
I like that the film, even though it has many topical issues, I don’t think it’s really preaching. It’s too complicated for that. Mija eats chicken stew, but she catches a little fish and thrown the fish back in [the water]. That’s such an important detail for this film to be true. And even though it has a fantasy-animation-graphic-novel sort of level to it, I like the truth in the contradictions.
To the actors, what was your initial response when you read the “Okja” script?
Collins: Finally! Here’s something so bizarre and great. The tag line is about a little girl who goes after her best friend that’s a pig. To be able to play a small part in such a big message is something I jumped at the chance to be a part of. My first meeting with Director Bong was at 11 a.m., and he orders ice cream and starts talking about this pig.
And I was like, “Okay, I think I know what I’m signing on for.” I fell in love with the idea that he could see me as this character. And I don’t think a lot of people would be able to see as someone like this, but it’s so much a love story and a drama and a comedy and an action movie and a fantasy movie. It’s kind of everything you wanted to see in one movie. It was a moment of enlightenment when I read it.
Esposito: For me, in many ways, it was a return to innocence. It’s odd for me to say, having played Frank Dawson, but this story is absolutely beautiful in its very connected relationship message. It doesn’t matter what that relationship is. It could be a child with their goldfish in a tank who is their best friend, or it could be Okja.
But that warmth, that sensitivity and that understanding that’s developed in that relationship, for me, guided me back to think about my loss of innocence. When did I grow up? And how can I un-learn that growing up and see the world in a new light? Many times, we are so smart that we are ignorant. And they say that education is learned ignorance. We as performers fantasize about telling our stories that will make a social comment or political comment or artistic comment are gifted with the ultimate gift: to be able to remain somewhere in our heart and soul that beautiful child that Mija is.
Swinton: I didn’t read the script for a long time because I was part of the cloud of the idea before it ever came to script stage. And I remember very clearly when we went to Seoul for the premiere of “Snowpiercer,” he drove us to the airport the next day and leaned over the seat of the car and showed me this drawing of a pig and a girl. And that was it. That was about three years before there was a script.
But even before that moment, I have to say it was one of the things Director Bong and I share is a love for the great director Hayao Miyazaki—in particular, “My Neighbor Totoro.” In fact, we regularly sing “Totoro” tunes. And so the second I saw the story, I saw that, and I saw an opportunity to fill to that homage. But also, we talked about the twin sisters in “Spirited Away,” which I think was a seed of the Mirando sisters. I was in before [the script] existed. Put it that way.
Do you think people will find the Okja creature adorable beyond the film?
Esposito: Okja dolls! Okja pillows!
Swinton: I think young children will be asking their parents, “Where are Okja reservations? Is there are Okja [section] in zoos?” They’ll be looking on Wikipedia for an Okja page.
Bong: Our visual-effects supervisor Erik-Jan De Boer did such a wonderful job. It looks so real in the movie. I was very happy reactions from some people. I wish I had an Okja in my house. I worked with Erik for over a year, striving for realism. With a cartoonish character, you can’t really draw from those kinds of emotions. We have to look at something realistic.
Swinton: Mija has such a sensual relationship with Okja. Don’t we all want to fall asleep on Okja’s belly? It’s really a feeling of physical comfort.