The creator behind Netflix’s immensely popular and incredibly unlikely breakout hit, Squid Game, revealed that the production took not only a mental toll on him but a physical one as well. Hwang Dong-hyuk is the brilliant mind who had Squid Game percolating within him for well over a decade before it became the cultural touchstone and wildly popular Halloween costume it is today. Speaking to The Guardian, he revealed that wearing multiple hats as a writer and director on the project wasn’t easy. In fact, he says the sheer stress of the production resulted in him losing six teeth.
As he stated, he kept having new ideas for scenes and even games while working on Squid Game that resulted in the work multiplying for him. However, Dong-hyuk was ambitious and put every ounce of creative energy he had on the screen. The end result really shows how hard Dong-hyuk worked to make the show the success it is now. Unfortunately, he stated in the interview that the popularity of Squid Game for Netflix has not resulted in him having the wallet size that the person who created the most popular show in the world should have. He certainly doesn’t have the amount of coin that your average Squid Game winner would have.
Alas, Netflix only paid Hwang Dong-hyuk the original sum per his contract to make the show. While he didn’t specify how much that was, it’s unlikely that the U.S.-based streaming giant bet too big on such an out-there, foreign-language series.
However, it really should have. Deadline previously reported that in its first month of streaming on Netflix, Squid Game absolutely shattered the previous record holder, Bridgerton, for the most viewers in a 28-day period. Sitting pretty at 111 million viewers, Bridgerton, the sexy old-timey romance show, is a distant second at 82 million. As a result, the South Korean drama series is officially the most popular show in the world.
The outlet reports that Squid Game is the number one show in 90 countries, proving that it’s a breakout hit among many cultures and governments. It seems that Hwang Dong-hyuk, who was inspired with the idea for the show after witnessing his own family’s dire financial situation in 2009 when the weakened global economy hit South Kora, tapped into something universal. Every government whose country has a Netflix presence understands the lengths one would go to to have enough money to solve all their problems.
If Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarados knew at the time what a gem he had with Hwang Dong-hyuk’s idea, he likely would have offered a bigger payday as well as locked him down for more seasons. Unfortunately, Squid Game was such a passion project and teeth-losing labor of love that Hwang Dong-hyuk has previously signaled to Variety that a second season might not be in the cards. While he freely admits that he is not closed off to the idea, he explained that he doesn’t have a concrete idea for what it would look like in his head. So, he faces an eerily similar question to the characters in Squid Game. Does he go for the massive payday and risk death? Or does he accept a minor victory and go home on top?