Bong, who saw First Cow when it premiered at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival, is one of its biggest fans. Ahead of the film’s release, Reichardt, Bong, and I spoke via a four-way Skype call (Bong’s translator, Sharon Choi, was also on hand), with Reichardt dialing in from Los Angeles and Bong from Seoul. If Bong has been changed by winning four Oscars for Parasite (including a landmark Best Picture trophy), it doesn’t show. Sitting in front of a wall of DVDs in his home and tugging at the sleeves of his sweater, he peppered Reichardt with questions and showered her work with praise. For her part, Reichardt invited Bong to visit Portland, Oregon, after we discussed their writing processes, aspect ratios, how their works critique capitalism, and more. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Kelly Reichardt: I’m very intimidated! Where do we start, Bong, my goodness! Congratulations!
Bong Joon Ho: Thank you!
Reichardt: Are you able to do any work now that you’ve stopped going around with Parasite?
Bong: Now that I finally have time, I’m trying to get back on it, but I’m so exhausted, mentally and physically. I’m just a shell of a human.
How about you? We last met at Telluride, and I saw First Cow there. It was completely packed; I felt like I could hear everyone breathing as they watched the movie.
David Sims: Is that when you first met?
Bong: We first met at Cannes. On the awards stage. And I confessed, “Oh, I’m a huge fan!”
Reichardt: Which was very nice! I was on the Cannes jury with Yorgos [Lanthimos, the director of The Favourite], and wherever we walked, people were asking Yorgos for his autograph. And he would go, “Oh, excuse me, Kelly, I have to go give my autograph.” So when Bong won and he told me he liked my films in front of Yorgos, it was a very big moment for me.
Bong: At Cannes, they always talk about how directors in competition should never say hello to people on the jury, but since it was after the awards ceremony, I felt more comfortable.
Reichardt: It was perfect timing. Can I ask, Bong, if it hadn’t been for the Oscars, how would you usually write? Do you work by yourself?
Bong: Even when I have a co-writer, I don’t really discuss things with them. I let them do their own drafts, and then I take over and spend five to six months producing the final draft on my own. I have an iPad and a wireless keyboard that I always take to coffee shops, and I just hide in a corner and write by myself. I have to be at a coffee shop with noise around me; I always end up sleeping if I write at home.
Reichardt: Oh, I understand. But you can’t go sit in a coffee shop now! You’re too famous! You blew it!
Bong: There’s always corners where I can hide!
Sims: Did you follow your usual writing process for Parasite and First Cow?
Reichardt: I write often with my friend Jonathan Raymond. Usually he does the first draft, and then, like [Bong], I take it and break it apart. But I like to start scouting while I’m writing. Do you know your locations when you’re going to shoot?