'Parasite' Director Bong Joon-Ho Reveals He Learned English Curse Words Through Spike Lee's Films

The South Korean director accepted the award for best foreign film at the African American Film Critics Association Awards last week

Bong Joon-Ho has Spike Lee to thank for his colorful English vocabulary.

On Wednesday night, the South Korean director of the Oscar-nominated film Parasite, took home the award for best foreign film at the African American Film Critics Association Awards.

During his acceptance speech, Bong Joon-Ho revealed that while he was studying English in college, he learned curse words from Lee’s films.

“I came from a place very far away. I live in South Korea,” he began his speech, with the help of a translator. “On campus, we held several illegal film festivals where we would have unofficial screenings at local cinematheques. We would screen a lot of American indie films and create subtitles ourselves.”

“The movies I did subtitles for was Jungle Fever and Do the Right Thing,” the director added, which was met with a laugh from the crowd. “At the time, my English wasn’t that good, so subtitling it was quite an experience. I had no idea there was such various curse words in the English language. Thanks to Spike Lee, I learned so many things.”

Bong Joon-Ho then revealed that did have the opportunity to meet Lee but was disappointed when he forgot to tell the fellow director about how he used to subtitle his movies.

“I was so excited and honored I made sure to take a picture right away, but things were so hectic I didn’t get a chance to tell him I subtitled Do the Right Thing,” he said. “If I meet him again, I would love to tell him. If any of you are acquainted with him, please let him know.”

Bong Joon-Ho, Spike Lee
Gotham/FilmMagic; Frazer Harrison/Getty

Earlier this month, Parasite made history when it took home the award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards. This was the first time in SAG Awards history that a foreign language film won the honor. The only other foreign language film to ever score an ensemble nomination was the 1997 Italian movie, Life Is Beautiful.

After the win, Bong Joon-Ho told reporters: “It is true that the momentum is building [for the Oscars], and we are a part of the awards race and the campaign, but I think today what’s truly important is that these actors were acknowledged by fellow peers, acknowledged as the best ensemble cast of this year. And that’s the greatest joy of this night. In regards to the Oscars, who knows. No one can predict what will happen.”

Bong Joon-ho
Sharon Choi and Bong Joon Ho. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

The thriller first premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival last May, where it became the first Korean film to win the coveted Palme d’Or, the top prize of the festival. Since then, the movie has also won best foreign language film at the 2020 Golden Globes.

Parasite, which follows two very different families as they become unusually entangled, is now up for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

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