The cast of the South Korean dark comedy thriller Parasite took home statuettes for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Motion Picture at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 19th. SAG gives the award to honor the finest acting achievements in film. And Parasite made SAG history: It’s the first non-English language film to win the highest accolades. 

Apparent from the audience’s standing ovation, Director Bong Joon-ho’s South Korean class satire was clearly a crowd favorite. On the stage at the prestigious event, one of the movie’s main stars, Song Kang-ho, said through a translator, “Although the title is ‘Parasite,’ I think the story is about coexistence and how we call all live together.” 

The movie explores the relationship between two families—one wealthy and one poor. The financially struggling household schemes to become employees of the rich family with each member claiming to be unrelated to one another and pretending to be a sophisticated skilled worker.

Earlier this year, Parasite won the top prize for Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language at the Golden Globes while also receiving nods for Best Director and Best Screenplay. And on Rotten Tomatoes, the film’s approval rating stands at a whopping 99-percent based on over 350 reviews. With its wild, fun, and surprising plot twists, Parasite also made over 40 critics’ end-of-year top-10 movie lists.

Premiering at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Parasite was honored with the highest prize, the Palme d’Or in a unanimous jury decision. This notable achievement thrust the director and main cast to the heights of K-Pop fame in South Korea.

Parasite’s Cast

Although the cast speaks Korean and they’ve built their careers in the East Asian country of South Korea, their acting journeys sound familiar to actors in the states. Here are three of the lead cast members and a brief summary of their career trajectories.

 

Song Kang-ho is a popular and prolific actor in his home country and is known to portray the South Korean everyman. The 53 year old never professionally trained as an actor but started his acting career in social theater groups just after graduating from high school. The theater company he joined, Kee Kuk-seo’s theater company, placed a strong emphasis on instinctive acting and improvisation. Moving on to the big screen, Song’s first leading role turned out to be a box-office hit in South Korea, the comedy-drama The Foul King (2000) in which Song performed most of his own stunts while playing a professional wrestler. In Parasite, Song portrays Kim Ki-taek, the father of the financially struggling Kim family.

 

 

Lee Sun-kyun started his career in musical theater, and for many years he was cast in minor and supporting roles on screen. It was years before he started landing leading roles in single-episode short dramas on South Korean television. In 2007, while working on one such show, Lee met a pivotal TV director who connected him with greater work opportunities, bringing Lee mainstream popularity. Moving to the big screen, Lee often collaborates with screenwriter/director Hong Sang-soo on arthouse films. He’s currently 44 years old and plays Park Dong-ik, the father of the wealthy Park family.

 

 

 

Cho Yeo-jeong is a 38-year-old South Korean actress who started out as a model. She debuted as a CeCi Magazine cover girl when she was just 16 years old, and two years later, she started her acting career—TV commercials, music videos, and appearances in drama series. Still, Cho’s career did not take off the way she’d hoped. But in 2010, she rose to the spotlight when she starred as an ambitious woman of low caste in the erotic South Korean historical drama film The Servant. The role propelled her career, and she dared to take on another erotic role in the Korean historical thriller The Concubine in 2012 despite many concerns in the  local media about her choice of “going nude too often.” But the film went on to receive high praise. Seven years later, Cho portrays Yeon-gyo, the well-off mother of the Park family in Parasite

The Oscars

Looking forward, Parasite has six Oscar nominations for the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, and Best Film Editing. Indeed, the SAG and Golden Globe wins set the film up as a legitimate contender for best picture along with the front-runner 1917 at the 92nd Academy Awards celebration on February 9th. Let’s see if Parasite continues to make award-show history.

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