The smash hit survival drama has earned Netflix £650m. But the stress of making it cost Hwang Dong-hyuk six teeth – and he didn’t get paid any extra. He reveals the family catastrophe that inspired his hyper-violent capitalism satire
Hwang Dong-hyuk is laughing at me from his office in Seoul. I’ve just asked the creator of Squid Game, Netflix’s smash hit show, if its astonishing success has made him rich. In the dystopian survival drama, a mysterious organisation challenges 456 players from all walks of life – each deeply in debt – to play a series of children’s games. Win and they go home with 4.6bn won (£28m). Lose and they get a bullet in the head.
Perhaps Hwang is now as rich as the contestant who wins the top prize? “I’m not that rich,” he says. “But I do have enough. I have enough to put food on the table. And it’s not like Netflix is paying me a bonus. Netflix paid me according to the original contract.” That seems unfair. After all, the 50-year-old South Korean film-maker has made hundreds of millions for his paymasters. Squid Game earlier this month overtook Bridgerton as the most successful Netflix show ever. According to leaked documents, the nine-episode run cost £15.5m to produce, which works out at £1.75m per instalment. Its return on that has been extraordinary. The series – which Netflix estimates has been watched by 142m households and boosted its subscriber figures by 4.4m – is thought to be worth £650m to the streaming service.