Steven Spielberg slammed for saying ‘Squid Game’ stars were ‘unknown’

steven spielberg
Image: Entertainment Weekly, Netflix

One of the world’s most revered directors is facing backlash for displaying the same “ignorance” many Hollywood reporters have been accused of in their comments about the success of Asian actors. 

Steven Spielberg, known for some of cinematic history’s greatest hits, including “Jurassic Park” and “E.T.,” referred to the cast of “Squid Game” as “unknown” actors while speaking at a Producers Guild of America Awards panel this past weekend. 

“A long time ago it was domestic stars that brought the audience into movies,” he said. “Today, it’s interesting, unknown people can star entire miniseries, can be in movies.”

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Netflix’s “Squid Game” took the world by storm within days after its release in September last year, becoming the first Korean show to reach the top spot on global Netflix streaming charts as well as the streaming platform’s all-time most popular show.

Lead actors Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-yeon, who have already broken several records during this year’s awards season, were hardly “unknown” before the release of “Squid Game” within South Korea’s film and television industry and the global modeling industry, respectively. 

Other actors in the show are also considered some of South Korea’s top stars, including Gong Yoo and Lee Byung-hun

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Spielberg made his comment as the panel discussed the need for casting well-known actors in order for films to be successful. He credited streaming platforms with allowing unfamiliar faces to lead in productions. 

“‘Squid Game’ comes along and changes the math entirely for all of us,” he noted. Turning towards Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos listening in from the audience, Spielberg added, “Thank you, Ted [Sarandos].” 

The renowned filmmaker was slammed on social media by users pointing out that the cast being previously “unknown” to the West does not suggest they were viewed that way elsewhere in the world. 

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Some users made sure to also point out the actors’ previous credits in films and shows that were widely successful despite not being as popular in the U.S. 

Spielberg’s comment mirrors those made by several Western reporters who recently spoke with the cast, including an “Access Hollywood” reporter who implied the show’s leads were “anonymous” prior to the success of the Netflix show. Back in November an “Extra” reporter also suggested that Lee Jung-jae was only recently able to leave his house unrecognized, much to the dismay of the global fans he had amassed throughout his 30-year career. 

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