Bong Joon-ho's Oscars interpreter wants to direct

Director Bong Joon-ho and interpreter Sharon Choi at the Oscars. Choi, also a film-maker, has followed the Parasite team throughout the awards season.
Director Bong Joon-ho and interpreter Sharon Choi at the Oscars. Choi, also a film-maker, has followed the Parasite team throughout the awards season. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LOS ANGELES • South Korean director Bong Joon-ho was onstage several times on Sunday night, giving one acceptance speech after another as his film Parasite scooped up Oscars, including Best Picture.

Beside him each time was a familiar face.

Sharon Choi, a film-maker herself, is the interpreter who has followed Bong and the Parasite team throughout their successful awards season.

She has given the English translation of the director's many speeches and interviews, through several red carpets and late-night television appearances.

Bong speaks English and will occasionally shift into the language for brief remarks - "I'm ready to drink tonight," he said towards the end of one of Sunday's speeches - but he generally seems to prefer leaving it to Choi.

At the Oscars, Choi joined Bong onstage four times: as he accepted the awards for Best Director, Original Screenplay and International Feature, and to interpret for producer Kwak Sin-ae in her speech for the film's Best Picture win.

Choi has been at Bong's side since May last year - when Parasite won the Palme d'Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival - according to The Korea Herald, an Englishlanguage newspaper in South Korea.

For someone who has appeared on several awards stages and live TV broadcasts, Choi does not seem to cherish being in the spotlight.

"This is so embarrassing," she said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter at the Golden Globes last month when the questions pivoted to her.

But Choi has ended up there anyway, thanks to the visibility that comes with critical success and awards domination.

Parasite, after winning at Cannes, also nabbed Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, the Writers Guild Award for Original Screenplay and Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Bong has another explanation. "She's perfect, and we all depend on her," he said in English in The Hollywood Reporter interview.

"And she's also a great filmmaker," he added.

Choi said with a laugh: "Yes, I want to direct."

When she is interpreting - on camera, to crowds of Hollywood royalty, or both - Choi's voice never seems to waver.

Apparently, she hides her nerves well. "I'm always super anxious," she said in The Hollywood Reporter interview last month.

Choi's calm presence under the onstage pressure has caught the attention of online admirers too.

"I know she has a huge fandom," Bong said in English on Sunday in a red carpet interview with E!

Said Choi: "It's very embarrassing to translate, but he said that thanks to me, this campaign has been a smooth journey."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'Bong Joon-ho's Oscars interpreter wants to direct'. Print Edition | Subscribe