Tilda Swinton and Giancarlo Esposito in a scene from ‘Okja.’

Okja,” that opens in select theaters on Wednesday and premieres on Netflix, offers social commentary in an enjoyable and entertaining way. The cast and director Bong Joon Ho were at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York to talk about their film.

Prefacing my question with the fact that the movie is no doubt a great piece of work, I wanted to know what the cast’s initial reaction was when they first saw the script. Was it, “This is great, this is bizarre, or finally something I can sink my teeth into”? They all laughed hysterically and Lily Collins began by using my words:

LILY COLLINS: Finally, here’s something so bizarre and great [Laughs]. I mean, truthfully the tagline’s about a little girl, Mija [An Seo Hyun] going after her best friend, who’s a pig, to save him [from the chopping block]. And to be able to play a small part in such a big message was something that I jumped at.

It’s a love story. It’s a drama. It’s a comedy. It’s an action movie. It’s a fantasy movie. It’s kind of everything you’ve ever wanted to see in one movie and…and there was a moment of enlightenment, really, when you read it.

GIANCARLO ESPOSITO: Yeah. For me it was, in many ways, a return to innocence. It’s odd for me to say after having played Frank Dawson, but this story is so absolutely beautiful in its very connected relationship message. It doesn’t matter what that relationship is. It could be a child with their goldfish in the tank that is their best friend, or it could be Okja.

But that warmth, and that sensitivity, and that understanding that’s developed in that relationship, for me, guided me back to think about my loss of innocence. When did I grow up? And how could I unlearn that growing up and see the world in a new light? Many times we are so smart that we are ignorant. And they say that education is learned ignorance.

An Seo Hyun (Interpreter behind her)  and Giancarlo Esposito at the Mandarin Oriental. (MMoore Photo)

We as performers who fantasize about telling our stories that will make a comment on our [society], a social comment, a political comment, an artistic comment through our creativity are gifted with the ultimate gift to be able to still remain somewhere in our heart and soul that beautiful child that Mija is.

TILDA SWINTON: Well, I didn’t read the script for a long time because I was privileged to be a part of the cloud of the idea before it ever came to script stage. I remember very clearly director Bong when we went to Seoul for the premiere of Snowpiercer, showing me this drawing of the pig and the girl and that was it. That was three years before there was a script. And so, the second I saw this drawing, I was in before it existed.

The film also stars Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

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