What If Squid Game Was Made By Hollywood: Recasting Every Character

Warning: SPOILERS for Squid Game

If Squid Game had been a Hollywood production, it's fascinating to consider which stars would have been cast to play the main characters. Viewers of the Netflix drama that are new to the world of Korean cinema may not recognize many of the stars, but most of them are quite well-known. It follows, then, that a hypothetical Hollywood version of the show would have had an equally heavy-hitting cast.

Squid Game's cast of characters is made up of 456 people desperate to get out of debt who are convinced to participate in a series of deadly children's games. Win, and they can make off with up to 45.6 billion won (around $38 million USD). Lose, and they could die any number of gruesome deaths. Because of the games' high stakes and the desperation each participant feels to win and escape with their life, Squid Game features plenty of intense moments, and throughout all nine episodes, the cast delivers powerful performances.

Related: Squid Game: How Much Is 45.6 Billion Won In USD & UK?

To be clear, Squid Game doesn't really need an American adaptation now that it's already been made. The original stands on its own as a compelling and well-executed story. But had the show's creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, been producing Squid Game in the U.S. using well-known Hollywood actors, here's who he might have cast for each major role.

The protagonist of Squid Game is player 456, Seong Gi-hun. He undergoes a transformation over the course of the series: initially bumbling and naïve, he becomes a reluctant hero and even an avenging one by the show's end. Gi-hun is played by Lee Jung-jae, a two-time Grand Bell Award winner who began his career as a fashion model.

The role of Gi-hun requires range and a good amount of subtlety in order to authentically incorporate all the sides of the character that emerge over the course of Squid Game. Leonardo DiCaprio is known for the emotional nuance he brings to his characters and has played a wide variety of roles in his career, from a young heartthrob in films like Titanic and Romeo + Juliet to a gritty and tragic hero in the likes of Blood Diamond and The Revenant. Though DiCaprio has turned down some major roles in his time, he'd make a good Gi-hun by bringing the necessary charm and sincerity while also being totally believable as a desperate man fighting for his life by the end.

Gi-hun's childhood friend, Cho Sang-woo, is a surprise villain in Squid Game, pretending to stick with his friends while really doing whatever it takes to stay alive. He's a ruthless strategist but retains enough goodness that he helps Gi-hun win in the end even though it means sacrificing himself. Sang-woo is played by Park Hae-soo, who's a well-known Korean actor.

Related: Squid Game: Why [SPOILER] Had To Be The Winner

An actor who takes on the role of Sang-woo needs to be equally convincing as good and bad, and leave audiences guessing as to which side he's on at any given moment. Hugh Dancy does just that as Will Graham in Hannibal. Though a "good guy," Will often fantasizes about killing Hannibal, which shows that Dancy can play either cool or maniacal with ease and switch between the two quickly, as the role of Sang-woo calls for. Sang-woo keeps a straight face most of the time even though he's always plotting, and Dancy could probably capture this nuance almost as well as Park. Plus, Dancy's role as Will Graham shows that he's mastered the troubled tactician persona.

Kang Sae-byeok is Squid Game's most tragic character, having lost most of her family trying to defect from North Korea. She's standoffish and quiet but displays powerful emotion during key scenes. Sae-byeok is played by Jung Ho-yeon, a model-turned-actress who is the most followed Korean actress on Instagram.

Sae-byeok needs to be played by someone who can make audiences root for her even if she seems cold at first. Zendaya would be more than up for a role like this given her stint as MJ (an identity echoing Spider-Man's Mary Jane Watson) in the Spider-Man: Homecoming movies. Like Sae-byeok, MJ plays her emotional cards very close to the vest and prefers to be off on her own, though she can open up when she wants to. Zendaya clearly has experience with this type of character, as her part in The Greatest Showman is rather similar. And while Zendaya started out on Disney Channel, the star has been able to tap into a much darker side with projects like Euphoria, something Sae-byeok needs as well due to her traumatic past.

Though Ji-yeong's run in Squid Game is cut short, she plays an important role in getting Sae-byeok to open up and stay motivated to win for the sake of her family. Ji-yeong also makes the ultimate sacrifice for Sae-byeok, letting the latter win marbles because she has more to live for. The character is played by actress Lee Yoo-mi.

Related: Squid Game: Could Multiple Players Have Won The Prize Money?

Florence Pugh's roles as Yelena in Black Widow and as Paige in Fighting With My Family have proved that she can play sarcastic, jaded chatterboxes like Ji-yeong. Like Ji-yeong, some Pugh's previous characters are skeptical with a lot of snark, but also have good hearts underneath. For all her tough talk, Ji-yeong is selfless and sentimental, a balance Pugh strikes very convincingly in Little Women. Pugh also certainly has the chops to deliver a tear-jerking farewell as Ji-yeong right before she is shot.

Though most characters in Squid Game are at least a little bad at some point, Ali Abdul remains sweet, selfless, and trusting to the end. He immigrated illegally to South Korea from Pakistan to try to make money to support his young family, but with little luck. He dies in the fourth game, though some fans hope to see an alive Ali return in Squid Game season 2. The actor who plays him, Anupam Tripathi, is actually from New Delhi and has acted in a few Korean dramas so far.

The key to Ali's character is his innocence and eagerness to help his fellow players without considering the harm they might mean him. These traits are what make him both likable and heartbreaking. Riz Ahmed would be a good choice for this role because he has demonstrated command of the naïve and well-meaning persona in films like Nightcrawler and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Ahmed also delivers a powerfully vulnerable performance in Sound of Metal, demonstrating that he could handle Ali's tragic as well as sweet elements.

One of the most critical players in Squid Game is Oh Il-nam, both because he is a valuable and well-liked member of Gi-hun's team, and because he turns out to be the creator of the games in the end. There's even a theory that the old man is Gi-hun's father. Il-nam is played by Oh Young-soo, a theatre, TV, and film actor who's been working since the late '60s.

Related: Squid Game: Every Clue To The Old Man Twist

For most of the series, Il-nam is upbeat, friendly, and even whimsical, but his character takes a dark twist in the season's final big reveal. Morgan Freeman has just the right mix of affability and gravitas for such a role, having played such significant parts as God and the President of the United States in the course of his career. Freeman could easily get audiences to root for him, and then horrify them when Il-nam is revealed to be a powerful and nefarious billionaire.

A thug in the real world, Jang Deok-su is no less a thug in the games. The tattooed alpha male assembles a team of ruthless men right away; one of them even works with the Squid Game henchmen harvesting organs. Throughout the season, Deok-su stops at nothing to save his own skin, and eventually, this comes back to bite him. Deok-su is played by Heo Sung-tae.

When it comes to muscle-bound terrors, Tom Hardy has nearly cornered the market. Whether he plays a protagonist or antagonist, Hardy's list of chaotic, violence-heavy roles is almost endless, ranging from The Dark Knight Rises to Mad Max: Fury Road, and from Lawless to Venom. He's also played a gang member numerous times. But Deok-su is also a schemer who uses intimidation to have others do his dirty work, and there's no doubt Hardy has the acting skills for this aspect, too, having played tricksters himself in films like Legend.

Deok-su's reckoning comes when his spurned one-time lover, Han Mi-nyeo, Squid Game's player 212, kills them both. Mi-nyeo is the show's biggest loose cannon, prone to desperate outbursts and dangerously unpredictable power moves. She's played by Kim Joo-ryoung, who has worked with Hwang before on his 2011 film, Silenced.

Related: Squid Game: How Player 212 Passed The Marble Game

The role of Mi-nyeo demands great control, as the character's tantrums need to be balanced with steely resolve. Stephanie Beatriz would be up to the challenge, having played a similarly unhinged character in Modern Family. She also played Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn 99 for years, which has certainly helped her nail the cold and terrifying air she'd need to pull off Mi-nyeo's bully moments. Mi-nyeo makes one of the biggest plays in Squid Game when she throws herself and Deok-su off the bridge, and it's easy to imagine Beatriz embodying this moment with style.

Hwang Jun-ho is the protagonist of his own story, and though he's killed in episode 8, there's a theory Jun-ho is still alive in Squid Game season 2. Jun-ho is a cop whose brother has gone missing in connection with the game, and he sneaks into the compound to seek answers on a dangerous solo mission. He is played by Wi Ha-joon.

Jun-ho has to be played by someone easy to root for, which makes John David Washington a good choice. Washington has played law enforcement before in films like Tenet and BlacKkKlansman, both of which also highlight his talent at playing characters in tense, dangerous situations. Jun-ho is a straight-shooter willing to take enormous risks, and Washington could no doubt deliver a performance like this compellingly.

Finally, there's the mysterious Front Man of Squid Game who turns out to be Jun-ho's missing brother, In-ho, a previous victor of the game who now runs its operations. The Front Man is Squid Game's biggest star, played by none other than the famed Lee Byung-hun, who U.S. audiences might recognize from his various Hollywood action movies.

Related: Squid Game: Why The Front Man Shot [SPOILER]

The Front Man has a powerful and ominous presence, but there's clearly a lot more to him since he's played the game before. Idris Elba is no stranger to commanding roles, having played the all-seeing Heimdall in the MCU, and he could deliver gravitas without coming across as evil, as In-ho requires. His work on projects like Luther shows that Elba could also capture the intense emotion needed for the scene where In-ho has to shoot his own brother. He's also a big enough star that the Front Man identity twist at Squid Game's end, when In-ho takes off his mask, would be as big a reveal as it is for Lee. Aside from Gi-hun, In-ho is the only character who certainly survives Squid Game season 1, so in an alternative Hollywood cast version with Idris Elba, fans would be able to look forward to seeing him again.

Next: What The Front Man’s Identity Twist Means For Squid Game Season 2

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