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‘Cloud Altas’ star talks Hollywood experience

‘When I saw the back of Tom Hanks, I was like, wow, I’m working with people I’ve seen in movies.’

Nov 01,2012
Actress Bae Doo-na appears in a scene from “Cloud Atlas.” Wide Screen Media Group rated Bae as “the light the movie was looking for.” Provided by Warner Bros

LOS ANGELES - Bae Doo-na has played a host of unconventional roles. From a quirky lady who chases a dog serial killer in the film “A Higher Animal” (2000) to a sex doll that develops a consciousness and falls in love in “Air Doll” (2009), the model-turned-actress has proven her natural talents time and again.

After working with famed directors Hirokazu Koreeda, Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook, Bae found herself in Hollywood alongside American directors Andy and Lana Wachowski of “The Matrix” fame and German director Tom Tykwer.

The team cast the Korean in “Cloud Atlas,” an adaptation of the 2004 David Mitchell novel of the same name. The plot consists of six interrelated stories that jump from the South Pacific in 1849 to “Neo Seoul,” a dystopian near-future city in 22nd-century Korea and then a post-apocalyptic distant future in the year 2346.

“Cloud Atlas” follows the interwoven narratives of individuals and shows how their actions impact one another in the past, present and future.

With a star-studded cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant, the movie has been highly anticipated and received a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in September.

In the movie, Bae plays Sonmi-451, a clone serving at a fast-food restaurant who is interviewed before her execution. The JoongAng Ilbo recently sat down with the actress in Beverly Hills, California, to discuss her Hollywood debut.

“Cloud Atlas” will hit theaters in Korea on Jan. 10.



Q. You just made your Hollywood debut. Is this a dream come true?

A. I never really dreamed of appearing in a Hollywood movie, but I’m happy that I came across great directors and got to see a whole new world.



How did the director notice you?

The Wachowskis contacted me after seeing me in the Japanese movie “Air Doll.” They also told me that they knew me from “The Host” and “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.” [Laughs] Have I just switched from being an air doll to a clone?



Were you nervous because this was your first role in a science fiction film?

When choosing a movie, I think it’s important to see who it is directed by because I believe that a good movie comes from a good director. I was also attached to my character. Sonmi-451 is a key character in the movie, and despite being a clone, her sacrifice for a better world is remarkable and touching.



Was it hard adjusting to Hollywood?

Two days after filming the movie “Korea,” I went to Berlin all by myself, even without my manager. I thought that to adjust as quickly as possible just going for everything and anything was the right way. My English got better as I didn’t rely on any translators.



How did you become friends with the actors on set?

When I saw the back of Tom Hanks for the first time, I got really excited and I was like, wow, I’m working with people I’ve seen in movies. They were top stars, so I didn’t feel any competition, and it was just really comfortable working with them. I especially got close with Jim Sturgess and Ben Whishaw.

In Berlin, there was a soju bar and so I taught them how to drink soju the traditional way. Drinking soju became a fun daily routine for us.



How was acting in front of the green screen during the animated futuristic scenes?

At first it was hard. But somehow I became familiar with it, and the more I spent time on it, the more my imagination grew and my acting got better. It was amazing.



With “Cloud Atlas” you achieved the “Hollywood dream.” What do you want to do now?

I don’t think there will be many opportunities like this. If a movie is full of creativity and imagination, I go for it. Also, if it motivates me, that’s good, too. Indie movies are great to play in as well.

By Rachel Lee, Jung Hyun-mok [estyle@joongang.co.kr]



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