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Actor taking movie world by storm with ‘Rain’

‘I think the makings of a good actor in Korea translate to anywhere in the world.’ - Actor Lee Byung-hun

Oct 02,2009

Lee Byung-hun made waves in America after his successful debut in Hollywood this summer with the blockbuster “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” But he’s also turning heads for his role in “I Come with the Rain,” directed by Vietnamese-French filmaker Tran Anh Hung.

The film is generating huge buzz here ahead of its debut in Korea next Thursday at the 14th Pusan International Film Festival in Busan. Movie fans snapped up all the available tickets for the screening within 38 seconds after they went on sale.

Tran made his mark on the film industry with “The Scent of Green Papaya,” which won the Golden Camera Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993, and “Cyclo,” which received the Il Leone d’Oro, or the Golden Lion award, at the Venezia Film Festival in 1995.

His latest film features three major stars from three countries: Josh Hartnett from the United States, Takuya Kimura of Japan and Korea’s Lee. I Come with the Rain is about a Los Angeles cop named Kline (Hartnett) searching for the son of a Chinese billionaire, Shitao (Kimura). Lee plays the role of Su Dongpo, a cold-blooded Hong Kong gangster who falls madly in love with a woman named Lili, who suddenly goes missing.

In order to bring aboard Lee, Tran bypassed the casting agencies and personally took a trip to Korea to persuade the actor to join the venture. The director only revealed the synopsis of the film and told Lee to pick any part that he desired.

“Lee’s performance in the movie ‘A Bittersweet Life’ left a lasting impression on me,” Tran said. “He is one of the few actors who can express various detailed expressions and emotions.”

Lee said he was moved when Tran mentioned that he was a fan of Korean writer Lee Mun-yeol and even got the idea for the movie from the author’s book “Son of a Man.”

“I wondered how I would be portrayed under the direction of a director who was not familiar with me,” Lee Byung-hun said.

The actual filming of I Come with the Rain occurred after G.I. Joe and another movie Lee was in called “The Good, the Bad and the Weird.” In each of those movies, Lee played a character with a “bad guy” personality.

“I had to play three villains with very different characteristics,” Lee said. “For the role of Chang in The Good, the Bad and the Weird, I had to focus on how evil is expressed solely on the outside, while Su Dongpo in I Come with the Rain required a chilling, demonic mood without much movement or expression.”

Lili, the woman that Su Dongpo passionately loves, is played by Tran’s wife, Tran Nu Yen Khe. She developed a relationship with the director on the sets of The Scent of Green Papaya and Cyclo and decided to only appear in her husband’s films after the two married.

Lee said that Tran Anh Hung didn’t provide any specific acting instructions for I Come with the Rain. That meant Lee actually had to take on the role of director in his scenes.

“The limitless freedom was frightening, yet it stimulated my interest,” Lee said.

Although many actors want to drop anchor in Hollywood and become mega-stars across the globe, Lee has a different perspective.

“I wish half of the people familiar with me actually didn’t know of me,” Lee said, “so I could have a place of serenity to become a better actor and a human being.

“Many people think that the language barrier is the biggest obstacle for acting and living in Hollywood, but I think having an open mind, trying to understand others and not constraining yourself are important,” he added. “I think the makings of a good actor in Korea translate to anywhere in the world.”

The three main actors in I Come with the Rain - Hartnett, Kimura and Lee - along with Tran and his wife will make an appearance and meet with fans at the 14th Pusan International Film Festival.


By Yang Sung-hee [estyle@joongang.co.kr]


Lee Byung-hun appears in Tran Anh Hung’s new film “I Come with the Rain,” which will be screened in a gala presentation at the 14th Pusan International Film Festival next Thursday. [YONHAP]



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