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Not trying to be the pretty girl

With a dramatic lead role, Jun Ji-hyun says she’s trying to find more nuanced parts

July 03,2015
Actress Jun Ji-hyun plays a lead role in the movie “Assassination,” which is scheduled to open in Korea on July 22. [JoongAng Ilbo]

A major part of actress Jun Ji-hyun’s look is her stylish long hair. Say goodbye to all that: For the film “Assassination,” she cut her hair shorter.

And she learned how to shoot, too.

Short hair gave Jun the edgier look needed to play an activist who fights for Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule (1919-1945) in the film that opens on July 22. She plays an assassin named An Ok-yun living in 1930s.

“I wanted to express the character well instead of looking pretty,” she said in a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily.

She shared more about how she’s pursuing a reputation as a serious actress rather than a pretty face featured in motion pictures. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Q. It’s said you didn’t hesitate to take the part. What made you so sure of it?

A. The movie isn’t something that solely focuses on delivering a certain message. I felt that the film would be a good mix of action and drama to depict the fighters for Korean independence who had a core belief. I would have said no if I was offered such a role when I was younger.

Why is that?

If I was younger, I don’t think I would have been able to express the gravity of the character. But after I decided to take the role, I made it a good fit. And I’m happy to play the lead in a movie that focuses on an actress, since there aren’t that many films that put female characters as the lead.

How did you analyze the character?

I think what’s important to understand about the character is the time period in which the movie is set. What was happening at the time really had an influence on the characters’ actions and way of thinking. An became a shooter to win back her country. She has to be spiteful.

What did you do to make your character look more natural?

It took forever for me to finally own this character. I practiced and practiced. The firearm An was carrying in the film was about 5 kilograms (11 pounds). I carried the gun and climbed a mountain on the first day of filming. Because it was my first day, I was full of excitement and rarely complained that it was heavy. Then I got sick the next day. Maybe I should have admitted that it was heavy!

What was it like to shoot a firearm?

The one we used in the movie was old school, so I had to load one bullet, shoot, load another and shoot again. It was important for me to not look awkward when I loaded the gun. I got used to it as I practiced. I feel like I can have a say now when men start talking about their shooting experiences in the Army.

You have been doing a lot of action scenes in your recent films. How do you like them?

Doing an action scene is part of acting. If emotive acting relies on facial expression and the things you say, action scenes depend on your body language. I feel ecstasy when I do action scenes. Almost every day I work out so I have a very sensitive body. My body is always under some sort of tension so I think I can show the most charm when I do physical actions.

How does it feel that this is your 12th movie?

It is embarrassing that I have already done 12 movies. And there have been some that didn’t really become so popular. Frankly speaking, it is better to have more successful ones in your filmography, but I don’t think I have that many I can be proud of. Before, I was choosing vague or amorphous characters, but as I get older, I think I choose characters that can help me stand out as an actor.

What are the things you consider when you choose a film?

When I was young, I needed to look pretty, and that was important. But things are different now. It’s been a long time since I debuted and sometimes I feel ridiculous if I try to look pretty at this age. The audience has seen many sides of me, and maybe they think they are tired of me. I can’t blame them because sometimes I feel tired of looking at myself. Of course I have to stay on a tight leash [to stay fit] because I am an actress, but I can’t always do roles that make me look pretty. I think now is the time for me to build up characters as a serious actress. I’m more attracted to roles that have multilayered characters than those that focus on what’s shown on the outside.

Does this mean that you have new agenda?

You can say that. It is hard to act. It isn’t easy to live with high-technology devices at home while trying to become an assassin living in 1930s on the set. So, the ability to focus is extremely important on a set. Acting is almost the only thing I can do with full concentration, and it brings me great pleasure. But I have a rule. I try never to be in character when I’m not in front of a camera. I want to be Jun Ji-hyun when I’m not filming. It would be too miserable if fictional characters seeped into my real life.

BY JI YONG-JIN [lee.sunmin@joongang.co.kr]



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