To Set His Fans Ablaze, Korea's Tough Guy Fighs Fire in New Action Flick

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To Set His Fans Ablaze, Korea's Tough Guy Fighs Fire in New Action Flick

Choi Min-soo, the 37-year-old Korean actor, doesn't finds it easy to be tough in his new role on the silver screen. He throws himself into fireballs, saves innocent people from charcoal graves and still finds the energy to track down and bring to justice the demented arsonist who started the whole flaming stunt.

But the handsome television actor who sets hearts aflutter said that preparing to portray a firefighter in this fall's big budget movie "Libera Me" was more than a matter of oiling his biceps.

"I wanted to immerse myself in the character rather than just 'act well,'" he says. "Understanding the joys and sorrows of being a firefighter, the subject of the movie, came first, and being a good actor came next."

Admirers of the movie have already predicted that it will "make" Mr. Choi, just as the series of "Die Hard" movies that came out in the early 1990s became a showcase for the testosterone-charged talents of Bruce Willis. But when asked if he thought his character in the film, Cho Sang-woo, projected an aspect of his own persona, he answered with a sniff, "If the actor's character is exposed in the movie, the movie fails."

As an actor with more than 18 years' experience in the industry who has won the public's seal of approval, he was surprisingly humble about his performance: "To be frank," he said, "I'm not satisfied with my acting in the movie. Those action shots were painstakingly edited. You know, the success of these firebomb movies largely depends upon the split-second cutting."

But Mr. Choi knows that some evidence of blood and toil will add to the movie's must-see factor. The movie wasn't easy to film, he said. He was hurt and burned frequently and needed 20 stitches to repair a head injury.

"I experienced something amazing, though - how flames are alive and real," he said. "It was as if I was conversing with the fire. And I hope the movie will help the public appreciate the tough job facing the dedicated firefighters out there."

Being tough doesn't come easy after all, even for a guy like Choi Min-soo. He's hoping his trials will result in incendiary sales at the box office.

"Libera Me" opens Saturday in Seoul theaters. The movie is directed by Yang Yun-ho, and co-stars You Ji-tae, Cha Seung-won and Kim Gyu-lee.

by Park Jung-ho

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