[ENTERTAINMENT]Former Model Is Not Just a Pretty Face

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Former Model Is Not Just a Pretty Face

Korean entertainers are supposed to excel at, or at least be ready for everything - singing, acting, dancing and even strolling the catwalk. Cha Seung-won has shown signs of talent in nearly all these fields except for singing after he debuted as a fashion model in 1997.

With his finely-chiseled body and good looks that led him into modeling, Cha has also been well-received as an entertainer, gradually making a name for himself through TV dramas and a couple of films.

At first, Cha appealed especially to the female audience with his good looks, but he soon disappointed them by revealing that he had found Miss Right long before he became famous and was happily married. In fact, he was married in his teens and, although only 31, has a 13-year-old son, making him somewhat a rarity among Koreans.

Now a seasoned performer, Cha says that he feels most drawn to acting, and thinks it is his natural calling. For the last two years, he says, he has been acting as well as modeling, appearing in both TV dramas and fashion events, and is now ready to concentrate on a film career. "I can't make as much money now that I've decided to concentrate on acting, but I feel quite happy and satisfied," he explained.

And he seems to have made the right choice. Though his performances were not favorably reviewed at first - his ability was perhaps overshadowed by his looks - Cha began to be acknowledged as a serious actor in 1999.

Last year he received both critical and popular acclaim with his role in the film, "Libera Me," (Latin for "Save Me") a drama about fire fighters. Starring as a double-crossing arsonist, Cha was lauded by critics for his developing ability.

He says that he chose his next film carefully, finally selecting a comedy-action film entitled "Shilla-eui Dalbam," which means "Moonlit Night in Shilla" (though it was dubbed "Kick the Moon" by English-language distributors).

In this film, he stars as a wise-cracking reformed gangster turned schoolteacher.

While filming "Kick the Moon," Cha was insistent that he be involved in all the production details, such as choosing clothes and props himself.

"Kick the Moon" is scheduled for release this Saturday, and Cha nervously awaits its reception, saying he is now so anxious that he feels as though he is "giving birth to a baby."

This model-cum-actor who always exudes charm actually looked fainthearted when he remarked, "I feel the happiest while filming, but the time before and after, especially after the shooting, is the most painful period."

Even as he paces the floor waiting for the reviews of his new film, Cha seems to be sure of who he is and what he wants to do. "I want to be like Sean Penn, who is always comfortable in a variety of roles," he said.

by Shin Yong-ho

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