Getting their acts togetherThe summer season may be the time for Hollywood movies to shine, but rest assured that another crop of Korean blockbusters is right around the corner.
For autumn is the season for Korean films, and in order to create a full slate of local movies for the end of the year, production companies are furiously at work right now.
The JoongAng Ilbo met with three actors who are currently shooting their next movies. In the interviews, the three actors talk about their expectations and what they think audiences should look for in the coming season.
With an eye on Hollywood, he steps backward
Park Joong-hoon, perhaps the Korean actor who is best-known abroad, has returned from his most recent Hollywood foray to star in the period political satire “Hwangsanbeol.”
Mr. Park, 37, made headlines for his contract for the film, which specified an exact working schedule ― only 12 hours per day on the set, with a guaranteed rest of 12 hours in between shoots. But don’t think the actor is slacking. Most of his 12 hours on the set required him to wear 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of armor and equipment. “After two to three hours, you start to feel the weight bearing down on you,” he said. “After 10 hours, I could hardly stand on my feet anymore. I felt like I finished a 20-round boxing match.”
The movie is based on a historic final battle in 660 between the Silla and Baekje kingdoms, which saw the end of the Three Kingdoms period. In order to dramatize such a grand battle, a 66,000-square-meter set was built, and 10,000 bamboo sticks and 300 tons of pine wood were delivered to the Gangwon province shooting locale in order to re-create the armies’ camp sites.
Mr. Park may be the biggest name in “Hwangsan Beol,” but the actor says that this is very much an ensemble piece, and that he only appears in about one-third of the film.
It has been two years since “Say Yes,” Mr. Park’s last Korean project. In the meantime, he had a significant role in the Jonathan Demme film “The Truth About Charlie,” which starred Mark Wahlberg and opened late last year. Still trying to break into Hollywood, the actor is scheduled to start shooting a romantic comedy, which depicts a love story between an Asian man and Caucasian woman.
Commenting on his work in Hollywood, Mr. Park says that working abroad has helped him to appreciate his fans at home. “While shooting ‘The Truth About Charlie’ I really was trying hard because I thought I was representing the Korean movie industry,” he said. “Still, I always missed the support that I get at home.”
Trying to shed pretty-boy image, he goes deep
The actor Won Bin, 26, has a great following of fans not only on the peninsula, but also in Japan, where he recently acted in a soap opera, and around South Asia.
On May 23, on the set of his latest movie “Taegukgi Hwinallimyeo” (Brotherhood) in Gyeongju, 420 Japanese fans showed up, waving their hands and making noise as Mr. Won welcomed them to the set. They all paid three times more than the usual travel package to Gyeongju ― Korea’s most historic region ― for a chance to check out their favorite star at work.
The movie is about two brothers at the outbreak of the Korean War. The younger brother is played by Won Bin, while the older is played by Jang Dong-geon.
Mr. Won, a handsome actor with a large female following, said that choosing this project was an easy decision. “I wanted to become a real man,” he said, adding that he also hoped to break away from his pretty-boy image.
Kang Je-gyu, the director and producer of the movie, said that pretty boy has come along just fine, “At first, to be honest, I was a little bit worried,” Mr. Kang said. “But after a week wearing an army uniform, his image of being a handsome boy has vanished. I am really satisfied how he grew into his role.”
The role that Mr. Won plays is demanding, as he has to show the depth of emotion of a young, innocent person who learns about the cold reality of the war.
Nevertheless, the actor finds the challenge well-suited to his needs. “My character is maturing on the inside,” Mr. Won said. “The emotional ride is quite large and he suffers a lot. I view his sufferings just the same as the suffering of a young actor like myself who is growing up, trying to become a real good actor.”
So how much preparation did Mr. Park do to understand the Korean War? He admits that emotionally he couldn’t make a connection to the story as deeply as older people could. Nevertheless, he says that the human character is the center of the movie. “What war can do to people, that’s what I am going to show the audience,” the young actor said.
After a decade, he’s still chasing the brass ring
Just before shooting a scene from the movie “Oh! Brothers,” Lee Jeong-jae, 30, was relaxing in his trailer at Seoul National University Hospital in Daehangno.
Two weeks before the movie started shooting, he had already started practicing at home for his role as a paparazzo. In the comedy-drama, he plays a photographer who learns about true brotherly love when his half-brother catches a rare disease that makes him grow older at a much faster pace than normal people.
Although he has regularly starred in many films, such as the recent romance “Over the Rainbow,” Mr. Lee never really had a blockbuster that he could attach his name to.
“I would be lying if I said I am not disappointed,” he said. “But I like movies that appeal to my individual tastes and when I select a movie this is also my guideline.”
It’s been a decade since Mr. Lee made a young and splashy debut in Bae Chang-ho’s “Jeolmeun Namja” (I Am a Man).
Seeing how the Korean movie industry has changed dramatically since his debut, Mr. Lee says that while the entertainment factor has been enhanced, he misses some of the old elements of the industry.
“Before, you had scenarios that read like a novel,” he said. “Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer scenarios of that type.”
He believes that his new movie has catapulted his acting abilities to a new level. “Throughout the shooting of the movie, I felt how closely I entered into the character that I am supposed to play,” he said with excitement in his voice. “The degree to which I have felt it is quite different from the other movies that I have done.”
Instead of reading just scripts, Mr. Lee has taken up other practices such as reading essays in between scenes.
“If I just keep reading scripts, I think I am drawing an invisible line that limits my potential to be more spontaneous,” he said.
“You can always learn something new when you keep an open mind. For actors, that’s so much more important.”
by Park Jeong-ho, Ki Sun-min