Japanese gives karate film her best shot

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Japanese gives karate film her best shot

TOKYO
The life of Masutatsu Oyama, the legendary ethnic Korean karate master, has already been introduced to Korean youth through a couple of comic-book series.
Now, the younger generation will have a chance to get to know the late Choi Bae-dal, as he is known in Korea, even better, when he visits Korea this summer on the silver screen.
His life is the subject of a soon-to-be released Korean film, “Baramui Paiteo” (Fighter in the Wind), starring the Korean rapper and actor Yang Dong-geun as the fighter, with the Japanese actress Aya Hirayama in the role of his fictional Japanese love interest.
With thick fluttering eyelashes, sparkling eyes and facial features that resemble a European doll, Ms. Hirayama looks too young and fragile, some say, to play the geisha who’s in love with the founder of Kyokusin karate.
But these critics are also well aware of her leap to fame three years ago in the movie “Waterboys,” a hit Japanese comedy that showed off her natural approach to acting.
“I did all I could to perform as the perfect Japanese woman of the 1940s,” Ms. Hirayama says. “You won’t be disappointed by it at all.”
The movie begins with the young, flimsy Bae-dal as a stowaway on a ship to Japan in 1938, during the colonial period. But amid a hostile atmosphere, in which Koreans are objects of contempt, he soon learns that “justice without power is incompetence, and power without justice is violence.”
The awakening motivates him to undertake years of difficult martial-arts training. He eventually goes on to establish Kyokusin karate, one of the most popular types of karate in the world, an achievement that endows him with hero status. Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Ms. Hirayama will be playing Yoko, who falls madly in love with Master Bae-dal.
She may have sounded a bit young when she said that visiting Tokyo Disneyland with her friends was her favorite pastime, but she conveys the seriousness of her part as the martial artist’s love interest.
The JoongAng Ilbo spoke with Ms. Hirayama at a movie studio in Tokyo.

Q.How did filming of “Fighter of the Wind” go?
A.I have been working as an actress for six years, but I never before worked with non-Japanese. That was a bit nerve-racking. I was surprised that it took so long to make one film. It took about half a year, whereas in Japan only a few movies need that much time. I think this is where Korean movies get their strength; a longer period leads to a great movie. I was also surprised at the physical strength of Korean actors (she laughs), working for such a long time.

Did you get along well with your co-star, Yang Dong-geun?
He was very sincere, but he was also fun to be with. He looked like a little boy when he sometimes brought his PlayStation in and played games during breaks.

Tell us about the love scene.
All I remember is that it took very long to do. We started at 8 at night and ended at 5 in the morning the next day.

What concerned you the most during the film shoot?
I wanted to precisely convey the backdrop in Japan when Choi Bae-dal was active in 1940s and 1950s. That is why I studied thoroughly how geishas talked, dressed and danced back then.

Have you heard about the “Korean wave” in Japan these days?
Yeah, I have heard of it. Now that I’ve made a film with Koreans, I think I can understand why Japanese love Korean celebrities.

Do you have one favorite Korean actor?
Definitely! It is Won Bin. He is manly and sexy at the same time.
My favorite Korean movie is “My Sassy Girl.” Jeon Ji-hyun and Cha Tae-hyun were impressive in that movie.


by Kim Hyun-ki
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