Comic reprises ‘heavy’ role in new film

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Comic reprises ‘heavy’ role in new film

Actor O Ji-myeong, 64, is famous for his comic roles in Korean sitcoms, including “Sunpung Sanbuingwa” and “Obaksane Saramdeul,” with his facial expressions, manner of speaking and well-delivered dialogue. But, prior to this, in the 1960s and ’70s, Mr. O played the heavy in more than 150 action films, making audiences gasp at his fight scenes.
He is now starring in the movie “Kabulkima” (Don’t Challenge Me) as a mixture of his current and former personae. In the movie, which Mr. O also wrote and directed, he plays an old but vengeful gangster.
In his directorial debut he is aided by close friends and co-stars Choi Bul-am and Noh Ju-hyeon.
The movie follows the story of three old gangsters as they are released from prison and end up becoming bodyguards of their rival’s daughter.
In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, the novice director said he didn’t plan on directing the movie. “It just happened. The production company couldn’t find a director, so they suggested I try it.”
As a director, however, things were not that easy, he said. “I felt some hostility against me ― an old man who became a director so late. For about three days I tried to tolerate it. From the fourth day, however, I became tough.”
Even though it was his first time directing, he was quite knowledgeable about making movies. He was previously nominated for the top prize at a screenwriting contest five years ago. “I wanted to become a director at the time. But the situation didn’t let me.”
In the movie, Mr. O didn’t hesitate to look stupid. He got a funny haircut and even extorted money from young students in the film.
“I just wanted to show a simple and ignorant, yet realistic, gangster character,” he said.
Mr. O said that the scenario had to be changed a bit after young actors such as Lim Yu-jin and Kim Jeong-hun were brought into the movie. The main theme of the movie is reconciliation between the younger generation and the old.
“The old and the young should just get along, whether they have voting rights or not,” he said.
Mr. O started acting in comic dramas in 1979 with “Eomma Appa Joa” (Mommy likes Daddy), which was a big hit that year and a forerunner of today’s sitcoms. He said changing his role from a “tough guy” to a “funny guy” was not easy, but he liked the change.
He modeled his character on his experiences as a child.
“When I was in the second year of middle school, the Korean War started and my family and I moved to Daegu. The local students in the new school treated me badly because I was a city boy from Seoul. After that, I mastered their dialect perfectly and became tougher than them by high school and nobody could challenge me,” said Mr. O.


by Park Jeong-ho
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