More than just a pretty face
Compared to Kang’s previous work, films such as “Temptation of Wolves” (2004) and “Duelist” (2005), M seems less naturalistic in tone. The actor’s pretty face is hidden behind black-rimmed spectacles and his hair is shaped like the letter M. The story’s blurry visual effects create an atmosphere that reflects Kang’s psychological quest.
“Playing the part of Min-woo was very challenging,” Kang said. The film focuses on Min-woo’s entire life, so Kang had to reach deep to find the necessary romance and the drama of his character. The director specifically asked Kang to play up his facial expressions as much as possible to convey the required depth of emotions. After all, the film was image-oriented rather than story-oriented.
“Lee uses the actors like tools,” Kang said. “Working with this director allowed me to give full flight to my acting range.”
M marks Kang’s second collaboration with Lee Myung-se. The first was “Duelist,” with a script that greatly interested Kang.
“This film proves that Lee is a great director,” Kang said. Though the film wasn’t a hit at the box office, Kang still admires the story.
M was the same. The first time he read the script Kang knew the film had great potential. He was also sure that the complexity of the plot would challenge movie-goers.
In his latest movie, Kang reveals growing self-confidence.
“In the past, I was more concerned about what people, particular those in the movie industry, thought about me,” he said. But when filming M, Kang decided that he would enjoy himself to the fullest when shooting began. He got into character straight -away.
“From the start of the shoot, I made myself out to be just as crazy as Min-woo,” Kang said. He had to portray three different personas ― the ordinary, obsessed and young Min-woo. Kang said a recent conflict with his agent allowed him to act more hysterical in the movie.
“I adopt this grotesque facial expression whenever things don’t turn out the way I want,” Kang said. “That expression turns up again and again in this movie.”
For some of Kang’s fans, it’s hard to imagine him playing such serious cinematic roles.
In “Don’t Believe in Her,” Kang was a country pharmacist. In “Our Happy Time,” he was a condemned criminal. In “Voice of a Murderer,” he contributed his voice as a kidnapper.
“I choose scripts that interest me most at that very moment,” he said.
He said he signed up for Our Happy Time to prove that he could act. At that time, the public was mainly interested in Kang’s looks and many doubted he had the acting chops to make it on the big screen.
Kang revealed the depth and range of his voice work in Voice of the Murderer. In Duelist, he showed off his martial arts skills. In this film, Kang said, he reckons he did everything an actor can do with his body.
Surprisingly, Kang didn’t dream of becoming an actor. He started out as a model. But when he took some acting classes, he realized what he had been missing. The revelation meant a change of career.
“I felt incredibly refreshed,” he said, adding the world blazed with energy whenever he expressed intense emotions as an actor.
“Acting is what I’ve been looking for my entire life,” he said.
Kang, now regarded more as an actor than a model, wants to pursue what he thinks is best. He refuses to compromise and wants to continue to defy public expectation.
“I want to forge a new direction,” he said. “Other actors are my competitors. I want to make full use of my strengths and weaknesses to be the best that I can be.”
By Yang Sung-hee JoongAng Ilbo [email@example.com]
More in Arts & Design
Museums and theaters set to reopen on Tuesday
Kim Young-taek, 'the master of Korean pen art,' dies age 76
Chang Ucchin retrospective
Rare exhibition sheds light on foreign researchers of Korean art
Book on Korean art master of traditional painting to be released in U.S. this year