Uhm sinks teeth into newest role

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Uhm sinks teeth into newest role


Uhm Jung-hwa. By Kim Seong-ryong

Uhm Jung-hwa is a Korean iconic diva and a rare actress who successfully juggles singing and acting careers. Last year, she turned the movie “Dancing Queen” into a box office hit. Her dancing skills and inherent happy nature contributed to its success. But above all, she shines most when portraying heart-wrenching emotions, just like in her newest movie, “Montage,” which opened Thursday.

In the thriller, Uhm plays the mother of a kidnapped daughter. The mother lives in sorrow for 15 years as she fails to find any clue about the crime until she hears of traces of the suspect just five days before the expiration of the statute of limitations. Viewers are expected to be caught by her heartfelt portrayal of maternal instincts, as well as the plot’s twists and turns. In her 2005 movie, “Princess Aurora,” Uhm also played the role of a mother whose child was abducted.

Q. I could not help associating you and your co-worker, Kim Sang-kyung, with the previous roles while watching the movie. Kim Sang-kyung’s performance reminds me of his similar role as a detective in the 2003 movie, “Memories of Murder.”

A. I know, but I think we used it to our advantage. Thanks to the same role, I let out my bottled-up emotions that I could not in my last movie, “Princess Aurora.” Kim also felt the same way. He said he felt as if he finally captured the suspect.

But still, you didn’t make many changes in your acting career this time.

I think you can expect different outcomes even from the same material with different directors and storylines. And someday, I want to immerse myself in a character and play it just the way a director wants, deleting myself. And there are lots of roles that I haven’t tried yet. If I get the chance, I want to portray a woman in utter love, which I haven’t experienced in a movie or real life.

Your movie, “Dancing Queen,” did well at the box office last year. How did it affect you?

I got some zing back in my life. Actually, I suffered pain after having surgery on my thyroid while working on the film, “Mama” (2011), so I couldn’t fully enjoy acting. And when I felt empty, lost and even self-compassion, I took a role in the movie “Dancing Queen.” It helped me get refreshed and confident so that I can return to the stage as a singer whenever I want.

You already turned 40-something, now you may have more people in the same industry who admire you.

I think passionate people always inspire other people. Recently I was deeply impressed by singer Cho Yong-pil. And I also admire actress Lee Mi-sook. I heard in my 20s that there would be no roles for me to play when I became older. But Lee portrayed a lead role who falls in torrid love in the film, “An Affair” (1998). And she is still beautiful and sexy in small or big screens continuously. It really motivates me.

How do you want to be remembered as an actress?

I want to be like actress Meryl Streep. I hope to have a chance to express such inner grace as she has with age in a future movie. While working on “Montage,” I thought my role as a mom was what I can do only because I got old enough to understand and inhabit the character. I’m excited to find what I can further express as I get older.

By Lee Eun-sun [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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