T.O.P commits to role as teen spy from North

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T.O.P commits to role as teen spy from North

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From left: Cast members Cho Seong-ha, Yoon Je-moon, Kim You-jung, Choi Seung-hyun and Han Ye-ri pose for the cameras at a press screening on Tuesday. Provided by Showbox

On Wednesday, Big Bang fans and no doubt T.O.P himself will breathe a sigh of relief as his latest and first lead film, “Commitment,” opens across the country.

It took a year to complete, which is rare in the local industry where movies are often done and dusted in a matter of weeks.

There were some glitches along the way, including a director being replaced, but T.O.P, or rather, newbie actor Choi Seung-hyun, is set to steal the hearts of K-pop fans and prove that he has successfully transitioned from an idol singer to an actor.

The film centers on the Korean conflict, or instead the complicated relationships of a North Korean spy in the South.

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Kim and Choi play siblings from the North.

It’s a complicated plot that may be foreign to those who aren’t familiar with Korea’s tumultuous modern history.

But regardless, the film has already been snapped up by Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the United States.

“It’s a story about people and sacrifice… not about North and South,” said Park Hong-soo, who finished the project after it was dropped by another director.

And he’s partly right. The action-packed drama unfolds around a North Korean teenager (who, of course, is trained in combat) who gets sent to the South as a spy in exchange for the safety of his sister.

Choi scored the lead role of Ri Myung-hoon, who lives undercover as Kang Dae-ho in the South, attending school and trying to live a normal life by day, then killing by night.

“Four months before shooting I undertook training - martial arts,” said Choi, although he admitted “there was an accident on set,” which sent him to the hospital and halted production.

“It would have been best if I was never injured, but you learn,” joked Choi.

Not only was the film physically grueling, Choi said he invested a lot into his aloof yet devoted brother character.

“I wanted to depict a one-of-a-kind character,” Choi said. “When I first read the script I thought of the kid from A.I. - an expressionless robot.”

And to do so, Choi put in a lot of groundwork.

“When I started on the project I wanted to be ready. I wanted his eyes to tell a story,” said Choi on maximizing the effect of his already-intense stare in the film.

And it’s not just in his eyes, but Choi said the movie was all he thought about for a year.

“Unless I had work commitments, I tried to lead a secluded life to get in touch with my character,” said the Big Bang member.

But still, he admitted that using a subtle dialect was challenging.

“I didn’t think it’d be fitting to use a strong dialect,” explained Choi on his brand of North Korean dialect that sounds a lot different than other characters in the film, “because he’s been trained for a long time … so he speaks in a hybrid form of Seoul dialect and North Korean.”

And while he’s tackled a North Korean role before, Choi said comparing his character in the latest film to his previous film, “Into the Fire” in 2010, didn’t afford much help.

“Both characters that I tackled were very unusual people from a subset. And I think it’s their circumstances, not so much their nationality, that made them interesting,” said the idol singer, who said that in addition to character analysis, he studied about life in North Korea for a foolproof approach to acting.

Meanwhile 14-year-old actress Kim You-jung, the little sister Ri Hye-in that Ri risks his all for, said the role was fun.

“I’ve always wanted to try a North Korean dialect, so it was fun,” said Kim.

Another person who enjoyed moments on the set was actress Han Ye-ri, who plays Choi’s classmate and has the same name as Ri’s sister, Hye-in.

The two form a friendship after becoming labeled as outcasts.

The Korean title suggests the retelling of events from Hye-in’s point of view.

With one movie down and another with JYJ’s Park Yu-chun on her plate, Han said she was stoked.

“Someone said to me, ‘Maybe in your previous life you saved the country,’” joked Han.


By CARLA SUNWOO [carlasunwoo@joongang.co.kr]
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