Cha on board with new ‘Sassy Girl’

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Cha on board with new ‘Sassy Girl’


Veteran actor Cha Tae-hyun, left, poses for a photo with director Cho Geun-sik at the media preview of their new film, “My New Sassy Girl,” a sequel to “My Sassy Girl” (2001). The new film, in which Cha again plays the male protagonist, Kyun-woo, hit theaters Thursday. [JOONGANG ILBO]

It’s been 15 years since the sassy girl in the romantic comedy “My Sassy Girl” (2001) gripped the whole country with her unique character, played by actress Jun Ji-hyun.

The sequel, “My New Sassy Girl,” just came out 15 years later with the same male lead, Cha Tae-hyun. Cha, who gained huge stardom after playing the comical yet naive character Kyun-woo, is now 40 and a father of three children. Unlike the first sassy girl film, which was somewhat bizarre, Cha says “My New Sassy Girl” deals with more ordinary life that people can relate to, such as Kyun-woo being stressed out having difficulty getting a job, getting married and starting a family.

But since Jun has always played the iconic sassy girl, Cha confessed that he hesitated to star in the sequel without the original sassy girl. The new sassy girl is played by starlet Victoria of the girl group f(x).

“I agonized over and over,” Cha said. “But I finally decided to take the role because I missed Kyun-woo so much. I don’t feel a weight on my shoulders or have any regrets about saying yes to the film, but I do feel sorry for the original sassy girl, Jun, for filming without her.”

To learn more about “My New Sassy Girl,” which hit theaters yesterday, Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, sat down with Cha. Here are some excerpts from the interview.


The 2001 film “My Sassy Girl,” left, was a huge hit, featuring the funny and naive Kyun-woo, played by Cha Tae-hyun, and his bizarre girlfriend, played by Jun Ji-hyun. The sequel, “My New Sassy Girl,” right, stars Cha and a new sassy girl, played by Chinese actress Victoria. [JOONGANG ILBO]

Q. How does it feel to meet your character again after 15 years?

A. First of all, it’s great. When the shooting just began, it felt a little weird to see Kyun-woo next to the new sassy girl, but I really missed him. I had a lot of thoughts and concerns before saying yes to this role, but when I finally made up my mind and the shooting began, I was as comfortable as I was filming “My Sassy Girl” back in 2001.

But when the shooting ended, I was having another round of concerns in my head, and that was feeling a bit sorry toward Jun, the original sassy girl. It feels like I kind of betrayed her.

You were so worried about taking the role again. What made you say yes?

It may sound like I’m simplifying this, but I really wanted to see Kyun-woo again, and that allowed me to sort out all my thoughts. I also really liked the fact that the story of this new movie deals with ordinary life - concerns about getting a job, getting married and so on.

Since the sassy girl has changed, there needed to be some modifications to the initial scenario, but in the latter part of the film, the director kept a lot of the initial setting. I could sympathize a lot with the new film as well, probably because I’m a married man now.

Do you feel some pressure for it to become a box-office hit?

Except feeling sorry about not having the original sassy girl, I feel no pressure whatsoever. Honestly, I don’t have much to gain from this movie. There is more to lose. But for the producer, it’s his first movie in 15 years, and for the director, it’s his first in 10 years. It’s not like I’m trying to repay the love and appreciation, but I just want this film to work out well for them and give them the opportunity to start the next movie they have in mind.

How was the new sassy girl, Victoria?

Since Victoria is Chinese, her character in the film is also a Chinese woman. I expected her to speak poor Korean, but she was pretty good. She could have spoken more Chinese, but she tried very hard and practiced a lot to make her Korean sound better and speak more Korean in the film. She had a very strong will.

No Korean actress would have said yes to the sassy girl character. I mean, who would? Because the director made the new sassy girl Chinese, it was easier for me to approach her as well. Victoria also seemed like she was taking the role as a great opportunity than a pressure. It was good to see such positivity. If it was a Korean actress, it would have been hard to not feel pressured.

The film was released in China first. Do you have any hopes to enter the Chinese entertainment scene?

In fact, I had a lot of offers from Chinese directors. But because I was so busy in Korea, I couldn’t. Moreover, I thought it was better for me to work in the field that I am good at, and that is not being in a Chinese film.

Recently, to promote “My New Sassy Girl” in China, I appeared on a Chinese entertainment show and enjoyed it a lot. I think I’ll be better off appearing in comedy shows than on the big screen in China. But my three kids are at an age where they are the cutest, so I am not planning on going abroad for a long time. To shoot films, you need a lot of time, but for television shows, I think you only need to stay in the country for three days at most.

So far, you’ve played various characters in films, but they are mostly comical ones. Do you prefer those characters?

When I was younger, many people showed concern that I was playing comical characters too much and that I would be stuck with such an image forever. Well, I’ve been playing such roles for 16 years now, and I think they can stop worrying. The good thing is I don’t think people are fed up with the comical characters I play. I try to show different styles within that character and make sure people don’t get fed up. That’s my strategy.

The popular actress Song Hye-kyo named you as an actor she wants to partner with in her next work. How do you feel?

I think she’s just saying that. Because if that were true, she should have picked me to shoot the recent hit drama “Descendants of the Sun” instead of actor Song Joong-ki.

You are very active in appearing on variety shows like KBS’s “2 Days, 1 Night.” Young Koreans may see you as a comedian, not as an actor. How do you feel about that?

When I am with a group of actors, I sometimes think to myself, “Do I belong here?” I feel like I am going in a totally different direction from them.

But I try not to think like that. I don’t think there’s such a thing as “being like an actor” or “going in the direction of an actor.” It’s not that I’m not active on the big screen just because I’m active in variety shows. I am also an active singer, releasing albums from time to time. So what I’m trying to do is juggle all three things properly.

You’ve selected the webtoon-based film “With God” (working title), directed by Kim Yong-hwa, as your next film. Why?

The character I’ll play in that film is not comical at all, so it’s quite unfamiliar to me. The character is totally new to me, so I wanted to give it a go.

Plus, director Kim Yong-hwa is such a big name that I wanted to work with him, too. I haven’t had that many chances to work with famous directors or writers. When I was shooting the drama “The Producers” (2015), which was written by famous screenwriter Park Ji-eun, I finally realized why people were all going wild about her. When I was reading the script, I really wanted to start acting right away. So for this, I’m looking forward to having a similar experience.

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