Lee Jong-suk jumped at the chance to play his first villain in ‘V.I.P.’
The new Korean crime-thriller “V.I.P.” depicts the story of four men from three different countries - South Korea, North Korea and the United States - who try to track down a high-profile North Korea defector for their own agendas.
Set to open Thursday, it has Lee Jong-suk playing Kim Gwang-il, the son of a powerful political figure in Pyongyang who becomes the prime suspect of a serial murder case after his defection to South Korea with help from state spy agencies of the country and the United States. His adversary is Chae I-do (Kim Myung-min), a hot-tempered South Korean police superintendent who does everything - not to speak of using violence - to bring a criminal to justice.
Gwang-il’s villainy is made more terrifying because of his playfulness and innocent charm, something that appealed to 28-year-old Lee Jong-suk, he said during an interview Tuesday with Yonhap News Agency at a cafe in central Seoul. Gwang-il smiles innocently even when he kills people.
It is the first evil character the model-turned-actor has portrayed in his eight-year acting career.
“I’ve always wanted to do a macho action noir but thought it might be too early to do so because I knew what I had in me very well,” the actor said. He was shooting a Chinese television drama when he received an offer to be in the new film by director Park Hoon-jung, best known for “New World,” early last year.
After reading the script for “V.I.P.,” Lee wasted no time to fly to South Korea and say “yes” directly to the filmmaker. “I was driven by the idea that I might rather use what I have as a strong point.”
Questioned why he wanted to do an action noir, he said it is his favorite genre, and he’s always looking for a chance to show his manly side since he has mostly played bright and Prince Charming roles in coming-of-age or romance dramas.
“Gwang-il is a person who regards himself as superior to all others. He frowns for the first and last time when Chae insults him before many people, asking him if he is impotent. For him, Chae is the only person who dares to grate on his nerves.”
Asked if he based Gwang-il on any movie villains, Lee said there were lots of films that he saw to prepare for the role. “I studied a lot to figure out how to create a different character and concluded that mine should feel like an innocent child who kills people just out of fun and does not think he is evil.”
With two days left before the movie’s premiere, however, the top star with a large following both at home and other Asian countries said he is afraid his violent and cruel image shown in the film might scare his underage fans.
Lee unveiled a recent anecdote in which he unusually answered instantly to a social media message from an underage fan who asked if it would be O.K. to watch the R-rated movie featuring her favorite star.
“I immediately sent a reply out of the thought that I must prevent her from seeing the movie. I said, ‘Thank you so much for your support, but please watch it when you’re older,’” he said.
The former fashion model conceded that his motive of pursuing acting was simply to appear on the television like popular singer-actor Rain.
But as time went by, it became increasingly more difficult to act because of his introverted personality in real life.
“I like watching the dramas and the films that I have appeared in. I found my acting was far smoother in recent titles but that I surely stopped growing as an actor at some point. I found myself acting mechanically because I already knew the skills.
“When I’m at home, I do nothing. So, these days I try to figure out what else I can do without acting in my life,” he said. His newly found joy is meeting his old friends who attended the same elementary school and listening to their life stories. “Before, I had no interest in other people’s lives at all but now I just like listening to their stories.”
Asked if that change is because he faces entry into the military, he laughed and said, “Maybe that’s because I’m getting older.”
All able-bodied South Korean men are subject to compulsory military service for about two years.
Earlier this month, Lee received a notification from the military that he should be in the Army.
The actor said he asked for a delay to finish promotional activities for his new titles: “V.I.P.” and a new SBS drama set to air next month.