Sol Kyung-gu renewed his passion for acting in new spy movie 'Phantom'

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Sol Kyung-gu renewed his passion for acting in new spy movie 'Phantom'

Actor Sol Kyung-gu [CJ ENM]

Actor Sol Kyung-gu [CJ ENM]

 
Veteran actor Sol Kyung-gu's aim for the new spy movie "Phantom" was finding his passion for acting again, as well as promoting a female-driven action thriller.
 
Sol is a luminary thespian within Korea, known for his roles in films such as “Peppermint Candy” (1999), “Oasis” (2002), “Memoir of a Murderer” (2017), “The Merciless” (2017) and “Kingmaker” (2022). Born in 1967 and having celebrated the 30th anniversary of his film debut last year, Sol stars as Junji Murayama, a Japanese colonial officer who has an inferiority complex due to his background of having a Korean-born mother, in historical-colonial spy thriller “Phantom,” opening in theaters on Jan. 18.
 
“Phantom” surrounds five people who are accused of being spies for the Korean resistance against Japanese colonial rule and unfolds as the five are locked in an enclosed space and questioned in turn. The title character, a person codenamed “phantom,” is a spy for the resistance and works closely within the Japanese command to deliver information to the resistance members. Who is revealed to be the mysterious “phantom” is a plot device that drives the film.
 
Sol reflected on his career so far during a roundtable interview held in Jung District, central Seoul on Thursday and said that he doesn’t want to be “too desperate” for success or to show a new side of his acting but that he wants to find his “passion” again and be “granted salvation” through films.
 
“I feel that I have been saved once already in my career through ‘The Merciless,’” said Sol during the interview Thursday. He played Han Jae-ho, an inmate in a prison and the second-in-command of a crime gang who plots a climb to the top of the ladder once he is released. “The Merciless” had a $6.9 million box office success and marked a turning point for Sol’s career back in 2017.
 
“I was grateful for the success of that film and found a new passion for acting through it,” said Sol. "But I think being too desperate for success is also a kind of poison for actors. I want to be hungry, but I don’t want to be hung up on anything that will tie me down or make me overwork myself."
 
The veteran actor said that the main attraction of “Phantom” is in the strong female characters, played by fellow cast members Lee Ha-nee, Park So-dam and Esom.
 
“It is attractive that we took the story of female independence fighters of the Japanese colonial era and made it one of the main themes of ‘Phantom,’” said Sol. “I sometimes think that there are too many bromance movies out there and we need a lot of female storylines and strong women characters in cinema.”
 
Actor Sol Kyung-gu [CJ ENM]

Actor Sol Kyung-gu [CJ ENM]

 
Actor Esom was particularly noteworthy for having only a few scenes in the film but made one of the “most impressive marks” on the viewers for “Phantom,” according to Sol.
 
He also praised the director of “Phantom,” Lee Hae-young, the force behind films such as “Like A Virgin” (2006), “Foxy Festival” (2010) and “The Silenced” (2015), commenting on the strength of Lee’s direction and his sense of color and mastery of mise-en-scène in particular.
 
“Lee was so detailed in his direction sometimes that he went as far as to correct the position of the hat my character wore in every single scene,” said Sol. “It was almost infuriating at times, the perfection that Lee was looking for in ‘Phantom.’ And his sense of color, exampled by how he gave my character Junji a thematic green color to match his reptile-like personality, was really something.”
 
Sol also explained the duality of Junji, the Japanese colonial officer who secretly harbors shame because of his Korean-born mother, saying that he felt Junji wasn’t completely an antagonist.
 
“I don’t think he thinks of himself as a bad guy,” said Sol. “I didn’t particularly think of a whole backstory for Junji, but I did sympathize with him greatly. He has this inferiority complex — he is extremely proud of being the seventh-generation son of a noble Japanese military family, but he is also ashamed because of his Korean mother. He still loves his mother, I’m sure, but he thinks that ‘erasing’ Joseon will be a kind of redemption for him. That’s the motive for Junji.”
 
Cast member Park Hae-soo, who played another Japanese officer Kaito, came in two weeks before shooting began because a Japanese cast member could not make it to set due to complications from the Covid-19 pandemic that was on surge at the time of filming, Sol explained.
 
“Park completely saved us,” said Sol, exclaiming that the “Squid Game” star blew away the director and crew with his expertly practiced lines in Japanese. “He had a lot of doubts with taking on the role but I felt that he really wanted it. And he was perfect for the role and very professional.”
 
Sol further expressed his desire for “Phantom” to reach as many viewers and audiences during the Lunar New Year season — a period when Korean moviegoers flock to the cinema.
 
“I hope ‘Phantom,’ which I think is a very different kind of period piece and a different kind of colonial movie, will resonate with audiences and that my character Junji will deliver something unique for viewers.”
 

BY LIM JEONG-WON [lim.jeongwon@joongang.co.kr]
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