[November 2008 – Marie Claire] Song Chang Ui – Play, boy – Interview

Marie Claire - Song Chang Ui

Last September, actor Paul Newman passed away at the age of 83. Fans of Paul Newman all around the world mourned his death, but it seemed that his death had a bit of a different meaning for US people. That’s because he found success with a food company he ran like a side-job and he donated all profit to charity, and for them, Paul Newman was the special name of someone who practiced noblesse oblige, who deserved to be respected. (To me, Paul Newman is someone who said “why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”. After getting married to actress Joanne Woodward, this is the answer he gave to the secret of a marriage without being involved in any scandal. Please, Mr. Newman, tell me honestly the wind of wanting to waver blew. Right? The opportunity to interview him disappeared before I could ask him the question.)

This is a Song Chang Ui interview. Going in circle, in order to ask this one question. What is a good actor? As you probably know, the correct answer is “someone who is good at acting”. However, there are times during an exam when questions can have overlapping answers. It’s the same here. Like Paul Newman, there are also actors whose personal lives make them even more appreciated as actors. Paul Newman, of course his acting is excellent. However, while looking at the projects he did through the years as he was getting older, viewers also remembered the honorable things he did in his personal life.

Putting aside the fact itself that it exists within a story’s completion, an actor’s acting is an experience the audience relates to, it’s about meeting the audience through diverse contexts like the tracks left by the actor’s life. As Korean movies were really doing well, there were more occasions to talk about acting when it comes to actors who showed just about anything in their acting. Korean movies meet a crisis, but when a movie premieres, countless of medias meet the actor and ask him about acting. Is a good actor the actor who can speak rationally about his own acting? It’s the second question of my interview.

A quick meeting with no context and within two hours, showing groundless greediness with questions that will go from his vision of acting, his ideal type to his vision of the world, then saying things like I enjoyed your acting, I’ll be anticipating, if you’re lacking, please work harder, eat healthy, which kind of music do you listen to on a windy day when you feel too lonely. I wonder what this is all about once you’re done asking. I mean an actor grew through his projects and his life, so he’s an actor [t/n: the editor uses the English word] but not a speaker.

An actor that reveals a strong sense of identity from an actor’s point of view and acting isn’t always about an actor giving emotions, an actor who, for instance, would has this religious spirit like blind faith about having a vocation called “actor”.

Song Chang Ui’s face is empty. Good-looking or not aside, there are many things to say about one’s face. Like, during his school days, this person must have been quite a trouble maker, he must be from the countryside, he must be rough, he looks sleazy.

Song Chang Ui’s face is a face that doesn’t seem to say many things from before he learned how to speak. Then his eyes glaze over. His face triggers curiosity. Song Chang Ui debuted as a musical actor. Most of the musicals he did for the past 7 years overlap with Korean musicals history. He was a good musicals actor. If we compare with other musical actors in translated foreign plays in their young days who didn’t shine in dramas or movies because of exaggerated and fancy acting, the popular actors from creative musicals had no problem to adapt when they move to another media.

That’s the same for him. I saw his face for the first time in drama “Golden Bride”. However, I started paying attention to him with the drama “Yi San”. As pointing out Jung Yak Yong who was one of the most important educated person in Korean modern history, Song Chang Ui portrayed a character that was careless like no other because he wasn’t naive. I thought it was great. His Jung Yak Yong was clearly contemporary. The Jung Yak Yong that Song Chang Ui created got mixed reviews about if he succeeded to reenact the historical character, but when I looked at the character in this drama, it was clearly charming. First of all, it’s a success.

In the drama “The Scales of Providence” that is currently being broadcast, he’s so good that he’s unrealistic, but he’s portraying a character that must try to expose a “legal reality” with no legal existence in the reality. There’s a great feeling of satisfaction while looking at his acting.

Someone getting a parking ticket in a depressive way, someone unfolding the law instead of looking for a lawyer to clear false charges in an unfair lawsuit that makes no sense, then someone getting angrier at this unfamiliar language that isn’t a foreign one, his acting brings great satisfaction. It’s a success so far. And a movie Song Chang Ui did that should have been released a year ago is about to be released in any moment. The movie title is “Boys don’t cry”. It’s a movie taking place during the rough times right after 6.25. The main characters of this movie are deprived boys who turn into adults right after the war breaks out like dry sand encompassing everything. Song Chang Ui’s character is Tae Ho who becomes an adult in his own way through poverty. When I met him, the movie hadn’t premiered yet, but the one he was in the trailer was a boy and not a man. Unlike what the title says, there’s a scene in which he cried, there was the despair like showing the intact heart of a boy who didn’t want to cry.

His face that can’t let you know about any context, it can be perfect for acting a boy who lost everything in this world such as the right direction he must follow. But now, his face deserves to leave guessing outside of the scene. Song Chang Ui’s face keeps pretending not to speak. It’s not that his face is unkind. It is a mental chaos for an interviewer who imagined a conventional but safe interview, but the interviewee speaks in such an honest way that goes beyond baring skin, like ABC chocolate in a summer day melting and sticky as soon as you unpeel it. Song Chang Ui’s answer was like ABC chocolate.

“Anyone has this ordinary people’s side to their personality. Are you honest all the time? You’re not, right? We all act in our lives. I don’t think being an actor is that much of a special or great job. Expressing what people feel in their ordinary lives, that’s acting, what is so great about that?.” “When I do interviews, I’m asked similar questions quite often, so my answers are similar in the same way. Do you get the feeling I’m wrapping my answers in a nice package?” “Saying things like acting is all my life, hey, I don’t think so. I don’t have an extraordinary sense of being an actor, I don’t have or practice some great philosophy about acting either.”

Song Chang Ui will go back to the stage with the musical “200 Pound Beauty”. It’s been 2 years and a half. To people asking if he feels no pressure of going back on stage while he’s filming a drama and has a movie about to premiere, the expected answer is “yes, there’s pressure. the sense of responsbility is big, it reaches this point?”. The answer I got from Song Chang Ui was “it’s not that I don’t worry, but it’s nothing like pressure or big worries.”

“Some people become actors because of their looks, some get into acting because their talent got recognition. I was also passionate. When I was in middle school, I saw the musical “Les Miserables” and it was so powerful. It was like “being on stage is happiness and thrill”. I was an ordinary kid, but at some point I was doing morning broadcast, I was dancing during festivals. When I was on stage, I felt like I was having this thrilling fun. I think being an actor is the path I must follow because it’s what I enjoy. I feel like it’s the thing that suits me the best.”

This is what the actor says. However, he calls it “fun” instead. Song Chang Ui becomes an actor when he has fun. Play, boy.

Marie Claire

Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com

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