What did you drink during the interview? Red Bull.
Are you tired? I’ve been in Korea for three days. It’s 4PM now, so it’s midnight in LA.
After the “Spy” press conference, there were many articles complimenting you for the lines your said in Korean. Really? I didn’t see.
You studied Korean separately. (More than 80% of his answers for this interview were in Korean) I don’t attend classes. Because I have no problem when living in Korea. When it comes to acting… I made a lot of efforts. Nearly 80% of my lines in “Spy” were in Korean.
Was being able to speak Korean also important to you? It’s not a problem such as memorizing words or saying them. What was important was to express myself with conviction while speaking Korean.
You worked with Seol Kyung Gu, Moon Sori, Go Chang Suk… They’re all veteran actors. How did you feel when you first got the role? I thought “ah, I will definitely learn something” because they are “super professional”. The sunbaes were actually almost at the producers level. The director was quite young, you know? He’s a rookie. What I mean is that the fact Kyung Gu-hyung already knew what he was supposed to do made things even better. The director didn’t speak. It went first take, action, the second take, he showed something different and it was good too. He made two or three takes like this. When the director asked “should we try something different?”, Kyung Gu-hyun answered “let’s move to the next scene” (laugh).
There were many action scenes, right? There were many action scenes, but there were so many shooting scenes that I thought it was “heavy”[t/n: in English]. At first, my understanding of Ryan was that it was a very easy character, but it actually became difficult as time went by. “What was his goal? why did he act the way he did?”. I talked about it with the director. A few scenes were added to make my character complete.
Aren’t you bored of playing only good-looking characters? I feel this way sometimes, but is it a problem that a lot of actors worry about?
They do, but it won’t be as much as you can worry about it. Right. It’s accurate, but honestly, I wouldn’t call it a “worry”. I also briefly/discreetly enjoy it once in a while.
You know you never played the roles of a loser, a human wreck, a freeloader. I didn’t because I didn’t receive an offer. In Korea, I’m still not given this kind of roles. Be it a loser or a stupid guy, I’d have to speak Korean, so my Korean must be better than it is today if I want to play this kind of roles. And if it’s in English? I can clearly play these roles even now.
I thought you avoided such roles because you seem to be someone who disciplines himself like a perfectionist. I want to be perfect for me. I always go to the gym, I work out, I also care about different things. However, it’s another story when it comes to having a “ruined image” for a role that I’m playing.
Good manners, charming smile… Isn’t it because you don’t show your true self? Any actor, any celebrity, they all have an image. Seol Kyung Gu’s image, Moon Sori’s image… I know Seol Kyung Gu, I know Moon Sori. The image they have is different from who they are in real life. And I also have an image. It probably started when I did “My Lovely Kim Sam Soon”. I played a gentleman. That’s why I must always have this image.
Still, if you have to be this way all the time even in your daily life, it must be a lot of stress? Indeed.
You wore a t-shirt when you walked into the studio, then you changed clothes into a suit, you really seemed to be a different person. This image became stronger because suits really suit me (laugh). That’s why I don’t wear them. If I’m in a suit, people stare at me. It makes me uncomfortable. If I go to a restaurant because I have to meet someone, people look only at me, and I’m having a hard time when it happens.
Do you also think that you look handsome in a suit? I actually like wearing suits. When I was a kid, my family wasn’t rich, so while we were living in a place similar to a trailer, we used to have “garage sales” and sell secondhand objects in the backyard. I was three-years old and I liked suits so much that I put on my suit as soon as I got up and went out to the garage sale.
Daniel, when do you relax? It depends of the person I’m with. When I’m in the US and I don’t have a schedule, I usually relax when I’m with my friends. We watch movies, we talk about women or we talk about sports, we eat chicken burritos and have a beer… It’s very ordinary.
What about alcohol? I like it. I like beer as well as soju… However, there’s nothing special to live drinking all the time. If you get drunk every day, it’s nothing special, right? One or two drinking nights a month. It’s perfect for me. And to be honest, my career is very important to me. Because I’m a celebrity, I should not drink alcohol and drive, I should not smoke marijuna, I shouldn’t do things that could ruin me. When I’m alone at home, it doesn’t matter if I drink a lot, if I take my clothes off and dance around, if I have fun with my friends. However, I’m the type to really really worry a lot when I’m in a public setting.
Hollywood stars smoke marijuana, go to clubs, get into fights… I don’t like marijuana, so I don’t smoke. A few years ago, when a friend came to see me, I didn’t know any place in Seoul, so I asked around and I went to a club… Well, we left after 20 minutes. There was a lot of people and it wasn’t that great.
Didn’t people recognize you? They did. I’m tall, so I can’t hide.
It seems that Korea treats its stars in a stricter way. It’s the other side of the same coin. I’m a rookie in Hollywood. It’s not good for me if scandal pictures get exposed from the beginning. My priority is more to get a good role in a good movie than to live freely my personal life. Besides, the US law is slowly becoming harsher too, so you can get your driver’s licence suspended even if you only drink one can of beer in an hour. It’s 6 months! Isn’t a 6-month suspension too much for one beer? Like drinking less than three beers in a 3-hour party. That’s why I’d rather not drink at all (laugh)
What’s your take on Korean actors or Korean directors who try to advance in Hollywood? Of course, there’s a limit. However, there won’t be opportunities like right now if you don’t try because you think the limit is there. There’s no limit to the potential of directors like Park Chan Wook, Kim Ji Woon. For actors… it might be a little bit more difficult. Definitely because of the language. I can understand that Rain or Lee Byung Hun have been doing efforts lately like the ones I make in Korea. I think Lee Byung Hun is understanding me too (laugh).
When I look at your pictures, what’s handsome is that you do have wrinkles but you still look the same.
I think men almost never change between 30 and their mid-40’s. Right. I was young and good-looking when I was 26. However, I just looked very young. I had no layer. I think that’s the reason it was hard for me to get a movie role. I want to think I’m forever young, though (laugh).
Honestly, you look better now than when you were younger. I also find my looks better now. I look more masculine and relaxed. My mustache didn’t even come out until I was 25. I was looking in the mirror one day when I was about 30 and my mustache just came out! I was like “it’s here! it came out”?
What life do you want to have as you get older? I just want to be happy. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a wife and a couple of kids. And I hope my connection with Korea will be even deeper than the one I have today.
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com