t/n: his Korean is very cute, but he sometimes turns easy grammar structure into something complicated and I get a bit confused, so there might be a few mistakes here and there. There are sentences he says in English too and the editor kept them in English, so I’ll use italics for these ones. And last but not least, I have no idea how I missed this interview when I checked Elle a couple of months ago. On November 16th of 2015, the magazine decided to repupload this 2008 photo shoot and interview, so here we go. 😀
“X-Men Origin: Wolverine” is your first Hollywood movie. What was the biggest challenge for you? Ah, to be “just myself“, because I was very nervous and very tense. When I was acting in a Korean project, everybody knew who I was, but this time I had to prove myself. However, I was lacking time. I got the role about ten days before I shot my first scene. And this first scene was a very difficult scene because it was with Hugh Jackman. I had never met him. If you wonder why, it’s because I was hiking in LA. Martin, my manager, told me there would be a meeting with Fox. Martin called me and was like “hey, look. It’s really a big deal. You’ll do big!”. So I said “all right, cool!”. That’s why I went to the Fox headquarters the next day to attend the meeting. The main casting director was willing to brief me about the story and the role I would play, so I thought I would go to the audition and I said “okay, give me the script” because almost every famous actor in Hollywood go through the audition process when there’s a casting for a new movie. However, once this meeting was over, the casting director told me “Daniel, this role is yours. We just need you to be okay with it and we hope you’ll do it” before I left and I said “yes“.
What kind of man is “Agent Zero” in “X-Men”? Is he a “bad guy” or a “good guy”? And what about the way it makes the movie interesting? He has German origins and he’s always seeking perfection in anything he does. He’s someone with a bit of mysophobia. Well, some aspects are unfortunate. I do find these aspects interesting, though. Well, so I guess you can make the distinction between a good guy and a bad guy anyway. I mean, Wolverine kills people too. The movie takes place in the 1970’s around the time of the Vietnam war. It goes back to the roots of the “X-Men” series which already has three movies out, so it’s about the story of Wolverine and X-Men. That’s why it’s titled “X-Men Origins”.
You filmed a Hollywood movie with Hugh Jackman, so you’re an international actor now, both in name and reality. Aren’t you in front of a complete different life waiting for you once the movie is out next year? Maybe, but I don’t have thoughts like I have prepared something. I do think about what if a little bit more people know my name, remember my face, but never that this job is mine. Of course, I know Hollywood is a world a bit tougher and different… Well, I don’t care. I always want to work in Korea whenever there’s a good scenario. With Korea, how to say it? I have this romantic, emotional connection growing stronger and that’s what makes me want to keep making Korean movies. However, I get uneasy if I’m forced not to do anything at all, so I don’t like doing just any rough project.
I think “My Father” changed you. Yeah, on some aspects. Because it was what my mother experienced (his mother was adopted), I thought no one but me could do it. I mean, a role like this was a challenge and it was a bit scary too. However, it could also be exciting. In TV dramas, there are love triangles, love squares… It’s definitely more interesting than “it’s the oppa, it’s the dongsaeng”. Well, I mean things like that aren’t bad either, though.
You cried a few times in “My Father”, right? I cried a few times in the movie, but it seemed like I cried countless times. For real. Haha.
Let’s be honest. Did you think “can I make a crying man look good like that”? I mean, it’s a bit of a weird point you find out when you get more familiar with the Asian movie industry. The awareness about good-looking or pretty actors. I realized that a lot of peole are like that. While they say “you made the right choice by taking on a role like the one in “My Father”, it’s a very tough decision for good-looking actors to do roles like this”. I don’t get it. What does that even mean? When you’re an actor, it’s natural that you grimace when you cry and to have a running nose and to have your tongue come out. We’re human, so it’s something normal to do as an actor. I mean, I just cry like that “wa, wa, wa”. (You pretended to cry while still looking pretty?) So would that make me look more handsome? What I mean is I must cry when I’m supposed to cry.
Daniel, your Korean is very good. It’s different from 2 years ago. When I think that your mother can’t speak Korean at all, it’s really awesome. You probably make a lot of efforts, right? I would have never thought acting would become my job, or that I would get to come back to Korea and be an actor. Things just worked out this way. At some point, I ended up having Korean friends and I wanted to speak with them, I wanted to call them on the phone and send them text messages.
Many people are curious about how you are when you get angry. You don’t seem the type to get very hyped, so I wonder if it’s not the case. Can you actually get angry over something? I can be angry real bad. When I’m angry, I become cynical. Like, through sarcasm. When you’re driving and someone behaves in a way they really shouldn’t. I’d go like this “oh, you’re a great driver. Oh yeah, good job. You’re awesome!”. When I’m arguing with someone, I try to outsmart the other person in any way I can. Haha, my ex-girlfriend really hated when I got angry like that. My father is like that too. My father is a quiet person, so when he does get angry, he’s very scary. However, I’ve never gotten angry to the point of losing my mind because once you stop being rational, you lose just everything about yourself and your personality. You even lose your sense of values.
But aren’t you too much of a good boy? You don’t really drink alcohol, you don’t smoke, you enjoy getting all sweaty while playing basketball? In 28 years, I never heard my father saying the word “f***”. It happened just once. I was about 8 or 9. I had a friend whose name was Jeremy and he lived in our neighborhood. We were very close, so we were together every day playing either at his house or at mine. One day, I went to his house and we were totally bored. This friend lived in a very expensive farm. There was a semi-truck, what’s the Korean word for it? It was really a big truck. The horn went like “hong, hong”… Anyway, this truck was 3-decades-old [?] but like “new”. To kids like us, it looked great! Do you know what we did? Suddenly, we started throwing stones at it. He threw some stones, I threw some stones. Then, we held a hammer and turned this truck into ashes. The next day, Jeremie’s father knocked on our door and said “Mr. Henney, I’m here to see you and your wife because I have something to tell you”. He asked for 3,000 dollars. 3,000 dollars were like 50,000 dollars to my family… That’s why my parents emptied their savings and spent some time pay him back. My father hit me hard that time. I was nine, so what could have gone through my mind?
[t/n: I don’t know if I get everything right about this childhood story. I tried my best]
Most of actors are stars. Some people are passionate about loving these stars, some totally hate these stars. Some people also want to know everything about these stars. Isn’t it burdensome?
I clearly had moments like this. Moments when I feel burdened. Hm… I started working as soon as I came to Korea at first and everything started working out, I just enjoyed everything. It was fascinating to me. How to say it? It was because I was like a baby sitting there and being happy just with what he eats and his toys. Two years later, I started realizing something after I finished filming “Seducing Mr. Perfect”. It was like “okay, this is my life”. I started to understand it wasn’t some short fantastic vacation. I had to check if my look was perfect before I left my house in the morning. Going to the supermarket was uncomfortable. I couldn’t go home stumbling because I had too many drinks. I couldn’t even think about drinking and driving. Of course, that is something no one should do, but I mean, when you’re someone famous, you never get to work again if you get caught by the police for driving in broad daylight after having just one drink. I just thought to myself “let’s just treat this as a game”. A game that requires me to stay really really focus. I think I have no other choice but to detach myself in order to do that.
There’s something I discovered about you since it’s the second time we work together. I think you’re picky only about clothes. Am I right? Yeah, I think you’re right. (Martin who was next to him says) It’s not only about clothes. He’s picky about many things.
Really? What else are you picky about? (Martin says) Food!
Is it true, Daniel? (shyly) Yeah, it’s true. Of course, I like hearing other people’s opinion and I always listen. Well, that’s how I am, I don’t know…. when it comes to fashion… I was a model for 6 years. I did all the major fashion shows. I walked for Gucci, Dolce and Gabana. I guess working with them made me learn secretly a few things. The fact that you can look good with just a classic and basic look if you wear it well.
Next, it’s the truth game. Answer only with true or false. Okay, start! Daniel, you can have any woman you want? False. It’s absolutely not the case… It never happened even a few times.
You’re a perfectionist. I will get hit if I say “false”? True…
You also have feminine side in your heart. True.
You’re a man who would choose friendship over love in a situation. Hm, true.
You easily fall in love. True. No, well… I was like that in the past. False.
You consider promises as precious. True.
You think you’re a pretty man. False. Wait, I must explain a little. If I don’t, my words will turn into a misleading “thoughtless statement”. When I look in the mirror, well… If you ask me that I think I’m charming, I think I will be able to say yes. And it’s something I’m making a lot of efforts for because I watch what I eat and I take care of my body.
You get to choose between 4 answers. What is the thing you’re scared of the most? 1. Bungeejumping. 2. Cockroach. 3. Getting dumped by someone you love. 4. Failure. Number 3. Martin, don’t leave me. Hahaha.
What is the kind of woman you don’t like? A woman who bursts out laughing loudly when you’re at a restaurant, a woman who thinks she’s a princess, a woman who’s always obedient, a woman who is smarter and more successful than you? Answer number 2. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just not my type. I’m okay with being friends with a woman thinking she’s a princess. What I don’t like is awkward aegyo. I don’t like that.
No moment when you think Korean men have really no manner? As a gentle guy, if you were to give one advice to them? It’s not just Korean men, there’s one thing I’d say to any guy. Just listen! Just stay quiet and listen to your woman. And react after you’ve listened.
Is that what you do? Yes.
Many women will probably be curious about what is on your bedside table. A lamp. It’s always on. And 4 or 5 books. I’ve been into religion lately. I’m reading a couple of books about religion. I mean, it’s like studying. It’s very interesting. My Korean-English dictionary. A sketchbook.
What about your cell phone? I leave it far away from me. It’s [?] my alarm clock. I keep it far away to force myself to get up.
What else ? The picture of a woman undressing in a sexy way? Haha. Ah, my ring. It’s a ring my director gave me as a gift when I received the rookie award at the Blue Dragon Film Awards… And a letter I received from my grandmother. It’s the last letter she gave me before she passed away and I put it in a frame. Right next to my grandmother rice pudding recipe.
I’m talking about ordinary people like me. It all depends, but there are many moments you really feel life is tough. You are a star, do you also have moments like this? Hm.. To be honest, I didn’t have a tough life. Up to now. It’s true that there were some struggling moments because of the lack of money, but… Still, it was still okay. However, when I found out not long ago that a very close friend of mine is seriously ill… This friend is such a bright and amazing person. Now it suddenly turned into a life of health struggle to live this amazing life. Life isn’t easy. Life was easy on me and now that people close to me experienced a hard time, I realize now that life isn’t easy.
What is the thing you’ve been enjoying doing the most lately when you’re alone? When I’m in Michigan, it’s washing my car. However, it’s complicated to wash personally my car when I’m in Korea. On a day off, I do it all through the day and it feels really nice. There’s the rinsing with water part, there’s the polishing moment… And I also like playing guitar and playing basketball. Well, I realized that shopping is a lot of fun too.
Didn’t you learn it the day before yesterday? I learned when I was shooting “X-Men” in Sydney.
When will we be able to see you again? You just can whenever you want to. You can if you visit ‘www.daniel-henney.com’. Haha. I mean if you leave me a note there, I will reply.
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com