The end of 2015 is coming fast. How was this year for you?
Once I finished filming “Healer”, I didn’t mean to but I ended up living an office worker life. I created a small movie company and went to the office every day. In the morning, I took care of my body as an actor. From noon to the evening, I worked at the office. On evenings and weekends, I tried my best to stay true to my biggest role. It didn’t look like it on the surface, but I’ve been focusing on laying foundation for the past year.
Your life style must have changed a lot once you got a child.
I used to care only about the role of the project I was working on and to be focus to stay in character. Because I have a child now, I can no longer be like this, so I’m getting smarter about my approach. It’s not simply because of my child. The world now is always going fast, so if you become stagnant, you might fall behind, so I’m trying to maximize my time as much as I can.
The actor who is only focused on his role probably feel all through his body how fast the world is changing.
Of course. The required acting skills keep changing. In the past, you had to move through a precise plan, now the camera and the lighting follow the actors. Pronounciation and vocalization became less important and the acting that keeps it realistic became more important. It’s exactly the same for movie directing. It usually takes 2 or 3 years to write a scenario. It’s quite difficult for me to create the stories that I want to tell and to match the course of this era.
However, looking at your recent career moves, it seems that you choose projects fitting your movie values, regardless of the course of this era.
Projects that are exposed a lot to the audience is important, but sincere acting in order to create my own story as an actor is what is more important to me. I have my own standards and I choose projects to challenge myself and I’m always waiting for projects like that because I’ve been living with my life values until now and it would feel like the start of a wasted life if I worried only about this era flow.
The movie “The Tenor Lirico – Spinto” was released by the end of 2014 but was back in theaters again in September thanks to the critics support.
Because a movie set is a space mixing between reality and dream, the fact that it’s released or not is very important. I worked on it for nearly 3 years, so it would have been truly in vain if there had been no result. That’s why taking this into consideration, the fact that it was back in theaters 2 years after it was released, the fact that people still talk about it make it very meaningful.
Even now, when we talk about actor Yoo Ji Tae, “One Fine Spring Day” (2001) and “Old Boy” (2003) are the two movies that come first to mind.
This is how the public feels, but these are also the movies I remember the most. I remember Sang Woo in “One Fine Spring Day” as a role full of the most beautiful time of my life [t/n: or the time when he was his best-looking] and I remember Woo Jin in “Old Boy” as a role I portrayed with a lot of passion. These two movies turned into the sacred projects of my filmography, so wanting to break away from that wouldn’t be a good thing. Especially for “Old Boy”. As it became more famous on the international scene, the image of Woo Jin was stamped on me. The goal for my acting career is to find projects to surpass these two big “mountains”. It it’s meant to be, I will find them, right?
If you were to play Sang Woo and Woo Jin which are the two “roles of your career” today, do you think you’d portray them even better?
No. For “One Fine Spring Day”, director Heo Jin Ho reflected a lot of my personality and my thoughts in my character. Even during filming, I spent a lot of time to relly create the same feeling. The Sang Woo back then could only be done by the one I was back then. It was exactly the same for Woo Jin in “Old Boy”. I could probably portray a villain with more dimension if I played it now, but it seems that I would have been able to create this image sharp like a stringed instrument only back then.
You’re currently making a name for yourself as a director. Your first full-length movie “Mai Raitima” was released in 2012 and it was greatly appreciated.
I received an award overseas, but it didn’t do really well in the Korean box-office, so that was a depressive time for me. I’m in a good situation right now and I ended up making a commercial movie, but my goal as a movie director is to create scenarios and prepare my movies through the indie route if I lack the finances. As time goes by, my movie values are getting more and more define. I want to keep making movies that give a message fitting this era.
Let’s talk more precisely. Your focus is on weak people in our society. After “Mai Raitima” which was about the story of a female immigrant. Your next movie “Ankkaee” was a love story between a man from the Joseon era and a North Korean woman.
When I was in high school, my nickname was “grasshopper”. Gagman Kim Joon Ho was my roommate, and I didn’t have the money to pay my share of the rent, so I kept moving from one friend’s room to another and that’s how I got this nickname. I don’t know if it’s because I went through hardships during my youth, but I’m moved by this craving to live despite the struggles, by the happiness of ordinary people. I’m currently in talks to start the production of “Ankaee” next year. Besides that, I keep working on drafts for other projects.
Let’s talk about your family. Your son Soo In was born a year ago. What kind of child is he?
He smiles so much and is so bright that all my sadness and stress disappear when I see him smile/laugh. He’s amiable because he really likes people. If there’s something to eat, he will give it to others first before he eats. He is so gentle and so selfless that I even worry that things might be hard for him if he’s like that when he’s an adult. (smiles)
Will you help him if he says he wants to be like you and become an actor or a film director?
Of course. Being forced to worry about the others’ gaze can prevent you from receiving the happiness ordinary people receive, but I have a special kind of self-esteem. If Soo In says he wants to become a film director, I want to create an environment where he can unfold his dreams in this world. Even if he’s not an actor or a director, I will activitely support my son’s dream. I hope he will choose a job he loves, a job for his creativity.
Many actors choose you as their role model.
I’m thankful. To be honest, I’m greeder about something else. In Korea, there are still many obstacles that people don’t see, there is still a lot of work to do that can be clearly divided for each of us to take care of their own share. I want to become a true role model of the movie industry because I will get rid of boundaries as an “actor and director” like Clint Eastwood and Sean Penn did.
And many actresses pick you as their ideal type.
It’s because I have a good marital compatibility [with my wife]. Hyo Jin is so nice to me, so supportive, so I can do nothing but be considerate of her. We must keep continuing our mutual efforts.
What plans do you have for 2016?
Just like now, I will keep thinking about what’s worthy to do and I will show you through my work. I had been raising funds to build a school in Africa for the past 2 years and a half. I finished early this year, so I will start fund raising again for a school in Nepal next year. The amount of money to raise for this school in Africa was big, so it took time. While “Healer” was airing, the goal was achieved right away. Even if it’s just for the power of exposure, I must keep shooting dramas (smiles).
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com