[February 2016 – Arena] Lee Sung Min – Interview

Do you remember the charismatic photo shoot you did with “Arena” in 2014?

I remember. It was with (Jung) Jae Young and we were looking all slick, right? Haha.

The year changed, and you’re now 49 of Korean age.

On the last day of 2014, here’s what I talked about with my family. “Wow, we’ve already aged this much.” However, there was nothing special about the end of 2015. I had woken up early in the morning, so I did what I had to do and I overslept and it was 2016 just like that. I was more amazed by the fact that my daughter was one year older than me getting older. She’s already 16.

The movie “Robot, Sori” which is about to premiere tells the story of a father looking for his daughter. You probably thought a lot about your own daughter while filming.

The father in the movie doesn’t communicate with his daughter. This is what he’s sorry about and it can make his search for his missing daughter more absorbing. However, the one I am in real life is different from that. I wondered how fathers were these days, so I asked to my daughter’s friends when they hung out at our home. They said there’s almost no father like me. Haha. These girls said fathers usually get angry and scold them. I’m not like that.

You seem to be a good father.

I’m always making efforts to try to be one. When I’m acting, I usually don’t think about my daughter or about my family. I’m only focused on the story itself, but it was the first time that I thought about my daughter while portraying a role. I would have probably not thought about her if it were a cruel and scary movie, but my daughter came to my mind naturally as I was portraying this role.

Johnny Depp said he played in “Pirates of the Caribbean” because he wanted to shoot a movie he’d show to his kids. Did you choose this movie because you wanted to shoot a movie you could watch with your daughter?

It wasn’t like that. The biggest reason was because I liked the story. That’s the most important and unconditional reason. And the other reason was because there would be a robot. Isn’t it an unusual theme? I received the scenario and the synopsis from director Lee Ho Jae. There were a few cuts/images in the synopsis and I begged to see the final result. As it totally got me curious, I took out the pictures last. There was this scene in which the robot and the man are sitting side by side and they both look in the same direction. This scene stayed on my mind for a long time.

You’re thankful every time for meeting projects that give you power as an a ctor. You gathered a lot of female fans with “Golden Time” in 2012. There was the Manager Oh syndrome with “Misaeng” in 2014. Do you feel like something else going to blow up this year too?

That’s why I feel a big burden and I worry a lot. “Robot, Sori” ended up premiering in the first semester of 2016. Am I not the effective humane lead character in this? That’s why it’s a big responsibility to carry. That’s how I felt on set, but I felt exactly the same even after filming was over. I can’t share the PR responsibility with the robot. Haha.

Isn’t being “one top” burdensome anyway?

It’s the first time I feel this way. When I was cast as a lead role, I was so thankful when I was told I’d be working with (Lee) Hee Joon or Honey, and Jeon Hye Jin who portrayed my wife. I didn’t know exactly how thankful I was because I got recruited because someone believed in me. That’s why I’m working hard on this movie PR activities.

I watched “Infinite Challenge” recently. You made a cameo because Im Siwan asked you to. Do you usually stay in touch with actors you filmed with?

I’m very shy when I meet people for the first time. However, I’m different after the first meeting if I open my heart. I really enjoy talking. When you speak frankly, you get close to people right away. When I’m on a drama or a movie set, I usually take responsibility and I speak to people because we must get close fast and bring out a mutual good synergy while acting.

It’s the era for actors to act with robots now that movie technology improved.

The robot doesn’t have many dialogues. These were simple sentences, so the assistant director told them to me. If possible, I wanted to say my lines with an actor who could act well. That’s why they gave the robot lines to the actor playing the daughter’s friend in the story. It actually really helped me. It might sound like a funny story, but there were moments I was really moved while looking at the red light in the robot’s eyes. No matter how technology improves, acting is the collaboration between two persons.

To be honest, just by the reading the plot, sensitive people can do nothing but cry. It’s about a father looking for his daughter for more than 10 years. Isn’t it the type of Korean tear-jerker we’ve seen in the past?

I shouldn’t worry about that. On the contrary, it can become toxic. When you try to make the viewers cry, you must push it until the end and you go overboard with sudden flashbacks. To be honest, it’s a technique that isn’t used very well in legimate dramas. Director Lee Ho Jae’s previous movie was “The Scam”. When I watched it, I also felt the editing didn’t really have a Korean vibe and this seems to be his specificity. That’s the reason this movie gives me a fresh feeling and it’s not because I’m the lead actor.

Most of the characters you’ve played until now were strong, stubborn men with convictions that can’t be broken. That’s why you seem to be also someone very persistent/stubborn in real life too.

That’s right. I’m someone who had many problems because I couldn’t compromise with reality. If there’s a difference between me and the characters I’ve portrayed is the fact that I’m not righteous and I’m not brave. About not changing and not giving up, it’s something I have in common with my characters.

What are you particularly stubborn about?

About acting which I think of as my calling, I’m probably stubborn when it comes to my job. As an actor, I felt like there would be some kind of victory by the time I’d reach my mid-30’s. Because I thought it was a time when I broadened my acting range from playing young guys to playing guys a little bit older. I wanted to do my share of the work as an actor as I got more experienced and moved forward. What really happened was that I went up to Seoul around that age after doing theater in the countryside. I called it a “victory”, but it was actually nonsense. However, I wanted to accept my responsility for my thoughts, even if it was just a little.

Right now, what do you feel responsible for?

Every time I finish a project, I reflect on some aspects. In the end, it’s also the reason I keep acting. Because I’m unsatisfied. That’s why I approach my next role with a more focused mindset and in a learning mode. I think the responsibility about myself weighs more.

When I look at your filmography, although you played various characters in various genres, the ones that leave people a big impression are the type of character we mentioned earlier?

Aren’t there the things I want to do and the things I can do? I don’t really get opportunities to do the things that I want to do. And there are the things that I can do and I’ve been playing characters I’m comfortable with. I guess it’s because they match my personality. In this movie, I will show you the daily life of a very ordinary citizen. If we divide the characters, I guess the movies I can do the most are “humanism” movies.

Won’t it get premiered around the same time “A Violent Prosecutor” does?

I wanted to avoid this situation the most, but it happened. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine it. There were discussions that “A Violent Prosecutor” would be premiered around Chuseok. However, I think the premiere got rushed because they thought it was the right time because Kang Dong Won and Hwang Jung Min rose high. Haha.

We kept talking about the robot today, you’re probably a bit sorry for the other team.

I am sorry too. To be honest, even if you have 10 people like me, doesn’t it feel like it’s not enough? Haha. It’s not that I kept shooting one movie after the other. It’s a sticky situation when two movies premiere dates overlap. (Jo) Jin Woong was in a hot spot in the past when “Kundo” and “The Admiral” premiered around the same time. I thought “so that’s how it feels like”. Hee Joon whom I filmed this movie with was in a similar situation. He shot the movie “A Melody To Remember” with Im Siwan. He was also in a sticky situation when the movie premiered.

Is there a type of role you wanted to do but weren’t able to?

First of all, I can never play a young guy. Haha. I always have a fantasy about action movies. I have yet gotten the chance to play in a war movie. I want to give it a try, but I have worries and no confidence. Besides, as I’m old now, I wouldn’t get cast for less than a role of a battlion commander, right? I think I wouldn’t run to fight in person and I would only give orders. Haha. To be honest, action is also scary to me now. My time reaction is growing longer.

Brad Pitt is old too, but he flies around the battlefield in “Fury”?

Hey, you know this gentleman makes a lot of efforts. I must take care of my health this year. I have been delaying my physical check-up, but I think about doing it this week. Because I’m at the age when I must do it now.

t/n: I don’t feel like I’m doing justice to his voice. I’m more used to translate interviews of people in their 20’s and 30’s, but older celebrities have a specific way to word their sentences that I’m not sure my English really reflects. I try, though. >.< Thank you for being understanding.

Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com


6 Comments Add yours

  1. He is so very brilliant!! Many thanks for this one, i hope he gets his war film and/or graces our screens for many years to come. The stint on infinity challenge is worth watching, loved it.

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      I hope so too! He sounds like a big teddy bear all cute and fluffy but with this strong sense of reality. I can’t wait for his next drama.I hope it will get good ratings

  2. kfangurl says:

    Thanks for this, Sunny! Aw.. He sounds so affable and down-to-earth.. And humble, too. I don’t remember how it happened, but Lee Sung Min totally went from That Supporting Actor I’ve Seen A Lot, to WOAH-IT’S-LEE-SUNG-MIN, for me. I’m so glad he’s getting the respect and appreciation that he deserves. May he enjoy his career (and be on our screens) for a long time to come 🙂

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      I feel like that’s how it worked for a lot of people. I feel like this is what Oh Dal Soo feels to people when it comes to cinema and they feel this way for Lee Sung Min when it comes to dramas. They take on so many supportive roles but that were essential to the story that they just stay in your mind and they feel like family. You grow old with them like family. I hope his new drama will get good ratings 😀 If you review it, I will trust your judgement.

  3. maulidhappt says:

    Ajusshi! Gosh, the only drama of him that I watched was Misaeng, he was and still a great actor. He is so humble, judging by he answer all these question. And he is such a nice dad ;__; omg /brb crying/
    btw really looking forward to watch memories (maybe later, since I have a lot of dramas that I need to catch up soon).
    Thank you sunny!

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      He seems to be such a teddy bear. Don’t hesitate to tell me what you thought of the drama when it’s over!! I’m going to have so many things to catch up on this summer 😡

      Thank you for reading!

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