[July 2016 – Marie Claire] Gong Yoo – Interview

The photo shoot’s theme was the “Regular neighborhood’s hyung”. So it’s all about looking cool and relaxed.


“Busan Train” is a zombie movie. It’s not a usual theme in Korea.

It’s the first time that a blockbuster zombie movie is made after a short movie where these zombies were featured in. That’s why I thought this movie was a worthy challenge. I wanted to believe in the self-confidence of director Yeon Sang Ho. When you meet people who have self-confidence, it can make you feel uncomfortable, but it can also make you feel good. In Yeon Sang Ho’s case, it was the latter. His previous works were animated movies with strong messages against society, so although “Busan Train” was made in a film format, I thought it could be filled with a message a bit different.

Which kind of character is Suk Woo? It seems to be a character going through a range of changes as big incidents occur.

When I first read the script, Suk Woo was a typical cliché character. A father who must protect his young daughter from zombies. To be honest, when I chose to do “Busan Train”, I was more attracted to the project than to the character of Suk Woo itself. I wanted to give Suk Woo something to make it go beyond the cliché. Since it didn’t appear in the scenario, it was my part of the job to turn it into a character that had never been seen in a movie like this. I think I didn’t manage to do it. As an actor, there’s no way I could be fully satisfied with a project, but this aspect in “Busan Train” is something I’m sad and ashamed about. I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better if I had portrayed it as a character with a style a bit different even through a tiny difference.

You have a instant judgement on your acting. Is it because you’ve been an actor for 15 years which allow you to have a free spirit of mind about that?

No, I can’t have a free spirit of mind. I feel like I sway more toward a point I can’t imagine as I’m getting older. When I started acting, I cared about how people judged my acting and it hurt me a lot. However, as time went by, such opinions calmed down. I thought I shouldn’t care and just follow my path. I thought this mindset would get firmer as I’d get older, it didn’t happen. I get swayed by aspects I couldn’t imagine and I get swayed again after thinking about it. I feel like it’s an eternal going back and forth.

Have you ever experienced a slump?

I kept filming one project after the other, so I wouldn’t call it a slump, but I did think I was going through a hard time. To be honest, I kept acting without taking a break. If you look at the speed my projects came out, it was really fast. I didn’t want to slow down and take my time to look at projects, but I felt for the first time that the situation was too much for me to handle. I think it was because I felt that I was lacking energy and I lost some of my self-confidence. Instead of being excited and enthusiastic, I was careful and couldn’t watch my own movies with confidence. When the movie premiered at Cannes, I didn’t express it, but my heart was beating like crazy and I was afraid to face scenes I hadn’t pulled off well. My feelings reached this point, so that’s why I’m a bit ashamed. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t revealed this honest thought of mine, but it’s just the truth.

You’re objective about yourself to the point of being even mean.

I make efforts to be this way. I’m not someone indulgent with myself. As I’m getting older, I even feel that I’m becoming obssessive about my job. I hate having to judge my own acting. It’s a torture, but I think it’s a torture you must be able to live in when you’re an actor. Acting gets harder as you get older.

What is the life of an actor? Is it very different when you’re in 30’s from when you were in your 20’s?

When I was in my 20’s, I wanted to get in my 30’s fast. I mean, even if getting older doesn’t mean you get everything figured out, I had this vague expectation that getting older would make me able to deal better with a situation than the way I deal with it in the moment. I thought getting older meant I would stand in front of a camera and feel emotions I couldn’t imagine. I was really in a positive mindset. (laughs) I think acting is an endless battle.


It’s surprising. I feel that your filmography is going deeper and wider. I mean you’re portraying characters with a range growing wider as you branch out into different genres. Isn’t it something satisfying and to be proud of?

I can’t say that I got rid of my greed about my filmography when I choose a movie, but it’s not everything. People will probably think that I’m building up a nice filmography, but I don’t actually see it as bringing something to completion. What people think and how I deal with their opinion are a questions that comes later. I don’t think my mindset in the moment changes according to which good judgement I will get. The outcome can’t change my satisfication. There are many things I’m not satisfied about, regrets I overcome, I can’t reach my objective standard. Even a movie being a box-office success doesn’t make me think “it wasn’t a role I couldn’t portray”. On a personal level, I think I will remember “Busan Train” and “The Age of Shadows” as projects that gave me such worries.

There’s no meaningless project to an actor, but how meaningful do you think “Busan Train” will be?

I wanted to do it because it’s a movie with a zombie theme. I wanted to defend myself in this movie. I wanted to fight. I don’t think I’m greedy about specific things. If I am, it would be about going down the path other people are reluctant to take. If a movie premieres and gets good results, good reviews will probably follow, right? It was a nice challenge, a brave challenge, well, stuff like this. I think I will see this movie as a meaningful challenge when I reflect on it in the future.

In the movie, you also fight to protect your daughter. Have you ever fought hard to protect someone or something in your life until now?

Acting occupies the biggest part of my life, so I never stop making efforts to maintain my values and convictions about acting. Living as an actor, as an entertainer got me worrying about how to get closer to the picture I want as I’m getting older. There is the picture the public wants to see and there’s the image that I want to see. I think I always care about how to find the balance between the two. Hm, the word “matching” would probably be misunderstood. I mean I tried to meet people’s expectations while still going for what I want to do. At some point in the far future, when people remember me, I hope they will see the full picture I would have completed.

I’m curious to hear about the picture you’re creating right now.

I read my previous interviews sometimes and I was much more arrogant in the way I spoke when I was young. When I read my past interview, I think to myself that I was really immature. Sometimes I find myself cute. Some answers really touch me. The way I express myself changed a little, but I think my mindset about acting and the way I enjoy it don’t change. I don’t want to run forward just for the sake of acting. Of course, acting is about earning a lot of money and enjoying fame which are things I’m very thankful for. However, I want to fill my acting life with sincerity more than commercial success.

So is that the reason? If it’s not in a movie or a drama, we can’t see you often. I mean, for instance, you don’t go to variety programs or events.

To be honest, I’m careful about my words. When I was young, I revealed my taste and thoughts strongly because I was passionate. However, words can be easily misinterpreted and create misunderstandings. Things I must do for something but don’t really know well are no fun and I don’t want to do them. However, I can’t speak for the future. For instance, I can end up filming a variety program after saying I don’t like variety programs. My job isn’t something a job you do on your own. I must compromise because it’s a job about working with others. I can’t be stubborn. I think it’s not about drawing the line between what’s good and what’s bad. I want to go down the path I like and is a match for me, but there might be compromises down that path, so I think I must keep going forward while persuading myself to do it. Now, I try to stay more open to changes, even if it’s not about the things I go for.

You will start filming the drama “Goblin” soon. A goblin in 2016…

Yeah, I don’t get it either. (laughs) The script isn’t out yet, so I can’t imagine how it will go. I don’t know what the writer will create. I thought about it so much that it even affected my daily life. Making the decision was exhausting. To be honest, I like realistic stories more than fantasy ones. My roles in “A Mand and a Woman”, “Busan Train” and “The Age of Shadows” made me lose my nerve and I felt tortured. I felt like I ran into a wall. I unconsciously became complacent and couldn’t live with intensity. I took time for introspection. I thought I should go a little bit harder and be more shameless. I needed an opportunity to feel completely free and run wild without being ashamed. Compared to movies, drama filming relies on a tight schedule and the time investment is big. I think this is the setting I need right now. SF fantasy genre is something I was scared of, but I decided to trust the writer. I wonder if not assessing the situation to have fun won’t allow me to demolish walls.


Is acting a job that gives you more painful or happy moments?

It seems painful.

Have you ever had regrets of becoming an actor?

There was a time when I had regets. Right now, I have no regret. Living as an actor also gave me a lot of things. I wasn’t aware of it when I was young. I thought I should live according to my values and my goals, that it wasn’t necessary to live comparing myself to others. What’s clear is that acting is a lonely profession. This loneliness became sharper and I learned how to overcome it. I’m getting stronger. I don’t think of this loneliness only as a bad thing.

You’re acting without taking a break between projects, you must be exhausted.

I don’t like the expression “strike while the iron is hot”. Until now, I still found a way to rest at some point between two projects. When people talk about actors who work non-stop, my plate is still big as I manage to be moderate and rest a little between projects. If anything, this time around, I wanted to do this project because it was offered to me and I didn’t want to miss this opportunity, although it might be physically hard. I’m used to get some “me” time in order to recharge my batteries. It’s not that I must do something special to get my energy back on.

Like the “spacing out” we talked about briefly earlier during the photo shoot?

This is a busy world. Don’t we need a moment when we don’t think at all? However, I’m careful about talking like this because I can be called arrogant.

You’re careful about many things. (laughs)

As I get older, I become careful about everything. Public opinion became really scary, so many things get distorted in a short moment. It’s a world that isn’t easy to accept things the way they should be. I’ve become less talkative. I don’t use SNS. It’s embarrassing to upload a picture and ask people to check it out. And I think I’ll be concerned about stuff like my number of followers if I start. Using SNS to share my thoughts then my words being distorted by countless people I don’t even know, the fact that each person has a different interpretation is what scares me. Instead of using SNS, I’d rather have a drink and speak with people who know me, who believe in me, who don’t misinterpret what I say and hear things how they’re supposed to be heard.

I’m curious about what the complete image of you looks like, about how you are in your daily life.

I watch movies at home, I feed my cat. My entire time is spent like this. Although it looks boring and dull, I think these are the moments I need the most. When you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you release the stress, but that doesn’t work for me. I like exercising too. Sweating and working out is my daily life. I’ve always liked excercising and this job is a way to manage myself in a strict way. I think exercising is about being able to accomplish what you want based on the efforts you put in without taking luck into consideration. I don’t like using tricks. I prefer the direct approach. I think exercising is one of the things you can’t accomplish without efforts. Recently, I started playing basketball once a week with people from my agency. At some point, I started enjoying doing things like this more than having a drink. I wake up early in the morning like the ahjusshis my age and I watch major leagues games with great Korean players and I’m really into the NBA games these days. (laughs)

This year will probably be an intense year for you.

I think working is all I did last year and this year. Setting aside things I’m disappointed about in my acting, I actually want to give myself a round of applause for working hard. I accomplished things I was eager to do. Luck was on my side, so I was able to pull off nicely piled-up projects. I think this year will be a happy moment of my life just because I was able to keep working back-to-back on projects I wanted to do.


Marie Claire
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com


12 Comments Add yours

  1. kfangurl says:

    Aw.. He sounds like he’s going through a phase of contemplation and growth, and it’s not always easy. But I appreciate that he’s honest and candid – I’ve always liked that quality about him. Thanks for your hard work translating this, Sunny! It’s much appreciated by fans! ❤

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      “He sounds like he’s going through a phase of contemplation and growth, and it’s not always easy.”

      I know that feeling too well… but it will pass. it’s just part of life.

      Thank you as always ♥♥

  2. Great Job Sunny!! Thank you so much dear :-*

  3. kaiaraia says:

    Aww! The ever purist Gong Yoo. ‘Acting is an endless battle’. Gong Yoo-ssi, life itself is. Another confirmation that he is the reflective and introspective type. It’s good to be critical of your own work but I pray he finds lots of happiness too. I just realized that my two favorite actors, the other being Takeru, have so much in common. 🙂 Thanks so much for translating this Sunny.

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      Thank you for leaving a comment! Gong Yoo seems to be such a cool guy, so I will probably keep translating his stuff

      1. kaiaraia says:

        Please do. Thank you. We’ll be endebted to you. 🙂

  4. Jill says:

    I love you.

  5. Lyvia says:

    Thank you so much for translating this. He seems like a mature person from what i read on his interviews. It’s good to see him contemplating and criticising his works but i hope he doesn’t go so hard on himself. It looks exhausting :”) and i really want to see him finds a partner who can understand and cheer him so he wouldn’t be lonely again 😁

  6. Maya says:

    It’s nice to read Gong Yoo’s point of view of life and his work. I hope he’ll find someone to share and be happy with. Thank you Sunny for the translation, I end up reading your blog and It’s a great read , I’ll come often for sure!

  7. Mitchelle Marie says:

    I’m such a fan of his work ever since I saw him at Coffee Prince. I thought he would be like any other actor flooded in social media, but as I keep on listening ang reading about his personal interviews he is really a deep person and wants to be actualized not only in the profession he is in but also as an individual living the life he has in mind. He keeps on growing to be a better version of himself. And as much as fans like me wants to know every bit of detail about him in social media I like to give him his privacy to live a normal life. Like going to the groceries without being mobbed , spending some time on the beach without being photograped by paparrazzi. Enjoying a date and holding hands with the person he’s with..I can say that I feel his pain through his fame. Hope his fans can give him a birthday gift to be normal for a day without the fuzz even just on his birthday…

    1. aisling says:

      I couldn’t put it better. I didn’t expect him to be like this but he seems like a genuinely deep person. He’s a cautious person , in 15 years of his career he was never caught in any scandals, he seems to put his private life on top. I wish other fans could respect this. I felt really bad when I read somewhere that people even pulled his shirt when they saw him on vacation.

La parole est à vous

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.