[May 2016 – Elle] Kang Dong Won – Breathless – Interview


You stayed one more day in LA before coming back. I’m curious to hear what you did during that day.It seemed there was a place you wanted to go to. I went to the Joshua Tree national park. It was so nice! The stars in the night sky on the way there were no joke. If you wonder what it felt like, let me show you. (In his phone, there were pictures of the Mojave desert, there were rocks that reminded me of the movie “The Martian”, there were camping tents here and there between the rocks). Here’s the kind of place it is. The park was really wide and there was no end to it. People go camping, they have a barbecue and they eat (in another picture, someone stood at the top of a rock and had his hands in the air in a “hurray” posture. It was Kang Dong Won. In another picture, there were Kwang Dong Won, CL, and her little sister/stylist Harin sitting on a rock with other friends and they were all smiling).

It was short, but it seems that you recharged your batteries Recharged my batteries (smiles) ? I totally decharged my batteries. Still, it was nice because it was a good experience. I don’think resting and doing thoughtlessly nothing mean that you recharge your batteries. There must be good things, things that inspire me for me to feel that my energy is recharged. It was exhausting because it was a short time, but I really had a nice time.

The fact that you coincidentally met CL in LA became a hot issue

Yes, it was my first time meeting CL. I didn’t meet a lot of people in the past. At some point, I felt like I was shutting myself down, so I started meeting new people more often, people who are nice and it often happens that I get inspired. I think I started after I got discharged from the army. I started having an open mind, and got to meet people, see new things which makes me learn a lot. THese days, when someone makes me think “oh, this person is cool”, it makes me want to meet them. I don’t make it happen on purpose. That day, we ended up meeting each other because our managers are friends, so we decided to meet. Once I met her, I realized that CL was really a nice person. She gave me a lot of inspiration.

I heard you were good at skateboarding and we started this photo shoot in a skate park. And you’re good indeed. I’m not good. Saying this means I don’t even have the talent to walk into a skate park (laughs). I would probably fall down as soon as I walk in. Here’s the only thing I have ever tried. The U-figure. But it’s actually hard to do. And I can jump no higher but 5 cm. That’s exactly how much I can do.

In “The Priests”, you were good at singing Gregorian sacred songs. In “A Violent Prosecutor”, you could do the boombastic dance. In “Kundo”, you could ride a horse. So there’s action, of course, but what are the things you can’t do? I can’t do bowling. I can’t play tennis table either. I’m good at the ball sports most of people are good at, but the bowling ball is to heavy for me, so I can’t really play (laugh). I don’t have a lot of physical strength, so I’m a bit weak when it comes to stuff that recquires strength. I’m good when it comes to balance and speed, quick actions, but I’m not really good at actions based on strength.

In the past, your “picky actor” image was strong and it seems now that I hear a lot that you’re an actor who works without taking a break. The movies released recently were movies I didn’t want to miss out on. That’s why I shot three projects back-to-back. I got cast first for “A Violent Prosecutor” but “The Priests” shooting started first and the “Violent Prosecutor” premiere got delayed. As for “Vanishing Time”, director Uhm Tae Hwa came to find me in Busan where I was filming “The Priests”. He told me “let’s do this”. I wanted to do it, but I was worried that the schedule filming would be delayed a little bit. The producers told me they hoped I’d start filming a little bit faster, but I ended up shooting this project.

And when I saw this, I thought you weren’t an actor who chose a project based on the director’s name value. Unless it’s the scenario, what’s your standard to choose a project? I mostly read the director’s face and decide. I’m a bit of a face reader. I look at people’s faces when we talk and if I think “this person’s gaze is alive”, then I work with this person. When I met director Yoon Jong Bin too, I thought to myself “I must work with this person”. We really communicated well and we’re close colleagues now. Face lines don’t let you see your destiny, but they show someone’s personality, and I was right about almost everyone. It went the same way with “The Priests” director Jang Jae Hyun. As for “A Violent Prosecutor” director Lee Il Hyung, I wanted to work with him ever since “Kundo”. Then it was it director Uhm Tae Hwa. As soon as I saw him, I thought “hm, he’s a nice guy (smiles)”. This movie called “Vanishing Time” is the commercial directing debut of Uhm Tae Hwa. He filmed indie movies before. His recent works were all hits.

Is it that you came across a lot of good projects? I think there are times when projects work out and there are times when they don’t. This time, they all worked out. As for “A Violent Prosecutor”, there was a bit of a screen monopoly controversy. To be honest, it was a production company with no screen, so I think it was a situation we couldn’t control. Of course, from the diversity perspective, I also want to go to a theater where different kind of movies are shown. However, there wasn’t no aspect of a monopoly situation at that time, so there was… The staff and the actors who worked so hard to create the movie lost a bit of their high spirit.

In our “Elle” interview last month with Oh Dal Soo, we asked him a little bit as a rude joke if he weren’t born to be a comic actor because of his face proportion and he replied “isn’t living, acting something you do according to your appearance?”. Do you think you live by some specific physical proportions? To be honest, as soon as I debuted, my job was constantly to break prejudices. Always. I don’t want to live in the way I’m supposed to. When people say “next time, you will do this”, I try not to do it. I hate doing what is expected of me. I think I was born this way. If someone goes “he’s like this”, I’d go “I’m not like that, though”. They say “he isn’t funny”, so I try to make them laugh. If they say “he’s slow, he won’t have strength”, I’ll try to do some action. That’s what I did with every role I played.

Don’t you feel like you broke a lot of these prejudices? It happened at some point. I think the mainstream recognition I get started with “The Priests”. People sometimes said “he spends all his time playing around and earns money easily by filming CFs”. To be honest, I filmed almost no CF. All I ever did was only to shoot movies. I realized people didn’t acknowledge that. It’s something people in this industry naturally recognized. I worked constantly for 10 years, but the audience thought “he’s this kind of guy”. I thought they would acknowledge this about me at some point… And it finally happened.

It seems that there will be sequels of many movies you starred in. “A Violent Prosecutor” and “The Priests” did well, so working in the future will be a bit more comfortable. Because I will be able to do a little bit more the things that I want to do. There are many talks about sequels for the movies I starred in. Because there are characters created to do so. For instance a “Jeon Woo Chi” sequel has been in talks for a very long time now. I think it’d be worth to do it especially for “The Priests”. There are fans of this genre and it would be interesting. Priest Choi appeared, so there are endless possibilities. It can even be turned into a TV series (laugh).

The movie “Master” has a great cast with actors such as Lee Byung Hun, Kim Woo Bin, Oh Dal Soo. I’m curious to hear how working with them went. The fact that I’m working with Oh Dal Soo-sunbaenim this time will probably make it very interesting/fun. He’s someone I really like. I’m looking forward to this. In the movie, I portray the leader of the intellectual crime unit. And there’s Lee Byung Hun-sunbae and Kim Woo Bin. What we have in common is the fact that we’re all very smart, but we lead our lives in a different way. I don’t know them well yet. I think I greeted Lee Byung Hun-sunbaenim once in a bar, but I haven’t met Kim Woo Bin yet. Working together? Well, each one of us will do what he’s supposed to do. (smiles) The way we move forward will depend of how we match each other or not. It is what it is (smiles). We won’t match if one of us doesn’t open his heart. It can be fun to move forward when you don’t match. It can be fun if we match each other, it can also be fun if we don’t. I think this is this movie’s fate.

We’re getting used to the bromance theme in Korean movies. And you’re the representative of it. Is there a reason why there’s no melo in your latest projects and they’re only filled with brotherly love? A melo will come out. The mystery/fantasy tone of the movie “Vanishing Time” is mixed with a basic emotional vibe. It’s about a guy for whom time has stopped when he was in 6th grade and he comes back as an adult. It deals with a pure love story.

Did you experience some melo when you were in sixth grade? I was a bit naive… There was a girl I liked. When I was in sixth grade, I felt like it wouldn’t work out with this friend and it broke my heart. I think I knew this feeling already back then. Ah… Well, it wasn’t to the point to break my heart? I think it hurt her a little bit more than it hurt me. In my memory. She kept sending me letters, that’s why I feel this way.

Whatever you do, it gets called the Kang Dong Won style. How would you break down your style in specific categories? I hear stuff like that these days. Someone asks “is this nice to hear?”, “isn’t it really nice to hear?”, but I really don’t know. An actor dissolves himself into the movie. I don’t really care. My filmography or the genres I’ve been doing might be special. My filmography doesn’t have a specific base. I did a lot of weird projects. There are things I did because I wanted to take on the challenge. That’s how my personality is. I don’t like commercial stuff. However, I’m not the type to like very non-commercial stuff either, so I always tried to follow the line between the two. My decision to choose a project is at least 90% mine, even if it’s not 100%. Of course, I make my decision with the help of the people around me.

There’s the feeling the priest outfit was just made for you in the scene where you run in “The Priests” or it seems that you have a detailed sense of fashion even in your white t-shirt or washing denim shirt in “A Violent Prosecutor”. Do you usually give your opinion about your character’s clothes?
If you talk about how fashionable my movie outfits can be, I can talk about it. If not, then I talk almost never about fashion. The mass priest outfit in “The Priests” gave me no specific feeling. It might be because I was aware of how heavy the job was or because I had already made a lot of preparation for the role. It was exactly the same for “A Violent Prosecutor”. I just rolled up my pants. All outfits were exactly the same. Only the size differed and I didn’t button up all my buttons. A lot of people didn’t fasten their clothes. Even if you just look at the poster, we all wear the exact same outfit, yet we wear them in different ways. Let’s see… (he looks up the picture on a portal site) If you look at it here, you that even on the poster, we don’t wear the outfit in the same way. Oh! Some of them rolled up their pants too. This one wore socks!

Looking at you in our interview today, you speak in a comfortable manner, with no stress. I can’t leave ou the jTBC “Newroom” incident. Did you think you filming “Newsroom” would be such an issue? (large smile) It’s a live news program, so you should make no mistake. Well, that’s what I thought. I don’t really like going to crowded places with new people. There are moments when I get cold sweat, like when I see so many people in an airport. I tried to not be nervous that day and I went to the studio one hour earlier. Still, I got nervous. “Ah, I’m crazy. I wasn’t sober!” I thought to myself about my decision to film this. I had regrets. I really like anchor Son Suk Hee. I decided to shoot “Newroom” because of him. I wonder if this wasn’t the most stressful moment of my life.

Ah, I wonder how you felt about the umbrella scene of “Temptation of Wolves” that came out in “Reply 1988”. Yes, I saw it. It was funny (smiles). He’s really a funny guy. I’m talking about Ahn Jae Hong. I had never seen him before, but it seemed that he practiced hard. I thought it would have been better if he had opened his mouth a little bit more, but he was funny when he kept his mouth close. I had a big laugh.

Are your career and your life going the way you expected them to be? Or unexpected things are happening? Or are you living within strict limits?

My goal is always to become the best actor. I had nothing beside that. I think I’m heading toward my goal, I’m working hard for it. There’s still a long way to go. My twenties and my thirties were certainly different. I have many people with a positive influence on me. I don’t know if I should say this change falls into the expectation category…. I see the picture a little bit bigger than before and I let go of petty things. “Why do I quarrel over things like this?”, I wonder. “Why do I worry so much over little things?”. I think it’s a positive change. Saying this doesn’t mean my personality changes. I do look back sometimes. I really wonder “have I changed so much?” Has the dream I was chasing changed? Or have my ideals or roots changed? How am I doing right now? I don’t really know who I am, but I’m not someone who seeks money”. I have thoughts like this.

In the morning of your Elle photo shoot in LA, you suddenly went to a meeting with an Hollywood movie casting director. I know agents are very interested in you. They actually saw me as someone in his early 20’s. I liked this feedback. I’m young! There are many things I can do in the future (laugh)! Because I can have the experience of someone in their 30’s with the appearance of a man in his 20’s. Anyway, on the photo shoot day, I didn’t go. It was just a video recording, so we sent it… Hm. Here’s what there is also. You must go for confrontation. When the opportuniy comes to you, you must confront it. You must confront it. Regardless if it breaks you or stops you. To be honest, I think it was the former. I received the scenario the day before, so I had no time to prepare. Even worse, I had to act in English. Anyway, working in this contury means to start all over again, which means to start from the bottom. Having to do this audition made me feel like I will be able to take on this challenge easily in the future. The first time is always difficult.

Still, it was your first Hollywood movie audition, wern’t you nervous or anxious? I went to Barcelona in the past and there were many people riding a skateboard. I thought it was now or never for me to learn how to ride it, so I thoughtlessly bought a skateboard. I had already talked about it in a board shop, so they recommended me a teacher and I learned. I practiced and I actually managed to ride the board soon. The teacher told me “let’s pratice how to jump”. So I did and I fell hard. I thought I had broken my elbow. My teacher ran to me and asked if I was okay. I got back up right away and jumped again. I said I’m fine, I must jump. It was like that too when I went to Hawai and learned how to surf. The spot where I learned had really big waves, and I got stuck under water. My board had already reached the beach and everyone got scared and came to help me. I’m a good swimmer. People thought I didn’t know how to swim and brought me my board. I got it and rested a little. However, I felt that I would be traumatized if I left the water now and I wouldn’t want to surf again. So I picked up my board again and went back into the water. I’m not scared to run into an obstacle and get hurt. This was what this audition was about.

When an important moment like this is about to come, is there a slogan you say to yourself? Let’s give it a try. It’s just “let’s give a try first”. Let’s see. If I do and it doesn’t work out, then I won’t try it next time. Let’s start first. Or maybe I shouldn’t do it. There’s something like this. Still, when I auditioned, what I enjoyed and encouraged me was how I was actually acting in English and I realized I shouldn’t be nervous. Now that I gave it a try, I think to myself “Oh! I can do it!”.

It seems that you have always enjoyed acting. What do you keep running forward to? During my very first acting class, I thought “this will be my job!” and I still feel this way. I did a monologue scene and I was really into the moment. At first, my vision turned white and I actually immerged myself into my own world. When it was over and I left this world, I felt refreshed. I prepared myself because I thought “ah, I will do this as my job” and when I actually gave it a try, I really enjoyed it and it felt right. I don’t think acting is an amazing job. I don’t think it’s fine arts either. I think it’s a job a little bit special in which the whole nation is the target. It’s not a job you can do specifically for fans. And acting is the power of imagination. I thought acting is what you do with sincerity, but when I actually got into acting I did wonder if acting could actually be sincere and I felt that it wasn’t. Even if I say I’m sincere, it’s useless if the person watching thinks I’m not. In the end, acting is the power of imagination. It’s about making up and bringing out something with my body or my facial expression, emotions just the way it is in my mind and how I picture it.

Is there something you definitly want to try in the future? There’s this project I’m currently preparing. I hope it will go as planned within this year. And I hope I will keep improving my English and Chinese skills, I hope my diction will be good. In “Master”, my goal is to focus a little bit more on the way I sound. Other people may think visual is important, but I think the way I sound is important for this role. Ah! And there’s another fun project. It’s not on yet, but it could become a global project. If I have the time, I want to shoot a lot of foreign projects because actors must step on the international scene, get their movies known and that’s how they can also do global projects.

What kind of actor will you be when this leather sofa’s color would have faded away? Is this really leather? Seems like it would require a lot of time… It would probably look nice 10 years from now. When it does, it will be more than ten years from now. My goal is to be a global actor by then, but I don’t know if it’s possible. My confidence is slowly building up.


Elle, 2

Translation: @hesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com


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