Confession of a Wandering Soul

Won Bin interviews about Mother, acting, and future goals

Posted by diopatra on May 29, 2009

source: my daily
Translations: dramabeans

With Cannes over and the thriller movie Mother releasing this week, there’s been a lot of stuff in the news involving the film’s three main players: Won Bin, Kim Hye-ja, and director Bong Jun-ho.

Aside from Won Bin’s status as one of the hotties of the first wave of Hallyu (initiated by his 2000 tearjerker drama series Autumn Fairy Tale with Song Hye-gyo, Song Seung-heon), this role has been highly anticipated because he’s had such a long break from acting. In stark contrast to most heartthrobs who try to capitalize on fame as much as possible (cramming schedules with movies, dramas, CFs, and magazine shoots), then hurry to burst back on the scene after army duty by trying to hit the ground running, Won Bin has had a relatively sparse career, stayed out of the limelight, and resurfaced only sporadically in recent years as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

Here’s an interview with the actor, who strikes me as very humble and also very aware of (perhaps even overly disparaging of) his acting limitations.

This is your first new project in five years. You had quite a long hiatus.

As you know, after I served in the military and was discharged and went through rehab [for a knee injury], I considered various projects, but there wasn’t one that made me say, ‘This is the one.’ I wanted a different feeling, but I kept getting screenplays that were a repetition of my existing image for soft and tenderhearted characters. I couldn’t pick a project, which is when I came across Mother, and the thought occurred to me that I didn’t want to let this one slip by me. Of course the director [Bong Jun-ho] and Kim Hye-ja were big reasons, but the character of Do-jun is one I’d always wanted to try.

But the center of Mother is the mother, Kim Hye-ja. As a big comeback role, your character isn’t as prominent.

Although Do-jun’s character is relatively small, I don’t think that’s the important point. Do-jun is a role that stirs his mother into action. Because he’s necessary to the film, I wanted to do it all that much more.

You must have felt some pressure with the huge names of Kim Hye-ja and Bong Jun-ho.

Of course, I felt it quite a lot. I thought a lot about how to get on with Teacher Kim [an honorific term for Kim Hye-ja] and the director, and that my acting shouldn’t fall short of the film. I also put my faith in the director and thought of not making things annoying for Teacher Kim. While working on the film, I felt both fear and enjoyment throughout

Do-jun’s character seems quite difficult to portray. How did you approach and understand the role?

It felt like walking a tightrope — Do-jun is the emotional line that sets off the mother. I tried to portray him as a character who wasn’t easily grasped or contained. I don’t think I’m naturally disposed to being an actor, but I tried to completely immerse myself into Do-jun. Diving into the film was a hard task for me.

Were you able to find the answer to Do-jun’s character?

I aimed to be Do-jun in all instances, and not calculate, not be nailed down to a mold. There’s a scene where he urinates on the street. The director said, “For a kid who pees while standing in line at a bus stop, there’s nothing he can’t do.” It was from that point that I realized I could do anything. [Laughs]

It must have been helpful that you spent your childhood in the mountains and fields of Gangwondo.

I did think back to my childhood growing up in the countryside and that time of innocence, but the answer was really within the script. The director wrote the script himself and understands clearly who Do-jun is better than anyone else, so I talked with him a lot.

In your last film before military service, My Brother, you were in your twenties. Is there anything different now that you’re in your thirties?

Now that I’m in my thirties, I feel more mature and calm. I’m glad I had free time to think. I’m the type who likes to work slowly, so my only thought was to work on a good film without feeling the anxiety of needing to hurry.

I think of you as an actor who isn’t fully developed yet but who’s still growing. Does acting in many projects help raise you to the next level?

When looking at my career, I feel a bit sad that I don’t have many films or diverse projects. Since I’ve taken long breaks after each film, each time I feel like I’m starting over as a rookie again. It feels like a new start. I do think I’d like to work more than I have in the past. I’m not the type of person who can work prolifically and when I’m deeply involved in one thing, I can’t do something else. Once the film has wrapped and begun its promotion, I can breathe and read scripts for the next thing. I’d like to work more from now on.

You’ve been acting for ten years. Do you feel the need for change?

Maybe it’s because of the image given off by my appearance, but I’ve been stuck in younger brother roles and soft-hearted types. It’s not a good thing if I want to show a range. I want to show something different than what I’ve showed in previous roles, particularly given how long my hiatus has been. I’d like to move from the person receiving protection to a masculine role that gives protection, but still I ended up in a role that epitomizes someone needing protection. [Laughs] I haven’t done a melodrama since Autumn Fairy Tale, but now that a lot of time has passed, I’ll be able to express more, different emotions. I’d also like to act in a masculine noir.

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