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Interview with THE MOON Leads, Sul Kyung-gu and Doh Kyung-soo

Aug 02, 2023
  • Source by Cine21
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"We are all just actors. Once you’re in the frame, there's no such thing as seniority."


Two actors, each with their own devoted fan base, have come together to make an intriguing proposition as it combines two genres widely different. With The Moon, Sul Kyung-gu, who gained a solid following after appearing in the Cannes Midnight Screening The Merciless, plays opposite Doh Kyung-soo, who has been busy with his recently comeback as a member of the K-pop outfit EXO and his many appearances on in variety shows. In the year 2029, Hwang Sun-woo (Do Kyung-soo), a member of South Korea's lunar exploration mission "Uriho," ends up stranded on the surface of the Moon following an accident. To assure his safe return, the former space program center director Jae-guk (Seol Kyung-gu), who had retired in a remote villa in the mountains after the catastrophic failure of a similar mission five years ago, is called back to supervise the rescue efforts. Although they never physically stand in the same location, the dire predicament they find themselves in which may result in one of them dying far away from Earth causes tremendous emotional ebbs and flows between the two protagonists. 




Photography by PAIK Jong-heon



Facing the energy on set, Seol Kyung-gu



Jae-guk in The Moon is a cowardly man who chose to hide rather than confront failure. He stepped down and vanished from the public eye after South Korea's first lunar exploration mission, the Narae-ho spaceship, detonated mid-flight due to engine failure. When the second attempt also loses crewmembers in an accident, the government calls him back as he is deemed the best suited to control the command ship sent to rescue the sole survivor, Sun-woo (Do Kyung-soo). Even after returning to the space center after secluding himself in an astronomical observatory, Jae-guk shows signs of fragility in dealing with his emotions. Therefore, The Moon can also be seen as some sort of coming-of-age movie in the way it depicts Jae-guk reflecting on his past and growing.



This is your first time working with Director Kim Yong-hwa, which comes as a surprise.

After 30 years of acting career, there are still many actors I haven't worked with, but the number of directors I have to collaborate with is much bigger. Thankfully, I once heard that Kim Yong-hwa brought up my name during an interview for another film when asked about the actors he would want to work with. I was so, so thankful when I heard this. Also, this is almost the first time I’m appearing in a major film since Haeundae. I was also really intrigued as an actor taking part in such a project to see how the vast universe and the great unknown would be depicted.


Jae-guk just walked out of the space center without saying anything. What do you believe he did with the last five years?

He is quite the perfectionist, but he is obsessed with achieving everything he attempts and to be the first to do so. Therefore, when the Narae-ho project fails, he just quits on his own, because letting go of everything is the right way to accept responsibility according to his own set of principles. However, the fact that he spends time at the observatory looking at the sky may betray that he still regrets abandoning his prior life. It may appear that all he does is spending his every day aimlessly hunting some wild boars, but there is more to it.


According to reports, the Moon contacted astronomers to ensure its accuracy. Did you undertake any research on your own to better understand and make your own the lines of your character?

Even if you devote your entire life to learning, it's a discipline that is difficult to grasp, so saying that I’m going to study it is one thing, but truly understanding it is another. I received books on it, but that was about it. Just like I didn't feel like I needed to have the level of expertise of a genuine doctor to play in a medical drama, all I had to do in this film was to learn my lines and try to put myself in the character. Above all, I didn't go into The Moon expecting it to be a normal science fiction picture. Instead of showing a world unlike our own, it's a film that allow us to experience human connections happening indirectly via the context of space. With the narrative arc of Sun-woo’s rescue mission, it conveys a great feeling of humanity and addresses the issue of "forgiveness".


Jae-guk doesn't go into space. All the events that take place on the moon had to be left to the imagination before they were finalized using CGI, so how did you understand and adjust to Sun-woo's situation?

Normally, in CGI-heavy films, you have to perform while staring at nothing but a blank wall after they gave you an approximate idea of the scene. We had a true space center set created for The Moon, and we could act while seeing the shots completed with CGI. This helped me a lot in getting myself immersed in the scenes as I could see right away on a large monitors Sun-woo inside his spacecraft.


In the film, you mainly interact with Doh Kyung-soo using communication devices rather than meeting in person. What did you think of this young actor?

Kim Yong-hwa admires Doh Kyung-soo as an actor. He seems very charming. Although he bears a passing resemblance to actor Im Si-wan, they are completely different. If Im Si-wan is delicate, Do Kyung-soo has a more muscular build. I would like to work with him again with interesting characters.


You stated during the press conference that you were "yearning for commercial films." Your filmography so far is made up essentially of films that would be categorized as commercial films. What exactly did you mean by that?

Kim Yong-hwa's films are usually made in a way that they are easily accessible to allow a large number of people to enjoy them. He understands how to build suspense and make it come to a head at the right time. He has a good sense of what the crowd enjoys. That is what distinguishes a commercial film from the rest. Kim Yong-hwa appears to be a natural at it.


Your recent collaborations with younger actors, such as Im Si-wan in The Merciless and Byun Yo-han in The Book of Fish, have all been met with positive reviews. Your continuous efforts to connecting with junior actors seems to be having a favorable influence on you too at this point in your career.

We make no distinction between middle-aged and junior actors when we are on set. We are all just actors. Once you’re in the frame, there's no such thing as seniority. We just play opposite each other. I still have very fond memories of working with Im Si-wan and Byun Yo-han, as they helped create a good synergy between our characters in the films. Also, I personally loathe such boundaries. I despise all forms of authority so much I have convulsions.


Perhaps it is because of this mentality that you are able to keep your sensitivity and appeal to young people as an actor.

I'm just someone who does what the director wants me to do. The audience will see right through me if I try too hard to act young. When an actor is conscious that he is projecting a cool image, it ultimately reveals their true intentions. You shouldn’t be thinking such things.


You have many projects coming up, like the films The Dinner, The Boys, and the Netflix drama The Whirlwind, in which you will reunite with Kim Hee-ae.

The films have already been shot and are awaiting release. The Whirlwind is now in its last phases of production. It's weird that I hadn't played with Kim Hee-ae in 30 years, and now I'm working on two projects with her back to back.




Written by IM Soo-Yeon




 Photography by PAIK Jong-heon


With the deepest and most profound emotions, Doh Kyung-soo


Doh Kyung-soo has just celebrated ten years in the business of acting. With The Moon, he returns to the big screen after spending his twenties singing and acting and a gap of five years that included his military duty. His powerful and clean image, complete with huge, expressive eyes, remains unchanged. This stare has now become his ideal weapon, combining the loneliness, vulnerability, and unyielding determination of astronaut Hwang Sun-woo. "In all my career, this is the character I played that had the biggest and widest range of emotions”, he said as he couldn't disguise his joy. His eyes shined brilliantly, indicating that they will probably continue do so for the next 10 years.


It's been around five years since people last saw you in a film. With EXO’s comeback, you must be very busy.

I'm really nervous (laughs). Filming and acting are difficult, but I am more apprehensive during interviews and the promotion tour. But now that the press conference is over, I can relax and look forward to the rest of the schedule. It's not the first time my activities as a singer and actor have overlapped, so it's okay. In the future, I hope to continue singing and acting on a regular basis.


Hwang Sun-woo appears to be a serious figure. The impression is consistent with your image and acting style.

Um... I never considered Sun-woo's and my personalities to be comparable to one another. Sun-woo, unlike me, always communicates his sentiments correctly and is eager to share his opinions with people. On the exterior, he seems brave, but on the inside, he is filled with agony. As a result, the character's emotions are broad and deep. I wanted to communicate Sun-woo's feelings directly. It could feel a little different from how I used to express feelings.


When you were interviewed by Cine21 for the film Cart ten years ago, you commented, "I've never been angry at my mother, so it was very challenging to act something I hadn't experienced." Do you find portraying this kind of emotions any easier 10 years later?

It's gotten a lot easier. I didn't have much acting experience at the time, and I was also fairly young in real life. But, during the last ten years, I've yelled and even had fights that were emotional. Because of these experiences, emotions seem to come out more naturally in my acting now than they did ten years ago.


You appear to have developed some "calluses" in your acting.

Calluses? Well, I don't think so (laughs). In reality, I am incapable to analyze or quantify my own acting. I hope the audience will assess and identify it as they see fit. I'm intrigued as well. I always seek feedback, carefully evaluating the reactions of the audience and replies from those around me.


You previously stated that in order to effectively bring forth emotional acting, you must make eye contact with your co-stars. However, because you were alone in space in The Moon, you filmed the majority of the sequences without any other actors.

That's correct. So, because I couldn't see directly the emotions of the people on Earth, I was always wondering what type of performances the other actors were delivering. And because the events on Sunwoo's side were shot first during production, I couldn't really examine the footage of what was happening on Earth. So, based on my interactions with the director and the screenplay, I employed my imagination to determine what emotions I would feel with my co-stars. This was a new experience for me, unlike anything I'd done before. Toward the end of the shoot, I was able to see each shot on Earth one by one, and I was convinced that instilling the feelings and situations that I had in mind would work.


Because it's a space movie, there must have been a lot of sequences that needed to be altered in post-production. Acting on a set before CGI is applied must have been quite the challenge.

Not at all. For Along with the Gods, I frequently had to act in front of a green screen, but not this time. The large-scale set design has been carefully crafted. I was thoroughly absorbed in the scenes as a result of this. The spaceship had been built in full scale, and everything inside, from little switches and buttons to signs, was identical to that of a genuine spacecraft. The actual spacecraft was shaking during sequences with external physical impact, and I even piloted the lunar rover myself.


The space suit looks very realistic. 

They were, of course, authentic space suits. They were a little hefty (laughs). I was sweating profusely inside because of the heat, and the staff had to put the air conditioner up to maximum. Even though it was July, the filming crew generously sported long sleeves to accommodate me. I'm still sorry and grateful... In any case, such thorough filming conditions helped me find the right emotions. I didn't have to worry about "what expression should I make" or "how should I move" since the expressions for every situation came naturally to me.


Hwang Sun-woo, the character you played in The Moon, is an elite soldier from the UDT. It's a far cry from your portrayal as Private Won Dong-yeon, the soldier in Along with the Gods. What did you do to prepare for this role? It seems like you had to change the way you speak and look.

To be honest, the way soldiers communicate is basically the same (laughs). So I didn't make an effort to set apart this role from Won Dong-yeon in terms of voice or mannerisms. Furthermore, Hwang Sun-woo is an astronaut rather than a soldier, so we couldn't directly compare the two figures. I did, however, strive to infuse the great mental fortitude and bravery that spring to mind when thinking of troops, particularly those from the UDT, into the smallest acting aspects of it. 


You began filming roughly 9 months after you were discharged from the service. Did your real-life military experience help you portray this character?

I'm not certain. Was it beneficial? (laughter) Aside from the fact that speaking like a solder has become second nature to me...


When you initially started acting in 2014, you gained a lot of accolades for your performances in Cart and the drama It's Okay, That's Love. Even while pursuing a singing career, you have amassed an impressive filmography. Your present image may easily be classified as genius-like.

Oh no, what are you saying? I'm not a genius. It's Okay, That's Love was made possible thanks to the guidance of the seasoned actors I was working with and the assistance of screenwriter No Hee-kyung. I believe I was able to complete it due of their encouragement. I worked so hard.





Written by LEE Woo-bin


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