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Lee Dong-Wook makes a comeback with SINGLE IN SEOUL

Dec 15, 2023
  • Source by Cine21
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"If I cling to past glory without adapting to current trends, I won’t be able to maintain the public's affection."


Lee Dong-Wook returned to his forte of romance with Single in Seoul after exploring various genres such as thriller – Hell Is Other People, fantasy – Tale of the Nine Tailed and Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938, and action – Bad and Crazy. His character, Yeong-ho, once a literature student who aspired to be a writer, is now an essay lecturer, enjoying his single life to the fullest. One day, he gets an offer from a publisher to write a book about single’s life in Seoul. In the meeting, he meets Hyun-jin (played by Lim Soo-jung). Just like by the old love songs in the movie, Yeong-ho’s day is now filled with the forgotten fluttery sensation.  





After being part of ensemble movies like A Year-end Medley and Beauty Inside, Single in Seoul marks your return to a main character role after a long time. How do you feel?

I watched the completed version for the first time in the premiere. It was nice to watch myself on the screen for a considerable amount of time after a long wait. I kept checking on the audiences’ reactions. To my delight, they laughed much more than I anticipated, particularly at Yeong-ho. It seems that the audiences connected with Yeong-ho's character.


In the press conference, you said “When shooting the movie, [Lee] saw and explored new side of Seoul.” It was intriguing to receive the comment since you not only went to numerous places in Seoul to shoot but also you were born and raised in Seoul.  

Despite living in Seoul for over 40 years, I always went to familiar places. Thanks to the movie, I had the opportunity to explore spots I had never been to before. I remember shooting a scene on Jamsu Bridge in the middle of the night. It was a new experience to view Han River at eye-level, rather than from the usual vantage point of the iron bridges above. On top of that, I always drove pass Gwanghwamun Square without visiting. While shooting a night scene there, I saw many lights in the high rises and felt a sense of awe for Korean businessmen working into the late hours.

You’ve hosted several talk shows such as Strong Heart and Wook Talk and mentioned that you wanted to be a Korean language teacher as young and that you received a high score on Korean language section of the college entrance exam. I assume that you still strive to maintain your linguistic proficiency. With this in mind, were you delighted to take on the role of Yeong-ho, a writer, and essay lecturer?

Yeong-ho and I definitely have some traits in common. I consistently emphasize the importance of reading text, striving to enhance my linguistic skills by reading the newspaper daily, even if I can't manage books every day. I imagined the unwritten days of Yeong-ho’s lives as he turned from an aspiring writer into a successful lecturer. Yeong-ho would probably have tried to start his literary career several times but have failed. Considering his talents in writing and effectively communicating with the audience, I thought he opted for his second-best option which was the essay writer.


What was the most attractive part of the scenario? 

Prior to Single in Seoul, I focused on genre-specific works. So it had been a long time since I last participated in romance movies, and I particularly wanted to act a humanistic character. In the realm of romance, the success often hinges on the chemistry between actors and the overall ambiance of the actors. Growing older, I got skeptical about how much longer I could star in a romance movie. It’s not that older actors cannot lead in romantic movies, but there are not many South Korean movies delving in silver romance. On top of that, there are not many absolute romance movies; many films integrate romance within genre-specific movies, prompting my desire to shoot a romance-only movie. For some time, we’ve seen the sentiment of perceiving romance and love stories too naïve. However, can there be a life without love? After all, doesn't everyone experience love in real life?”





The movie portrays both sides of the first love. Weren’t you hesitant to act as a pathetic character?

I empathized with the characters. As Yeong-ho and his first love may have different memory of each other, my first girlfriend and I would have different memories – memories that are biased in our favor. In hindsight, I realize I used to believe my words and actions to my partners were great. However, upon reflection, they are childish. I suspect many male audiences can related and would be embarrassed of themselves (laughs)


You acted Yeong-ho from his twenties to his thirties. It was impressive how you captured the emotions in his twenties, going beyond just looking young in the flashback scene. 

We should have had a child actor play in the flashback scene; I can’t play as a college student anymore (laughs). Portraying Yeong-ho as a college student, I revisited my own twenties. Back then, I knew nothing, I was so short-sighted and arrogant. As I entered my thirties, I came to understand the importance of taking care of oneself and forging new relationships as an actor, as I’m sure Yeong-ho would have realized this too. In our twenties, we all think the first love will last forever. I wanted to deliver this sentiment in Yeong-ho.


For quite some time, you were eager to direct your own movies, even directing music videos and trailers of variety shows. 

I’m no longer pursuing that dream. I’ve had the opportunities to collaborate with numerous directors and I’ve come to realize that directing is something that’s beyond my capabilities. Even if I envision the scenes as I read scripts before shooting, the directors bring forth incredible shots that I couldn’t even imagine. Sometimes, I might suggest different shots and configurations to the directors and cinematographers as an actor. It brings me a great joy when those suggestions are reflected in the completed movie.


Whenever you appear as a guest on YouTube channels like Pinggyego and Salon Drip, you become the talk of the town. Moreover, you actively engage with fandom platforms like Bubble. It seems like you are consistently staying updated with the latest trends and trying to stay in tune with them.

I want to challenge myself beyond the field of acting. It is enjoyable and challenging at the same time to meet the public as an actor and as a regular citizen. Around 5-6 years ago I came up with a motto – to live in the present. This has led me to appear on YouTube channels and started my own Bubble, a recommendation from my PR team. I use my genuine way of talking which has been well-received. The motto also guides me to proactively approach the public before they search for me.  


Was there a specific reason behind setting a motto?

Otherwise, I would be lagging behind. In this fast-changing society, if I don’t stay focused, I might be left behind. My field of work relies on recognition and acceptance from the public. If I cling to past glory without adapting to current trends, I won’t be able to maintain the public's affection. Sometimes, when fans come up to me and say they loved Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, I jokingly say “that’s so old.” Of course, the success of the series made me who I am now; but if I settle there, I cannot go further. So I constantly search for new characters, explore new genres and actively pursue new projects. I want to expand my filmography as long as I have energy and options.”



by Jang Jae-hyun

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