SO Ji-sub of A Company Man
I want to play a character with strong emotional expression
The emotion that best matches JI Hyeong-do of A Company Man is loneliness. He has no family. He doesn’t talk a lot. Even in the metro packed with passengers heading home during the rush hour, he is not connected to anyone else, so he looks as if he was an island floating around. SO Ji-sub said he could understand JI without difficulty; “He is pretty much like me. He eats alone, walks alone and stays home alone like me. Keeping a letter of resignation with him all the time is also similar to me.” Good understanding of the character helped him quickly melt in the story.
It didn’t take him many hours to decide to be in A Company Man after reading the scenario. Unlike what most people would predict, he didn’t hit upon The Man From Nowhere (2010) once while reading it. He even finds it strange that people often associate A Company Man with The Man From Nowhere; “Initially, I didn’t take it that way, but after shooting started, as I heard people saying so more and more, I could understand why they wanted make such a comparison. In fact, I lately watched The Man From Nowhere again. I was curious why so many people were saying the same thing. But don’t you feel they are so different after watching them?” He is right. A Company Man and The Man From Nowhere are totally different from each other. The only thing in common if I’m forced to fine one might be great action by the best actor of the time.
Action suits SO quite well. Even in a melodrama Always (2011), he appeared as a mixed martial arts fighter. It just suited him. However, SO doesn’t quite agree. While people say his action is ‘picturesque moves’, he says it is ‘art of editing’; “I’m very clumsy and sluggish. I have to practice really hard for action scenes.” Then he might look great with action by virtue of outstanding physical ratio and the air he was born with; “It is really strange. When I stared acting, I was a typical actor with an unfavorable impression, but all of a sudden, I started being called a ‘good looking’ actor. I want to be remembered as an actor who knows how to act though.”
He has no need to worry. He is never regarded as a handsome actor with no acting skill. He definitely isn’t. A Company Man assures once again that he truly is a good actor. Even at scenes where the story develops in a bad way and the construction is loose, it is clear to see that he is so sincere in front of camera at every moment. No matter how the story flew, his acting never looked awkward; “Then I’m relieved. I think it is a problem if I always look nice whatever role I play. I don’t want to limit the scope of my acting.” In that case, the easiest thing an actor can do is intentionally messing up with his appearance. However, sometimes it can be the worst mistake. SO seconds that; “That’s something I don’t want to do. I won’t try to look different. I am thinking about changing my acting style though. I want to do something else than saying less, looking cold, restricting emotional expressions, using eye and so on. I want to play a character with very strong emotional expression.”
There are a couple of rules he abides by. He has two most fundamental rules. He always keeps promises and never lies; “I think I have been late for appointments fewer than 10 times in my life. Every time I was late, it was inevitable. It is partly because I got into a habit of being on time by steadily practicing (swimming) from when I was a kid to the age around 20. Anyway, I usually try to move as early as possible.” His daily routine is so sound and neat that it even feels boring; “When I have no plan shooting on schedule, I go to the office, eat with colleagues and meet do excercise and meet friends in the evening. This is my life pattern. I try not to break the pattern.”
Having so tight and stubborn rules of life means concentration on himself. SO says he trusts his feelings the most when it comes down to the choice of work; “I have my own rules when choosing work. Most of all, it has to be fun. I don’t like it when viewers eyes are scattered a lot. My most favorite type is a story where the protagonist keeps on running after a certain goal from the beginning to the end.”
This is why he chose A Company Man; “I won’t tell you the title, but there was one and only work that I decided to be in after other people’s recommendation. It was a failure after all. Then I learned a lesson that my choice is not necessarily right but it is not a good idea either to be easily influenced by others.” On the other hand, many of works he selected by himself were successful. He explains with a big smile; “There are many of them. I don’t expect to gain good responses from the beginning. I know it’s a bad habit, but I always start thinking the worst case. It helps me find good solutions. I start moving after my worries are gone.” When he said he is sluggish, he meant this.
SO has been running a one man entertainment company, 51K for 3 years. He answered to my question about management of the company; “I never do what I don’t know about. I am aware of everything that goes around my company.” Now he looks like a serious executive. I even thought he probably founded the company to make decisions at will. “Ha ha, you think so, don’t you? But I cannot be like that any more. I become careful and prudent more and more as I age. I’m not afraid of taking responsibility though. I’m almost 35 now. I thought I would become more unstable if I work for a company and leave. I’m fortunate enough to have many fans yet, so I decided to establish a company to firm my status. Popularity will eventually fade.” Where does he think his current status is at?; “I don’t think I’ve come as far as I can, but at the same time, I can fall down at any moment. I know it very well I was not a top star from the beginning. I also know what it is like to be poor and how I can deal with fear.” He gathers breath before continuing the talk; “Being obsessed with the current status and afraid of losing it makes one crazy. It really does.”
The days SO had to act for money is long gone; “Had I been doing it for money, I would do whatever it takes to make money. But that’s not what I want. If I’m not honest with my acting, I’m cheating the audiences.” Then what about commercials? Whereas he often looks melancholy in films, he is rather bright and mild in commercial films; “Right, maybe I do commercials for money. Ha ha. Yet commercial films helped me a lot. People used to see me as a gloomy and dark person, but I could shed such image by virtue of commercials. I never knew people would like underwear commercials so much” All the extra work such as recording hip-hop music, publishing a magazine and running a cafe was for his own satisfaction. As far as he thinks, ‘acting’ is his only job; “I do all those activities because I like to do. If I considered them as ‘work’, I couldn’t, and I won’t. I don’t want to be stressed out.” If he says he won’t, he surely won’t; “Of course I won’t. I told you I never lie.”
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