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KIM Go-eun, Star of Monster and Memories of the Sword

by TAE Sang-joon   01.24.2014
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To be Remembered as a Good actress, Not as an Overnight Star
 
Literally, KIM Go-eun has become an overnight success when it comes to her acting career. As a rising actress, KIM swept almost all of the movie awards in Korea with her role in Eungyo (2012), directed by JUNG Ji-woo (Modern Boy [2008], Happy End [1999]). What is more surprising is that she had no previous experiences in commercial movies before Eungyo, but her performance in the film immediately positioned her as a leading actress of future Korean cinema. It is agreeable when tracing back at what projects she was involved in last year. She took a lead role with LEE Min-gi in director HWANG In-ho’s second film Monster following Spellbound (2011). In this newest title, Memories of the Sword, she is co-starring with two of the most global Korean stars to date, LEE Byung-hun and JEON Do-yeon in Memories of the Sword, directed by PARK Heung-sik (I Wish I Had a Wife [2001], My Mother, the Mermaid [2004]).

“It feels great to hear about my growth in reputation and fame. But since I’m not as widely known as TV celebrities, it doesn’t affect my lifestyle very much. There are not many people that recognize me on the streets. However, one thing that changed after Eungyo is that I’m getting good scripts from renowned directors and screenwriters these days. Now I have a greater chance for my acting career and am very thankful for that.”

Although she is grateful to have been a part of Eungyo, the film was not an easy choice for an actress in her early twenties to make. KIM had decided to pursue her acting career back in high school. She was learning the joy of acting at Korea National University of Arts when she got offered the title role of Eungyo, JUNG Ji-woo’s new project. JUNG, one of the most technically accomplished directors in Korea, was casting the lead role for his new film based on the original story by the distinguished novelist, PARK Bum-shin. Prominent actor PARK Hae-il (The Host [2006], War of the Arrows [2011]) was already casted as her opposite. There seemed to be no reason to turn down the role except that the film required her full-frontal nudity. It was risky especially because Eungyo was going to be her first feature film. Strong nudity in the film might give audiences the wrong impression and could give her a tagline of ‘being naked since the debut film’ throughout her career.
 
“While offering the role, director JUNG told me that I should take enough time and make a careful decision, since there was a possibility that this film could become the worst start of my career. I wasn’t sure whether I should do the film or not, but my father gave me the decisive advice. I’ve always told my parents that I don’t want to be a beautiful or a popular actress, but what I want is to be a really good one. The one that doesn’t expose their personal life, but can always be seen in good films. Initially, my father wanted me to start my career in a TV sitcom or a cute coming-of-age film with a fresh and charming role. My father didn’t talk much about Eungyo when I was considering it. He just told me that I would never be able to go back to where I was once I do Eungyo. It was his tacit approval to do the film. That’s when I knew I had to challenge it with a do-or-die attitude, and I was determined to do it.”
 
KIM Go-eun and JEON Do-yeon have special ties. Back in 1999, JEON was starred in JUNG Ji-woo’s Happy End and gave an exceptional revealing performance. Her overall performance in the film received universal acclaim from critics and audiences. However, there were also numerous sensational reports and rumors from yellow journalism offending her on-screen exposure and sex scenes. As a result, JEON had to suffer nervous breakdowns and went into a slump. When she saw KIM’s performance in Eungyo, JEON was naturally reminded of herself in Happy End. “JEON is a great actress full of passion for acting and cinema. She also has an enormous affection for good actors and actresses. She once told me that she was concerned that I might get bad influences or get hurt because of the sudden rise in attention from the public and media, but then was relieved when she found out that I dealt with it quite well. She also told me that she liked me because I seemed tenacious.”, said Kim and smiled.

Furthermore, KIM’s leading role as Bok-soon in the upcoming thriller, Monster, was offered to JEON at first. But JEON had to turn down the role due to the schedule conflicts between Monster and her recent film Way Back Home (2013). Since JEON found the script very intriguing, she was curious about who would land Bok-soon, and it turned out to be KIM Go-eun. “I’ve never seen such a unique character as Bok-soon in Korean cinema so far. Monster follows Bok-soon’s revenge on an inhumane serial killer who took her only sister’s life. Bok-soon is very eccentric that she contains both sides of sanity and insanity. She talks in a much exaggerated manner as if she were an anime character, especially the one from Slam Dunk, an extremely popular Japanese animation series from 1990s about high school basketball team. It was crucial to keep a consistent tone in acting and dialogues. I thoroughly realized the virtue of moderation in acting thanks to Monster.”
 

Now she is in the middle of filming Memories of the Sword. To be a part of the film feels almost surreal to her, since she could be in the same frame with JEON Do-yeon, her long time role model. “Each actor have different filming schedules, and I haven’t had a chance to be in the same scene with JEON Do-yeon or LEE Byung-hun yet. One day, I went to the set and director PARK Heung-sik showed me some scenes with JEON and LEE together filmed from the day before. It was so touching that I bursted into tears, even though it wasn’t a super emotional scene. That’s when I finally realized I was in the same film with those two great actors. I felt tremendous responsibility at the same time since I have to meet their standards, and not get a free ride on their reputation.”

Now at the age of 24, KIM is particularly keen on watching romance movies. She loves tear-jerking The Notebook (2004) and witty 500 days of Summer (2009). Someday, she wants to do a serious romance movie like KIM Tae-yong’s Late Autumn (2010) as well, in which TANG Wei and HYUN Bin created impressive chemistry. “I want to bring out the sensitivity that I can express the best at my age, such as pain of love and anxiety about the future. There is a time for everything and I think I can do it very well now. The problem is, I never get romance movie scripts. Directors out there, please contact me when you are planning one,” she said and smiled again. Audiences may be able to anticipate seeing her in a delightful romance movie in the near future.

By TAE Sang-joon

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