Jun 2016 VOL.62


  • ODE TO MY FATHER Lead Man HWANG Jung-min
  • by LEE Ji-hye / 12.29.2014
  • “I wanted to present a realistic portrayal of all fathers in Korea”
    Childhood during the Korean War, young adulthood fought in the Vietnam War, hardship in Germany endured for the sake of the family, then suddenly waking up to discover that he is an old man now… This is the story of our Korean fathers. And this is the Korean father figure HWANG Jung-min plays, named ‘Deok-su’ in Ode to My Father. Despite the risk of playing the lifetime of Deok-su from his youth to an elderly man in his seventies, the actor asserts that he “wanted to do it right”.

    “I’ve lived like a racehorse”. And to prove this, HWANG Jung-min’s career has been non-stop when you take a look at the characters he played from a gay man, young farmer, lawyer, gangster, detective and blind swordsman. None of these roles were easy, and they all seemed to convey the intensity of the actor himself on the silver screen. The entire decade where he endlessly spent telling himself, “I have to do well, I have to work harder,” has given him to the ability to let things go and enjoy acting now. Now is the golden age of HWANG Jung-min who “gets a kick out of going to a film shoot and acting”.
    Ode to My Father is a period piece that gives an overview of Korea’s modern history, and a blockbuster film that cost approx. USD 1.8 million. Given the large scale of the film, you must have felt considerable pressure.
    This is the first time I played in such a large-scaled film. It was important the audience feels the magnitude of the scale. And that was my responsibility as the male lead.
    If you can give us a brief introduction to Ode to My Father?
    This film tells the story of our fathers who lived through the rapidly shifting social climate of Korea from the Korean War during the 1950s to current times. He may have had many dreams of doing things and becoming someone, but never once did he have the opportunity to live for himself. This is a story of our fathers who never said “No” for the sake of the family.
    Korea’s modern history is embedded in the life of this character ‘Deok-su’. I heard the film had quite a number of foreign location shoots?
    Ode to My Father was shot in three different countries including Busan and Seoul (Korea), the Czech Republic and Thailand. As the first film in five years for filmmaker YOUN Je-kyun since Haeundae with a great cast including KIM Yun-jin, OH Dal-su, JUNG Jin-young, JANG Young-nam, LA Mi-ran and KIM Seul-ki, with a top class crew, expectations are high.
    You played as a couple with KIM Yun-jin who is actively working in Hollywood, what kind of actress was she like on set?
    As you all may know, she is an incredible actress. Her first impression may make her seem hard to approach, but in fact she is quite modest and humble. We didn’t quite know each other well when we were in Germany, playing the scene where we first fell in love. But this in fact helped us express the awkward but romantic emotions of first love.
    You manage to cover the entire life of Deok-su from his 20s to his 70s. As an actor, this may be an incredible opportunity and formidable experience at the same time.
    I never had any fear of playing the role. On the contrary, I was extremely happy to be able to present the entire life of an individual. When the script came out, the director called me to ask if I could be in his film. So I asked what it was about. When he replied by saying “It’s a story about a father”, I immediately said I would do it whatsoever. I didn’t have to read the script to decide. There are a number of Korean films about mothers, but not so many about fathers. For the male audience who sees Ode to My Father, they perhaps will all feel that their fathers, who used to be like towering mountains, now seem like low hills, small figures. And this will be emotionally reverberating.
    Special effects makeup must have been difficult.
    The aging special effects makeup done by a team from Sweden was an interesting experience. During the two-week film shoot, I roamed the streets of Busan with makeup on, and no one seemed to recognize me. That was how perfect the work done by our Swedish team was.
    You must have thought of your own father a lot while you were playing the role.
    Not really. I don’t think of the real me when I am playing a role. To think of my own life while I am playing Deok-su is not being truthful. This is why I never refer to my own life while I am imagining a role. It’s enough just to think of Deok-su and to show his life. Since I went through my 20s, 30s and 40s, this wasn’t so difficult, but playing someone in his 70s was really hard because I never lived this life. Even though I try, it can only be an imitation. But, when I try hard to imitate, sometimes it does feel real. I worked hard to come up with a way to give a good imitation.
    You once said you were happy that Ode to My Father is your “first film that you can show your child”. What are you like as a father?
    I’m like a friend to my child. Since my wife works, I play the role of mother to my child when I’m not shooting. I send my child off to school, and I make something to eat after school. We’re close because it’s just the two of us all day long. The thing my child hates the most is when I’m away on a film shoot for days. My kid is so attached to me, my wife gets jealous sometimes. (laughs)
    Deok-su in the film looks back at his life and asks “My life wasn’t so bad, was it?” What about you?
    I’m working hard at it, happily, sincerely, focusing on my own business. My 30s wasn’t so easy. I was obsessed with showing a good performance, to do things well. But there came a time when I slowly started to let things go. And now in my 40s, I am a much happier person comfortable with myself. I’m the happiest when I’m on set. After playing Deok-su in Ode to My Father, I started thinking of the idea of growing old well as an actor. I want to hear people say ‘That actor is great’ when I’m in my 60s. l want to age well so that when I am in my 60s, filmmakers can be inspired to write melodramas for ‘actor HWANG Jung-min’.
    How would you define an actor who has aged well?
    I am curious myself. I wonder what I’ll be like in my 50s. Nevertheless, eyes don’t age even when the face does. I guess the key is how alive my eyes will be when the time comes. And for this, I believe it will be the matter of the heart.
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