HYUN Bin, who became a star in the early days of the Korea Wave thanks to TV series My Lovely Sam Soon and Secret Garden, now stands as one of the most prominent actors in recent Korean cinema. After the success of Confidential Assignment, set against the backdrop of the Korean division in 2017, he has been taking more diverse roles with each addition to his filmography, playing in the crime drama The Swindlers (2017), and more recently THE NEGOTIATION, which saw him take on a villain role, and the Joseon Era-set zombie film Rampant. The latter, with its mix of zombie movie and historical film set in Joseon, is a much anticipated film that will soon release in 19 countries, starting with Korea and followed by Asian and European countries like the US, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. As HYUN Bin is about to find a new audience abroad with this film, he shared with us his thoughts about the movie and his acting.
You have played this year in THE NEGOTIATION and Rampant, released one after the other, and you will soon be seen in the TV series Memories of the Alhambra. Isn’t it a burden, for an actor, to always have a new work being released?
Those are works that I have chosen so as to keep showing a different image of myself. It just so happens that they have been set for release around the same time. People who see these works as individual titles should be able to enjoy them, but I’m worried some of them may become jaded after seeing so often this actor named HYUN Bin. Constantly showing a different side of oneself may be the trade of actors, but how could anybody keep changing themselves? (laughs) I am also worried these days about whether it is okay to still be doing it with that kind of thoughts.
I can tell you it sure was easy. That’s because he knows me, and there is a mutual understanding of what we want to show. Just like Confidential Assignment, Rampant is an entertainment film, and we both wanted to challenge ourselves by making it an upgrade on that film, especially when it comes to the action.
Rampant is an important film in that it is a Korean blockbuster zombie film aimed at the global market that is coming after TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016).
That was quite a concern at first. As it started with the concept of ‘night demons’ (zombies), the scenario feels a lot like that of a comic. The lines of the characters, the situations… I was quite worried in particular on the acting side as I had to rely solely on my imagination to understand the way the ‘night demons’ would be depicted. On the other hand, I was attracted by the novelty brought by this subject, the meeting of these ‘night demons’ with a Joseon Era setting.
Could you introduce your role in the movie?
I play Prince Yi Chung, who was born in the Joseon Kingdom but went to the Qing Empire at a young age, before coming back to his country infected by ‘night demons’. He is a character who feels alienated from his subjects in the beginning but progressively grows closer to them. Yi Chung, who fled from his responsibilities as a leader, has a character arc that shows him find of his own calling. I see him as a character who represents the hope for a brighter future in the Joseon Kingdom.
Rampant is a film that stands out with its action scenes. How was your preparation for these scenes?
Not only me, but all the characters engaging the ‘night demons’ in battle went with the concept of “fighting for our lives”, and we were set on performing action scenes that would be made more and more stunning with each step of post-production. Every actor underwent 2 to 3 months of individualized training based on their respective weapons. My character Yi Chung using a long sword, a tough thing action director KIM Tae-gang requested from me was, “I would like you to convey strength when you attack the creatures, but it would be nice if you could keep the shape of your sword intact”. (laughs) I was nervous every time I had to film a fight scene against the ‘night demons’. The actors who played them had not a single weapon, so they had to dive into battle headfirst, and me, with my sword, I could have hurt them with a single mistake in my estimation of the distance. Fortunately, I got a little used to it as the filming went on. As I developed a better sense of distance, it became fairly easy to play these scenes.
What would be your opinion about Rampant as a spectator?
It would be impossible for me to be fully objective. One thing that is clear is that, even though it cannot be said that the film is innovative in all respects, I think it is faithful to what the crew – me included – intended to show. When I watched the film as a spectator, I enjoyed the scale of the film as it was bigger than I had expected, and thought that the sword fights looked better than in other movies. I also like the distinctive colors of the film and its music, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. You can probably better feel the majestic energy of the film by watching it in theaters.
In a first for Korean films, Rampant will be released simultaneously in 19 territories in Asia and Europe. You must expect a lot from that.
It is in the reaction of the Korean audience, which will get to be the first to discover the film, that I’m the most interested in right now. I’m also glad that Korean audiences living in different parts of the world will have access to the film quickly thanks to these simultaneous releases. And I would be glad if foreign audiences watch the film and fully welcome this creature film set in Joseon – something that could only be made in Korea – and the performances from Korean actors, as they would do with a Hollywood movie. As it will be released in time for Halloween, I also have high expectations in terms of box office.
You are about to start a new TV series. Do you have any other plan after that?
My nature is that if there is a script I like, before I know it my mind is already preparing for the role. Because of that, I cannot even consider another project as long as I’m still working on one. That’s why I have no other project right now. As I’m currently devoting myself to the filming of the series, promoting the film is relieving my stress. Getting to go somewhere else to talk about another work actually helps me a lot. (laughs) The upcoming series addresses a subject never seen before. As it involves a massive amount of CG, even I don’t know what it will look like. I expect it to provide an original topic and an original story.