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Persistent Yearning for New Stories

Dec 20, 2021
  • Writerby Park Hyejin
  • View471

Director Yoon Jaegeun of Spiritwalker



"Unique and exciting film with the most innovative and unexpected with surprising action we’ve ever encountered in recent years."

Hollywood's leading producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who produced Transformer and G.I. Joe series, extolled Director Yoon Jaegeun's Spiritwalker, and the results of the high praise led to the confirmation of a Hollywood remake. 

Spiritwalker depicts the journey of a man waking up from another person's body every 12 hours to find ‘himself’, and it was first praised at overseas film festivals, including the official invitation to the 53rd Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival even before its release in Korea. It has also been pre-sold to 107 countries around the world and is waiting for its release. 

To the high praise toward Spiritwalker, which won favorable comments at home and abroad, Director Yoon Jaegeun explained, "My yearning for a completely new story seems to have worked with the audience around the world."



Spiritwalker is the first work in 10 years since your debut film Heartbeat (2011). I wonder what made you come up with the idea of Spiritwalker.


I wanted to tell a completely new story that I had never heard or seen anywhere. While writing the scenario, I could see ‘why no one had talked about this so far.’ (Laugh) Since the setting was hard and complicated, it was very challenging to develop the story, but I couldn't give up. As I kept holding on to the story, 10 years passed quickly.


Hollywood remake was confirmed even before its release in Korea. It was officially invited to the world's leading film festivals, including the 53rd Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival. At the 20th New York Asian Film Festival, it also won the Daniel A. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema of the Year. What do you think is the reason for the hot response of Spiritwalker abroad?


The biggest reason seems to be the 'uniqueness of the subject matter.’ It is the same to crave films with fresh subject matters anywhere in the world. And I think the actors’ bold action throwing themselves in the scenes would be very touching to them. Although the scenes are not very spectacular to see, they show the actors' efforts and pain as they are.



The setting of a ‘person who wakes up every 12 hours from another person's body’ is very unique. Where did you get the inspiration for this idea?


Around 2009, I was writing a different scenario, but it didn't work out well. It was a time when my life was hard and depressing. One day, while taking a walk in the park, I suddenly fantasized, ‘I wish I could wake up as a different person tomorrow morning after sleeping tonight.’ Then, ‘what if I become a different person every day? I can wake up as a movie director today, tomorrow a politician, and the next day a police officer, etc. Wouldn’t it be fun to live such a life?’ From there, I continued to daydream and thought about making it into a movie. This movie began with a daydream on a spring day (Smile).


I am curious about the casting process of the actors, including the main characters Yoon Kyesang, Park Yongwoo, and Lim Jiyeon.


First of all, I thought Actor Yoon Kyesang had a transparent image with a lot of space. I heard a lot that he was a very passionate actor in the field. Also, he decided to join the film after reading the scenario positively. In the case of Actor Park Yongwoo, I am an old fan of him. I sent the scenario to him because I wanted to see his villain character acting. Actor Lim Jiyeon was very passionate about the character Jinah. I like Lim Jiyeon’s gaze and facial expressions, and I wanted to make the most of the charms in this film. In this movie, keeping in tune and communicating among the actors was very important. So, I focused on the ensemble when casting the actors. As a result, the passionate actors dedicating themselves entirely to the movie could get together. It was luck to me and the film, of course.


You expressed the philosophical question of ‘the journey of finding my real self’ using the genre of ‘action.’ What was the most important thing when you directed the action?


While shooting the film, we used to joke that Spiritwalker could be a melodramatic movie. In fact, the film has the elements of action, mystery, and fantasy in many ways. However, the most important thing is the philosophical topic of ‘Who am I,’ and ‘I’ is eventually defined through the relationships with my beloved ones. So emotions were the most important in action. If I used stuntmen, I could design more colorful action scenes, but I chose the way the actual actor acted in the action scenes. I wanted to focus more on the actions with the characters’ emotions than flashy skills.



The scene of car-chasing in a narrow residential area in Pyeongchang-dong, Seoul, is the best. The fast-changing background and the realistic urgency in the shaking car are vivid as if we were watching a 4DX screening. How did we film the realistic car-chasing scene?


It is an important scene in the development of the story. I had to revive the actors' detailed acting and the original pleasure of car-chaining at the same time. I thought a lot about how to make the audience feel like they were in the car together. I could have created the tension by filming the scene using several cameras and editing the scene later. However, although it was hard, I decided to make it ‘head-to-head.’ We continued to film only one scene for two days. Thanks to the thorough preparation and effort of the staff and the actors, I was able to get the scene I wanted.


The sense of reality and the vivid feelings of the action in the second half of the film are also well received by the action enthusiasts. What's your favorite action scene?


If you ask me to pick only one scene, it can be the action in the hallway at the last part. It is the action coming from the feeling of explosion after recovering all the memories Kang Ian had lost. There were a lot of bloopers because it was a long-take shoot. All cuts were filmed more than 20 times, and Actor Yoon Kyesang was almost exhausted. Worrying about him, I asked to stop filming, but rather, the actor insisted on ‘continuing until it's perfect.’



Actor Yoon Kyesang pulled off the intense action scenes without a stuntman. What do you think is Yoon Kyesang's strength of action?


He has a great talent for action movies. When he looks at the movement the martial arts director orders, he immediately follows it at once. His body is also excellent, so the movement looks neat and beautiful. In addition, he is very sincere and faithful to his role and fully immerses himself in the character's emotions and actions. He is a very rare actor who is so good at action.


Spiritwalker is planned to be remade by Hollywood famous producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura. Are you going to participate in the Hollywood remake? What else do you expect from the remade version in Hollywood?


Nothing has been decided yet on how the remake will proceed. However, I hope it should be made with a more expanded worldview. For example, it would be better to expand the story more broadly, such as motivation for waking up in a new body every twelve hours and events behind it.



At the end of the movie, there's a signal that implies a sequel.


There are already stories for a sequential, a prequel, and a spin-off, etc. What matters most is the audience's reaction (Laugh). If many audiences are curious, we can have the opportunity for the series, right? I personally hope for such an opportunity.


Lastly, is there anything you want to say to the overseas audience who will meet Spiritwalker?


This film is basically about finding your true self. I think it will be more fun if the audience can join the journey of a man who tries to find his real self, facing a strange situation without memories and his own body.

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