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Lee Jung-jae Returns as a Jedai in The Acolyte

Jul 03, 2024
  • Source by CINE21
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“I still can't believe I’m in Star Wars”



Lee Jung-jae, who made a significant entry into the world of OTT series with Squid Game, expanded his career as director with Hunt in 2022. In Korea, Lee's classic image has been intriguingly broken and developed by none other than himself. Now, he's taking on Star Wars. The Acolyte, set during the final days of the High Republic era, is a mystery thriller that explosively unveils secrets while investigating a series of mysterious Jedi murders. We met with Lee Jung-jae, who has transformed into Jedi Master Sol and is set to make history in the Star Wars universe, as he embarks on yet another new challenge.


-What was your first impression when you read the script for The Acolyte?

=When I first read the script, this question immediately came to mind: "Has there ever been a Star Wars series with such intricately intertwined character narratives?" The Acolyte sets up relationships between characters in a very intriguing way. What particularly stood out was how logically the past and present stories were woven together. The action and adventure elements are excellent, but as an actor, I was drawn to the opportunity to portray the nuanced inner lives of the characters. The story starts off with a mystery to solve. As it progresses, it delivers the thrill of suspense that keeps you on edge.


-It must have been difficult to make the decision after receiving the offer.

=It was really tough. If it had been a character with a small role in a two-hour movie, I might have thought, "Why not try it for fun?" But this role had significant weight, and conveying emotions and narrative was crucial, not to mention having to do it in English, which was a big psychological burden. I wasn't sure if I could do it well. So, I kept postponing the first meeting. (Laughs) Even though it was just a casual greeting, it was hard to take that first step. There was a production schedule to consider, so I couldn't delay the decision indefinitely. However, I took a lot of time to think it over. Without the support from those around me and the encouragement from director Leslye Headland, I wouldn't have dared to take on the challenge.


-When the news of your joining The Acolyte first came out, you mentioned that you decided to participate in it despite not speaking the language fluently because you love the Star Wars series. How did you overcome the language barrier?

=I owe a lot to Star Wars for this. There are so many aliens in the series. In such a diverse universe, it’s not a big deal if an Asian character speaks English a bit imperfectly. (Laughs) The diversity allowed for any imperfections to be seen as part of the character's unique traits. This helped ease the issue. Of course, I did my best in everything I could. I tried to internalize the linguistic expressions to act naturally in English. It would have been much harder if it wasn't for Star Wars.


-The Acolyte marks your first collaboration with director Leslye Headland. How would you reflect on your time working with her?

=From the script itself, the relationships and emotions between characters were handled with great delicacy. Leslye is that kind of person. She's a storyteller, showrunner, and creator who can imagine the intricate lives and stories of characters and bring them to life. She never overlooks anything and continually ensures everything makes sense. Of course, the script underwent changes during filming. Observing her process, it was like she was weaving a tight chain, layer by layer, to bind the story together. It was truly impressive. I often thought, The Acolyte has gathered the best people from around the world—except me. (Laughs)


-Did you feel a difference between the filming environments in Korea and the U.S.?

=To my surprise, the systems are almost identical. I was amazed at how similar they could be. Perhaps it's because many producers in Korea have studied abroad and there's a trend to apply good overseas systems to the Korean market. However, the scale and volume in the U.S. are vastly superior. The detailed props and art direction are incredibly impressive. Just look at Star Wars—the expertise they've accumulated since the 1970s is incredible. It feels like all of that is an asset to the film industry. I also noticed a strong respect for the creators' vision and direction. In a way, The Acolyte subtly builds on the Star Wars universe that has been established over several decades, yet it encourages and respects creators to develop an original world separate from the many existing characters. I was very envious of that atmosphere, where such respect for creativity is taken for granted.


-In 2022, you successfully established yourself as a film director, and now you're taking on a new challenge with the Star Wars series. You're setting an example of a life full of ongoing challenges. What drives you to keep pushing forward?

=How should I put this? Working hard is important, but luck also plays a big role. However, the more I pour my heart and soul into what I'm doing now, the more likely I am to attract that luck. When my fellow actors, staff, and audiences recognize my efforts, it opens the door to the next chapter. I still can't believe it myself—that I'm part of the Star Wars series. Sometimes unbelievable opportunities come as gifts. Ultimately, what matters is what I choose to do and how actively I pursue it. Moving forward, I want to continue experiencing new things without hesitation.


-Many viewers will be watching The Acolyte at home through OTT. What kind of viewing environment would you recommend?

=Definitely watch it in the dark! Evening or nighttime would be best. That way, you can fully enjoy the mystery structure of The Acolyte.


-What does it mean to you to become part of the DNA of the Star Wars universe?

=I believe that Star Wars will continue to evolve and expand its universe as generations change, with someone always taking it forward. Its limitless potential gives it a sense of vitality and dynamism. It is truly an honor to be part of this history of Star Wars. I still can't believe it.



Written by Lee Ja-yeon

Translation by Jang Yuri

Republication, copying or redistribution by any means is prohibited without the prior permission of KOFIC and the original news source.
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