'Iris' to Finally Unfold on Small Screen

By Han Sang-hee
Staff Reporter

The upcoming drama "IRIS" is expected to be about more than top stars, sleek suits and action scenes.

The 20-episode television soap will finally air next week, and the actors and crew got together one last time for a press conference Monday, at Sogong-dong, central Seoul, to offer what they have in store,

"It's already our third press conference. I have never seen a drama that held so many promotional events", quipped Lee Byung-hun, who stars as the National Security Service agent Kim Hyun-jun.

The espionage series will deal with love, hate and betrayal between spies from both South and North Korea and the dangerous tasks and choices the protagonist, played by Lee, must accomplish. "IRIS" follows the recent trend in film and drama making, according to the two directors Kim Kyoo-tae and Yang Yoon-ho.

"`Iris' is fast paced and there are no cliché coincidences like soaps we see on local television today. Everybody enjoys the espionage genre and the division of North and South Korea will certainly work as a tool to attract overseas viewers as well. But the focus will be more on the spy world rather than inter-Korean politics", Yang said.

When it comes to spy films, there are a lot to choose from, including the legendary 007 James Bond and Bourne series. For Lee, "IRIS" is more like the Bourne series, where "the character is not handsome, luxurious and flirty, but dirty, always in danger and tired".

"`Iris' is based on reality. You can expect realistic moves from the Bourne films. They were pretty dangerous, and I do hope we don't do any of those stunts again during upcoming shoots", he said, looking at the two directors next to him with a hopeful smile.

Thanks to former movie director Yang, who is looking to produce a movie version, the action scenes and long shot sequences from an exclusive clip shown looked like they popped out of the silver screen, while the various locations including Hungary, China and Japan also worked as an attractive background. Nevertheless, the highlight was the actors' performances throughout the film, with some being thrown about by an explosion, jumping off bridges and even roping down a dam.

At one point, director Yang had to stop filming for a minute to check if the actors were okay during a car crash segment.

"It was a very dangerous scene and we couldn't use a stunt double because we didn't know which scene we were going to use. Right after the crash, we all froze and waited for the team, including the actors, to crawl out from the damaged car", he said.

Many were injured along the way, but for Lee, it was simply another step toward making a good film and drama.

"After finishing shooting, I look down at my body and count the scars. Whenever I find a scar, it's like going through a history of the television series and films I have worked on. I consider them medals", he said.

The heroines of "IRIS" are Kim Tae-hee, who plays South Korean agent Choi Seung-hee, and Kim So-yeon, who plays North Korean agent Kim Seon-hwa, and also had their share of shooting guns and fighting with their bare fists.

"Kim (Tae-hee) may look weak with her delicate features and petite body, but she was actually the first in line whenever we had a meal. She would eat more than the male actors, and this proved to be a great asset when filming action scenes", said Kim Seung-woo, who plays the head of the North Korean spy agents.

At the first press conference held last May, the makers and actors emphasized that they wanted to make a drama worth having as a DVD set, just like the U.S'. "24" and "CSI" series, and they seemed more confident as the airing date approached.

"Many local television series have gone overseas and attracted many Asian fans, which we now call the Korean wave. Many have pointed out that the wave has started to die down, and we hope to bring back the wave with `Iris'. Our final goal is to start a new phenomenon in the history of local dramas", Kim Seung-woo said.

"IRIS" will be aired from Oct. 14 at 9:55 p.m. on KBS.