By Shim Sun-ah
Yonhap News Agency
Clad in a gray suit and white shirt, the South Korean known as "Yonsama" looked serene, spoke politely and smiled, although his two years as an Asian icon may have changed him a lot.
South Korean actor Bae Yong-joon
, however, appeared to be haunted by the experience of playing his character in director Heo Jin-ho
's moody melodrama "April Snow
", which will open nationwide Sept. 8.
"I was like a child abandoned before a camera", Bae, who turns 33 today, recalled in a recent interview at a Seoul hotel with Yonhap News Agency.
He said it was initially very hard for him to adapt to Hur's directing style that required a lot of impromptu acting.
"Hur always said 'Just do it on your own way'. Whenever I asked him 'how', he would let the shooting continue after simply answering 'Well, act and speak as you want'. I usually calculate and decide what to do and how to do it before acting, as you know, but I couldn't with this work".
Bae said he used to not be able to understand when veteran actors say "Now I'll have to let this character go his way", but now fully comprehends.
"I could not concentrate on other work while shooting this film. I was very gloomy and did not know why I was so pained and irritated. I figured out later it was because I could not fully return to myself after becoming immersed in the character".
" is the story of a man and a woman drawn together after a traffic accident reveals their spouses were having an affair.
Bae's character, devoted husband In-su, and the young housewife Seo-yeong, played by Son Ye-jin
, are filled with confusion and anger at the accident and betrayal by their spouses. But they gradually fall in love while trying to share their pain.
"In-su is a responsible, very good-natured and healthy person. He loved his wife a lot. If I were In-su, I could not leave my wife in the hospital bed (for the newly-found love) either", the actor said. He admitted that he is conservative as far as love is concerned.
Bae became enormously popular in East Asian nations, especially in Japan, after the South Korean television series in which he starred, "Winter Sonata
", was broadcast in 2003 and last year.
He was given the nickname, "Yonsama", by his Japanese fans. "Yon" is the short form of his name in Japanese and "sama" means a highly respected person. It is unusual for Japanese to refer to foreigners using the honorific "sama".
When he visited Taiwan last weekend to promote the film, he was greeted at the airport and hotel by throngs of fans, mostly middle-aged women from Japan and other Asian countries, which proved again he is one of Asia's top stars.
"I think the Taiwanese people were closer and friendlier toward me this time than when I visited the country last year. I think that was because they became more familiar with South Korean pop culture".
Bae said he feels a great burden as a star who stands in the forefront of "hallyu (Korean wave)", or the boom of Korean pop culture in neighboring Asian countries, but thanks God for endowing him with the pioneering role. "I expect hallyu will serve as a chance to create a unified Asian cultural entity".
In addition, the actor said overseas fans' high expectations do not influence his choice of screenplays.
"There is difference between images that I can showcase in films and real life. I will do my best to show my best side in my life", he said.
Bae said he would seek a variety of different roles in the future, not just the kind of nice and warmhearted characters he portrayed in previous works.
The actor has already chosen his next role. He will play the King Kwanggaeto of the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo in a local television drama tentatively named "Taewangsasingi" ("The Legend"). The drama is scheduled to air in September next year.
Koguryo ruled the northern half of the Korean Peninsula and the northeastern part of modern-day China some two millennia ago.
The actor confirmed he does not have any plan yet to advance into the overseas film world but is willing to cooperate with Asian filmmakers for co-productions with South Korea.
"Asian film industries have so far had insufficient capital and marketability to pursue a common project, but many conditions have improved (in recent years.) I'm being ready to cooperate for Asian co-productions as part of my long-term plan".
Bae said he wants to start a family with a baby as soon as possible and live a happy life as ordinary people do.
"I feel really lonely these days when I'm in my apartment by myself. These feelings get deeper as time goes on. But my chances of meeting people are limited since I live a very simple life _ fitness club, home and office. Moreover, I'm not the kind of person who easily makes friends at parties".
Reading messages posted by fans on his official Web site is one of his sources of joy these days, Bae said.
"They really cheer me up. They are like vitamin pills that invigorate me", he added.