Veteran Korean actress Yoon Jung-hee [photographed by Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Here is a truly unbelievable story that one must believe. When Yoon Jung-hee was at the peak of her popularity in her career, she won an award at a film festival and went on a car parade in downtown Seoul. And what is even more unbelievable is that she left that popularity behind and left for France as she had planned. She was the biggest star to have graced the history of Korean film, an actress who keeps getting scripts even after she went to France and still has a fan club. And she chose director Lee Chang-dong's "Poetry" as her comeback movie, her first in fifteen years. What kind of a life does this actress live? We asked Yoon Jung-hee about her life and her films.
Q: You have been doing a lot of interviews with the press in time with the opening of film "Poetry". This kind of an experience is a first for you, isn't it?
Yoon: It is a first. When I was at the top of my game, I didn't have time and in many cases, reporters would come to the set or come in groups. But with this movie, I felt like it was my responsibility to truly inform people about this wonderful movie rather than just loving "Poetry" and leaving it after I had finished my work as an actress. I am learning a lot of new things doing interviews with new people, so I like it.
Q: You must be truly satisfied with "Poetry". (laugh)
Actress Yoon Jung-hee [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Yoon: Of course I was. Once you see the film, you will agree with what I am saying. "Poetry" is competing at Cannes and if I were one of the judges, I would seriously give the best picture award to "Poetry". It is worthy of winning best picture, unless another incredibly amazing movie comes out.
Q: That incredibly amazing movie is probably "Poetry". How did you meet director Lee Chang-dong?
Yoon: I try to watch as many good movies as I can. So, of course, I tried to watch all the movies directed by Lee Chang-dong. When I used to serve as a judge at numerous film festivals, I would often watch films on a big movie screen but, unfortunately, I saw Lee Chang-dong's movies all on DVDs. When I was watching them, I would think 'Wow, what an incredible director he is'.
Q: What was the most impressive film out of all of Lee Chang-dong's movies?
Yoon: "Poetry". (laugh)
Q: Haha. How did director Lee Chang-dong convince you to appear in "Poetry"?
Yoon: He didn't try to convince me at all. One day he asked me and my husband to have dinner with him and his wife. So the four of us met, had dinner and went to a coffee shop afterwards. And there he told me that he has something to tell me. He said he was writing a script with me in mind and that he had a heavy heart not telling me about it. When he told me that, my husband and I were like "Oh!", we were so happy. I didn't ask him what it was about and I didn't know anything about the story, I just told him I would do it. You know how kids these days say, "It was moving". (laugh) That is exactly how I felt.
Q: It would not be an exaggeration to say that the you pretty much lead the entire film. There were many parts in the movie that must have been hard for you as an actress. How did you feel when you got the script?
Actress Yoon Jung-hee [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Yoon: When I read the script, I saw that I had to lead over 90 percent of the film which means that I had as much responsibility. But I really loved the script and the role of Mi-ja was so appealing. I hoped that the audience would start dreaming their dreams and live their lives in beauty while watching this film. Of course, some enormous incidents happen in the movie, but life doesn't come with just peaceful and beautiful things, does it?
Q: But it must have been quite hard for you to play Mi-ja. In your previous film like "The Fog", there was a much stronger theatrical feel to the acting style of those times But actors nowadays try to act as naturally as they can. And director Lee Chang-dong, in particular, asks his actors to do natural acting.
Yoon: This film is not a melodrama nor does it contain any suspense or erotic elements. The film required diverse and delicate acting, not an extremely strong performance. And you know how director Lee Chang-dong makes his films extremely realistically. From the set design down to every little decoration, even the extras have to act naturally, like an ordinary person. So I needed to work on doing that kind of acting. Sometimes I would get an okay sign after one or two takes but once, when things were going tough, I had to do thirty-five takes. But there is no such thing as everything running 100 percent smoothly in making a film. When you are struggling to make a scene work, the joy of finding the solution during the process makes you happy, doesn't it? It wasn't easy to act naturally but I had great chemistry with the crew and director Lee Chang-dong so it wasn't painful. I think we kept on communicating with one another and came up with results little by little rather than just searching for one right answer.
Q: Which scene took you thirty-five takes to shoot?
Yoon: There is a scene where I meet another lady and have to tell her unpleasant things. But at that point in time, Mi-ja happens to be very soaked in romanticism and even seems like someone who is living a fantasy. Such a moment could happen in real life but it could also be very unrealistic, and it was very hard for me to act that out naturally like my character Mi-ja would.
Senior Reporter : Kang Myoung-Seok two@
Photographer : Chae ki-won ten@
Editor : Lynn Kim lynn2878@, Lee Ji-Hye seven@
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