By Lee Hyo-won
Hallyu princess Jun Ji-hyun
(also known as Gianna Jeon, "My Sassy Girl"
, 2001) and Korea's favorite leading man Hwang Jung-min
, 2007) may seem like an odd pair, but they have one thing in common: superstar power.
The two join forces in "A Man Who Was Superman
", a story about an unlikely " hero " (Hwang), who goes out of his way to help ― or rescue ― the planet by helping senior citizens cross the street and hand-standing in the middle of the road "to push away" the detrimental effects of the sun. Jeon plays the role of Song Su-jeong, a cynical documentary filmmaker who records his story.
A press conference Monday at a Seoul theater buzzed with reporters trying to catch the two stars in the latest work by Chung Yoon-chul
, the director who had the entire nation crying with his tearjerker "Marathon"
The director and actors arrived a little late for the event, and Hwang explained that it was because the emergency exit door was locked. "I wanted to break it down, but I couldn't use my superpower. I can't use it as long as I have kryptonite stuck in my head" he said.
Kryptonite is a fictional substance that weakens Superman's powers in the original American comic series. In the movie, his character claims to have kryptonite stuck in his head, and when Song (Jeon) discovers through an X-ray that there really is something in his brain, she knows she has the story of her life.
"I am Superman, a man who is truly Superman at heart", Hwang introduced himself. Hwang is undoubtedly the most high profile actor in Korea, and revisits fans with a third movie just a few months after "Black House
" and "Happiness"
Although Jeon was regularly seen on TV through various commercials here, she makes an appearance on the big screen for the first time in two years since "Daisy"
(2006). She had also been busy shooting her Hollywood debut piece "Blood: The Last Vampire
For "Superman", the actress cut off her signature long silky hair, and her character even suffers from balding. But Jeon explained that the hair wasn't a problem at all ― it was having to smoke that worried her. "I actually smoked, and it wasn't as difficult as I imagined. But I put health above everything else, and I asked myself if I really had to hurt my health for my career", she said. When asked rather mischievously if she'd choose a sex scene over smoking, Jeon simply said, "I want to shoot movies that I'd be proud to show my children".
But she knew that "Superman" was a big opportunity. "Although luck was probably involved, I think it's destiny for an actor to `meet' new work", she said.
She also admitted feeling a lot of pressure acting opposite her co-star, a bona-fide actor. "But on the first day I met him, I realized that I have much to learn from him, not only from his acting, but also as an individual", she said.
Hwang also complimented his co-star. "I was amazed to see myself make such different facial expressions. But it's because of Jeon. Acting is not something you can calculate, it's a heart-to-heart dialogue, and it was possible because of her".
In fact, there was one scene that required 34 retakes because of Hwang, and Jeon calls this her "triumph. I thought that the great actor Hwang Jung-min
would just need just one go", she joked.
"This movie shows that it's not so difficult or a big deal to make a difference in the world, that we can all become Superman", said the director. "I hope the audience will feel happy while watching the `supernatural' acting of our actors, and realize the potential in themselves".
When asked what they would do if given superpowers, the director said he would help clean the oil spill in Taean, South Chungcheon Province, while Jeon said she would start with the little things in life such as a helping a needy neighbor, and Hwang joked he would turn back time to retrieve money he had lost to a bully as a child.
"I am proud to be able to share the successful `localization' of the American comic strip", said the director, drawing a hearty laugh from the crowd. "Perhaps you can stay tuned for `A Woman Who was Wonder Woman' starring Jun Ji-hyun
in the future".
In theaters Jan. 31.