The Amazing Mr. Bin
translation for The Amazing Mr. Bin’s finally completed~ (^^) (_ _);
Written by movie journalist Shin Min Kyung, layout by Naver Movies
Becoming Korea’s most ‘amazing guy’ through [Secret Garden] , Hyun Bin is also the ‘hottest’ actor in Chungmuro (Korea’s filmmaking district) now. [Manchu], his earlier work anticipated by many, is finally released, while the low-profile movie [Come Rain, Come Shine] has brought him onto the red carpets of the Berlin Film Festival. Although he seems to be suddenly thrust into the spotlight within less than 3 months, all these are obviously the afterglow of his determination and hard work. I (reporter Shin Min Gyung) met him in the midst of his murderous schedule before he enters the military in March. While the Hyun Bin in real life gives you a smile like Kim Ju Won’s, the way he works quietly, yet so passionately, makes me think he resembles Gil Ra Im more.
Interview with Hyun Bin in Manchu
“I’m attracted to screenplays with many empty spaces”
Hyun Bin during the cut presentations during last year autumn’s Busan International Film Festival (above), and him in this year’s press conference, together with director Kim Tae Yong and Tang Wei (below)
Q: [Manchu] premiered a little late. How do you feel about a movie you filmed some time ago?
A: I haven’t seen it yet. (This interview was held when Hyun Bin was at the VIP premiere, before the movie was screened – editor note) The first and only time I saw it was during last year’s Busan International Film Festival, but I heard the director has re-edited it. So today I shall view the re-edited version during the VIP premiere. I don’t think I can tell you now what I feel about it, I can only say I feel regretful.
From an actor’s point of view, if a movie doesn’t rise to the surface of the water (i.e. be presentable, for the sake of premiering in time), then the kind of acting I did during that time will be acceptable. The acting I had done, under those circumstances, in order to be able to be shown as soon as possible, I would be able to relate to the movie, but now (due to the delayed premiere) I feel regretful this way. Although, from a result-oriented perspective, because of [Secret Garden] (2010), there should be some increase in movie viewers (laughs), I think. You can say it’s the greed of being an actor, but while I did my best to act the role of ‘Hoon’ during the filming of [Manchu], I believe if I act the role again, there will probably be a different ‘Hoon’.
Q: Every time you choose a project, I heard that you often choose them based on their business potential. How do you think [Manchu] will appeal to viewers?
A: Isn’t the presence of Tang Wei enough? (laughs)
Q: Hyun Bin is in it too. (laughs)
A: As long as Tang Wei and Director Kim Tae Yong are in it, it will be good enough… (laughs)
Filming location photographs: Hyun Bin and Tang Wei (above), Hyun Bin and Director Kim Tae Yong (below)
Q: From the actor to the director and the production staff, it feels as if [Manchu] is made up of a dream team.
A: I met really outstanding staff. To have notable figures from the film industry, such as for photography (Kim Woo Hyung), art direction (Ryu Sung Hee), costume (Cho Sang Kyung), make up (Song Jong Hee) among others, it gives great strength to the production. I’m sure that viewers will enjoy the visual aspects of the movie. Add to that the meeting between a man and a woman of different cultures and languages, of how a closed-up man opens (the heart of) a closed-up woman, I think that is a very charming story.
Q: I’m curious how the actual casting circumstances were like.
A: From what I know, Tang Wei agreed to be in this since a long time ago, and has always been on a standby status. I received the screenplay while I was in Japan, and found it interesting. Although while it was interesting, the screenplay was very thin (few pages), as if it was written purely for reading pleasure. (laughs) But despite it’s thinness, I felt there were many empty spaces within, and thought it would be quite interesting if I took the role. So after I returned to Korea, I went to the office directly from the airport to meet Director Kim Tae Yong.
After talking to him during the meeting, I found out that there were parts where we thought similarly. The director had asked, “If we did the project like this, like that, would you like it?” I like this (way of working). It was how things went during my theater days too. Immediately after I said I liked it, he told me to go to the States as soon as I can. And I really did. Reaching Seattle in October 2009, except for a few days of special schedule that I returned to Korea, I stayed there till March (2010).
Q: In the movie, Seattle is portrayed as a city shrouded with fog. Although understandably, there will be enhancements by CG, but the place clearly has an atmosphere that cannot be found in Korea. While in Seattle, were there any aspects that particularly touched you emotionally?
A: Firstly, from a positive point of view (laughs), Seattle heightens my sensitivity. Being called the city where music has taken root, there are many live performances everywhere. I also had beer with the director at a live bar while talking about various stuff. While observing the people there, they seem to have a certain relaxed look that people from our country don’t. Because of that, I guess I felt more relaxed and peaceful, as well as heightened sensitivities.
From a negative point of view, Seattle is the city that Americans most want to live in, yet is also the city that has the highest suicide rate. Seriously, in (Seattle’s) winter, it’s like in the movie where the rain drizzles neverendingly. While Seattle was primarily chosen to capture that kind of backdrop, the city also gave me a feeling of loneliness. Of course this feeling helped to immerse me in my character, but personally I don’t really like rainy days. Except when drinking wine. Because of these reasons, I get this growing feeling of being trapped (when I was in Seattle).
Q: [Manchu] is a movie about what happens when a man and a woman of different nationalities and cultures meet. If the actress who acted opposite you wasn’t Tang Wei but was a Korean actress instead, I think you wouldn’t be able to portray the kind of feelings that the movie character had. Would those feelings be described as a strange sense of different-ness*? What kind of feelings did you experience while acting with Tang Wei opposite you?
* or a sense of foreign-ness, alienation from another culture
A: Firstly, I enjoyed it. Earlier, I had enjoyed watching [Lust, Caution] (2007), and I think she’s a really great actress. It is fortunate and very meaningful to be able to work with a person like her. Of course, there was a sense of different-ness* initially. And the fact that our dialogues were in English. Besides being actors, I had totally nothing in common with Tang Wei at all.
Tang Wei used to joke during interviews that I tried to avoid her when we were together, (laughs) but I didn’t mean to do that at all. Anyway compared to what appeared on-screen, the feeling of different-ness* was stronger off-screen. Despite this, while reading our scripts, talking to the director or having drinks etc, these activities continued to break the barrier of unfamiliarity between us, until the point where we laughed even while filming the most serious of scenes.
Q: Did these difficulties arise because of Tang Wei, or are you usually like this when with other actors?
A: My character has always been one who shies away from unfamiliar people. But during this movie, I had done my calculations somewhat as well. To portray the awkward relationship between Anna and Hoon when they first met, then it should be this way in real life as well, that’s what I thought. I even thought of not meeting her (Tang Wei) before the first filming started. (laughs) Except when we had to do script readings or hold discussions with the director.
I was like this while filming the drama [Friend, Our Legend] (2008). There were 20 episodes, and we started filming the adult scenes in the later part of the drama. At that point of the drama, the setting was that the relationship between Dong Soo (Hyun Bin) and Jun Seok (Kim Min Joon) was not good. In real life, I didn’t know Min Joon hyung very well, and the same for Min Joon hyung about me too. I also tried to do the same in this drama, but others said that it wouldn’t work. Instead, it is better to get closer to each other so that the we can synchronise with each other’s acting, and that’s what the director also suggested too.
In Tang Wei’s case, I became closer to her than I had expected, although with Korean actors I could share deeper conversations regarding the character or scenes. Anyway with this problem of language barrier between us… (laughs) I guess because of that we couldn’t get certain aspects across to each other.
“To express emotions through English, it was a painful, excruciating process“
Q: Did the burden of using English dialogue have any effect on your acting in the movie?
A: Yes, many times. It had the biggest impact. Relationships between people can be resolved over time, but language depends on yourself (to be resolved). What’s more, if moviegoers feel repulsed by this part (language), then no matter how well the movie is filmed, it’s useless. Even if the movie was filmed using our own language, it could be difficult to express the emotions 100%. To convey emotions using a language that I’ve never used before, it was excruciatingly painful and difficult.
Because of that I went to the U.S. earlier, and attended a school to learn from an English teacher every day. Also at the filming locations, there will always be a coach who is always helping to correct our language. We continued this way, and for the parts which weren’t satisfactory, they were re-worked when we returned to Korea. Truthfully speaking, I’m curious how the viewer reactions will be. Of course I hope I did well, but my (language) abilities are limited… but I feel that I did the best I could.
At the filming location, language was Hyun Bin’s biggest burden.
Q: But your English sounds pretty fluent. (laughs)
A: That’s why I’m curious. I as a Korean, acting in a movie directed by another Korean, Director Kim Tae Yong, how will the audience react to this movie that will be viewed like a foreign movie. Like other foreign movies, it will be viewed with subtitles, and I hope the audience won’t feel alienated by it.
Q: Well, people might question it like this – Isn’t Hoon’s English too perfect? Shouldn’t his grammer be a bit looser, not so sleek?
A: Regarding this, it was a difficult issue that we discussed much, between the director and me. Originally the English in certain paragraphs should be expressed in a more colloquial manner, the kind of English Americans speak nowadays. But wierdly somehow, I pronounce difficult (English) words better than the easy ones. (laughs) That’s how this problem (reporter’s question) arose. Thus while we were working in the US, the troubling question of “What should be Hoon’s English standard if he just spent a few years in the US?” started, and the appropriate vocabulary and language style for Hoon’s dialogues were all considered in detail.
With all that resulting in the final script of English said by Hoon in the movie, I felt that it’s unnecessary to speak the lines in a looser way. Because Hoon’s job is to make women happy. I thought – if that’s what he does, wouldn’t this guy try to be as fluent as possible?
Q: In the movie, we only get to see 3 days of Hoon. But what happened to this guy that brought him to the US, and why did he end up doing that kind of job – this guy must have had some kind of past, right? When you first attempted the character of Hoon, did you give this character a background story to work from?
A: Rather than a story, I spent more efforts thinking about the situation of each scene. Hoon’s job (he does anything for women, in return for money) involves a lot of interaction with women, and he has to deal with unexpected situations with a lot of flexibility*. This was one of the most common topic I discussed with the director, and the word that the director said the most to me was that – “flexibility*”.
*유연함 – the word is literally ‘flexibility’, but on a human dimension, it also involves ‘tenderness’, ‘yielding’ ^^;
In the movie, nearly every situation that Hoon is in seems to be unexpected. Rather than making calculated moves, Hoon is always improvising on the spot – what happened, who it is happening to, what Hoon has to do to whoever it is – Hoon is always using his flexibility to deal with them. Therefore, rather than Hoon’s past, I thought more about Hoon’s reactions to the present.
Q: There were 2 scenes in [Manchu] that left a deep impression for me. The first is the scene where Hoon got into a fight with Anna’s ex-lover over a fork. It was funny, yet bitter. It could be regarded as the scene which had the most laughs during the press conference too. The other scene is the kiss scene in the later half of the movie. That painstakingly, beautifully shot scene will definitely be well-remembered in the film history of Korea. When you were filming the kiss scene, what kind of tension was experienced, what kind of feelings did you have to get into the scene?
A: First of all, I think the weather in the background helped a lot (for us) to capture the emotions. For me, I listened repeatedly to music that matched the scene at the filming location. Together with Tang Wei and the director, the three of us discussed much about that scene too. It took the longest time to capture the emotions of that scene. The fork scene was also a very great scene. When watching the movie in its entirety, that was one of the longest scenes, and I guess the scene where the most number of characters appeared. That scene was the funeral of Anna’s mother, and there were many dialogues from different characters, and because of that we had to rehearse the scene one day before filming, at the filming location. It was a scene that had the most thorough preparations.
Hyun Bin and Director Kim Tae Yong during the filming of [Manchu] (above); Hyun Bin and Director Lee Yoon Ki during the filming of [Come Rain, Come Shine] (below). Since filming [I’m Happy] with Director Yoon Jong Chan, Hyun Bin worked only with scriptwriter-directors like Kim Tae Yong, Lee Yoon Ki.
Q: Director Kim Tae Yong is well-known as one for films with much delicate sensitivity, as all his many mania female fans can attest to. Would you like to share anything new you learned while working with him?
A: The love he has for his works, that passion, I think that’s the greatest (thing I learned). In this movie, the production towards the later half was quite prolonged, but he continued working on it, again, and then again. (laughs) The way I see it, till the director is satisfied, it will take a pretty long time to finish it. Till the day of the movie opening, he will always been editing the parts which he feels is inadequate, he will do that with a smile and finish it with much happiness. I feel that he is a really great director, because that process is really difficult (referring to re-editing of film before it’s release). A good-natured obsession? A kind-hearted greedy pig? (laughs) Really, the director’s a very nice person. But the way he only allows for the best, towards the very end of the project, that’s something I really want to learn from him. Though there are times when I also wish he would stop being that way too. (laughs)
Q: Was there any scene which he persistently re-filmed many times?
A: Of course there were scenes which he wanted to do so. (laughs) But because of the unique circumstances, of being in America, that couldn’t be done even if you wanted to. As I look at the director, one thing I feel regretful for him is that originally he didn’t wear a watch at the filming locations. But after a while, I noticed there was a watch on his wrist. Every scene of filming became a financial consideration, everything seemed to have become structured into a system, and thus the director had no choice but to compromise within those circumstances. I guess if the director could film till he’s really satisfied, even one day wouldn’t be enough to film each scene alone. (laughs)
Q: While on the topic of stubborness, [Come Rain, Come Shine]’s Director Lee Yoon Ki shouldn’t be belittled as well. (laughs)
A: Ahhyooo~ (‘oh my~’) Of course. Both of them are close friends actually. (laughs) While I was working with Director Lee Yoon Ki in his movie, what was interesting were the times when there were scenes which had to be filmed ‘One-Scene-One-Cut’ (scenes which must be perfect after just one take, maybe because of certain limitations), and that happened quite frequently. I also filmed ‘One-Scene-One-Cut’ many times, it was refreshing for me. Also because of the way the director trusts his actors, and give them much leeway (to do what they want).
Hyun Bin during the filming of Manchu
Q: You filmed [Come Rain, Come Shine] with ‘no guarantee’ (no compensation). Which aspects of the film attracted you such that you wanted to commit to this film?
A: Up to now, I’ve always been selecting works that I want to act in. [Come Rain, Come Shine] is also one of those works. But I’ve no idea. Frankly, in a situation like mine, I do watch many big-scale movies, with dazzling scenes. But there are also smaller movies or art movies, movies that earn much less than blockbusters but which are calm, more subdued, yet meaningful. I feel that without these kind of movies, blockbusters won’t exist as well. If movies released everyday consists of mostly blockbusters, action movies, captivating trailers, then people will be overwhelmed (negatively). Thus I believe it’s better to have movies with all sorts of themes and genres.
[Come Rain, Come Shine] is that kind of movie. It is interesting, the way it portrays the feelings of a man and a woman as they face a separation. The persistence of Director Lee Yoon Ki had also been very … (laughs) But I really appreciated that too. That’s why I chose this film. As I’ve said in another interview, I’m not being charitable here. Acting is my profession, that’s why there must be a form of compensation for it too. However, here appears a film with a good idea. Of course, If I were to immediately reject this offer because I had financial difficulties, that’s another matter altogether. But to be part of a film by someone who wants to produce something out of a good idea, I liked it. Of course, if it goes on to help my career, that would be good too.
“I hope to be able to separate work and privacy, but it’s not easy”
Q: In the drama [Friend, Our Legend], although your character was quite masculine, the rest of your works mainly portray you in more feminine roles. If any similarities were to be seen from those roles, that may probably mean you yourself are attracted to those certain characteristics.
A: Well. From a wider context, the reality is that there are many more melodramas and love comedies available than dramas from the ‘macho’ genre. But I guess for me, the only reason is that I just miss the timing to get the more masculine roles. It’s not that I only pick roles from a certain genre, rather, I’m always thinking that I should have done certain roles that I did not get to do. I pick works because at that time when I learned about it, I felt it was interesting, that’s how I end up doing it. If the timing is right, I would do noir or action dramas.
A: Nope (laughs)
Q: So what should one do to be able to act so well in crying scenes?
A: Frankly, crying scenes are difficult. What I had learnt initially, it was medicine turned poison for me (well-meaning advice that doesn’t work). When I started my acting career, I was told that you must really cry when filming crying scenes. That you must cry your own real tears, that any conscious crying will look artificial and will not be acceptable. I’m not sure but I think this way of crying only resulted in me being very exhausted. To tell the truth, it’s possible to excel in a crying scene not through your real tears but by technique. So while I didn’t start out like that, now I have realized (the latter way).’
Also there are various ways of crying. And there are many ways of expressing yourself in a crying scene. During the World Cup, it really struck my heart while watching [Lee Kyung Kyu Is Going There]. (It’s so touching) My tears just flow. Tears of happiness, those tears. I felt I must try to express it differently this time. That’s why when Juwonie was crying while writing the letter, whether it was the breathing, the handling, the sound of crying, I think I expressed them all somewhat differently. Normally I don’t cry easily. (laughs)
Q: So what were you like as a kid?
A: Just like the others. Playing pranks, and then getting huge scoldings for it. I was a kid who loved playing and sports.
Q: I heard that you liked theater since your first year in high school, which subsequently changed your career path. Was that due to the environment you were in, or because of a certain impact you experienced?
A: After entering high school, we had to participate in club activities, and I entered the (theater) club after a senior from my middle school told me to. Initially I just did what my seniors ordered me to do. But our school participated in a national theater competition every year. The competition was held in a university, for people who loved theater, who wanted to pursue theater as their future goal. During preparations for it, I moved props in the background and appeared as extras in the performance, and gradually became interested in it. Also we held an event in the high school every year. It’s like a school arts festival where we held theater performances, and was very interesting. The times when we rehearsed were fun too.
No matter how I look at it, I’m an introvert and can’t express myself well. But after the performance ended and I heard the audience applaud, I thought to myself, “What’s this?” When my parents found out I was doing theater, I was in trouble, but even then, I’m not wavering on what I want. I continued to lied to my family and went to the theater rehearsal rooms. I realized that ‘I’m doing this not because someone is forcing me, but because I want to do it’, and thus I decided I must do this. Even if I were to regret this later, rather than being a disappointment to anybody, to me it will always be something I wanted to do, and that, I did.
Q: As you said earlier, Hyun Bin you don’t seem to be an extrovert. Thus, some have noted the similarities between Hoon’s introverted personality and yours. Anyway, it is quite a good thing to see people making films meet up with one another. I heard that early this year, Senior Park Joong Ho held a new year party at home, inviting several actors. Do you like these kind of gatherings?
A: Yeah. I really like it, it is not an uncomfortable situation, it’s similar to golf or baseball, where one perspires and holds a natural (relaxed) conversation with other people. Of course, when I first attended gatherings like these , it was difficult, but after continuing to meet, even just seeing one another is good enough. Of course these people look at me on TV or on the screen and say “Wah~” But, like this meeting we are having now (for the interview), there seems to be some kind of communication and understanding between us, to me, it is a place I like to be in. That’s why I like it. When my seniors ask me out, I will try all means not to miss it.
Q: During those gatherings are you the youngest, Hyun Bin?
A: Yeah, I’m the youngest. Though I have no idea till when will I continue being the youngest. (laughs)
Q: What do you guys usually talk about?
A: Well, we’ll talk about our experiences, we also talk about movies. And books. We talk about various stuff.
Q: When you are tired from work, there will be times when you need to have certain hobbies. Hyun Bin, do you have other interests apart from work?
A: I like traveling. Though of course I travel to take a break and rest, I usually travel after I’ve just finished a project. It is during this (traveling) break that I can detach myself from the character I was in previously. Besides traveling, there isn’t anything else that I’m especially interested in. I just continue working, and if not, I’ll probably be thinking about what I’m working on.
Q: Since [My Name is Kim Sam Soon] (2005), you have once again rose to new heights of popularity with [Secret Garden]. Though acting can be described as a job of self-expression to the world, on the other hand it seems like a job where one must be able to conceal parts of yourself from the public. Hyun Bin, how much percentage of yourself do you feel and think you are expressing in your life right now?
A: Well, it’s hard to give you an absolute figure, I just give my best in front of the camera and aim to express as much as I can. While I aim to improve further in the future and gain more experience, I feel that I have expressed whatever I can up to this present moment. However regarding my privacy I hope to be able to conceal more. I hope to be able to separate work and privacy, but there are times where it’s just impossible to do so. I guess our country is not yet able to do that. We are not like Hollywood, where gossip is viewed merely as gossip. It is fine if good intentions enable us to receive support and concern, but there are times when that isn’t the case, and it’s those times that I wish I could have the power to block it. Currently, I figure the public media doesn’t know my private life, not even 10% of it.
Q: When you are in the military, wouldn’t the public interest in you be blocked (by the military)? (laughs)
A: Yes it will. …but can it really be blocked? (laughs)
Q: With your popularity now, that might be impossible. (laughs) Anyway, we hope you will come back from the military healthy and well.
A: Ahhyooo~ (‘oh my~’ ^^) Thank you. Have a happy new year!
Indulge me… ‘cos I really love this pic~ ^^; You can also click here for a bigger 800 x 600 version~ ^-^
“Is this the best? Are you sure?”