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Hey, yíall, one of Koreaís top actors is stopping to smell the roses.  Ryoo Seung-beom has steadily made a name for himself by creating unforgettable characters in some very cool films like ARAHAN, CRYING FIST, THE UNJUST, PERFECT NUMBER, and THE BERLIN FILE

Now, as one of Koreaís most sought-after actors, Ryoo has chosen to take a year off to find new inspiration, but not before making a trip to the New York Asian Film Festival to meet fans during a retrospective of his work.  We were fortunate to have this exclusive interview with the elusive star before he stepped away from the spotlight.

Dig it!


Ryoo Seung-beom


The Lady Miz Diva:  How do you feel about having a retrospective of your films in Lincoln Center this early in life?

Ryoo Seung-beom:  Itís funny, no. {Laughs} Itís kind of a point to look back and to summarise what Iíve done before.  Itís very nice to see that, because I would not have a chance to look back in this way, so itís a very good opportunity for me, as well.  And also in Lincoln Center, itís a very nice place, so Iím thrilled.


LMD:  Youíve been making films since you were 19 years old?

RSb:  Yes, since 1999.  I was 19.


LMD:  Did you always want to act?

RSb:  No, not at all.  When I was younger, my dream was in music; to be a music producer or something.  When I was younger I didnít really have a goal, so I didnít do too much.  I would spend the time with my friends out in the street with the skateboards, listening to techno and drinking.  So when I was 19, my brother was offering to make a film together, so I said, ĎWhy not? Just try it.í  After that, Iím an actor.


LMD:  I watched a group of your films to prepare for this interview, and I realised that none of your characters have the same walk, gestures, or posture as the other.  Is that something that comes naturally as youíre reading the script and thinking of who the person is, or do you work on these details in the mirror?

RSb:  It depends.  When Iím reading some scripts, I feel they need something minimal, so I just let it go, but other scripts really need more work for the character, so I talk with the director and get his opinion.  It all depends on the film.  I think thatís why thereís nothing the same, because I always try to find out more by talking to the directors and translating the role in my way.


LMD:  Director E J-yong, who is also here at the festival, talked about his film {BEHIND THE CAMERA} and said some actors were shaken when he expected them to improvise and they couldnít do it.  

Are you happier when you are left to interpret as you like, or do you prefer to follow exactly what a director has in mind?

RSb:  Sometimes I feel like I need to stick to the script and sometimes I donít care.  You know when I work with my brother {Director Ryoo Seung-wan}, my brother is very strict.  

So, if I add something to the character, he wonít use it.  He doesnít want to do that.  Itís just, ďHurry up.  Come on, follow me.Ē  If I tell him some idea, he doesnít care.  ďPlease just keep to my script.Ē  So, actors, theyíre all different. 

It also depends on the director: There are directors who expect more than the script from the actor.  There are directors who expect exactly the same as the script, so it depends on the director.   


LMD:  What youíre saying about working with your brother is interesting, because when I interviewed him, he told me he trusts your ability to analyse a character and make it your own.

RSb:  Itís funny, you know, when he is writing the script, I can talk to him about some ideas; but in the studio he doesnít listen.  Because heís filming and he doesnít have time so he has to make his cuts, so he just focuses on the cut.


LMD:  Are there any particular directors youíd like to work with?

RSb:  The French director who worked with Jim Carrey on ETERNAL SUNSHINE {OF THE SPOTLESS MIND}, Michel Gondry.


LMD:  Youíre known for character roles.  Do you wish to play the Lee Byung-hun, heartthrob-type leading man?

RSb:  Sure, Iím human, so Iíd like to.  Of course, but most of the pretenseÖ  For acting, I donít want to show off for somebody - for actor, for acting.  Acting is acting.  To play some romantic guy, some actor is thinking, ĎAh, some girls will like me. I am really great. Iím a really good womanís guy, you know?í  But it is not my thought.  If I want to do that, if I wanted to act in a romantic script, I have do that, but to show off; I donít care.  It is not my style.  Itís not my business.


LMD:  You put yourself to great pains to embody your characters; earning a boxerís physique for CRYING FIST, or doing the martial arts in ARAHAN, or shooting guns in THE BERLIN FILE.  Is that transformation part of what appeals to you about acting?

RSb:  No.  Itís so hard, you know?  Iím human soÖ  If some director wants to train me like that, or to get more fat, or more thin, itís so hard.  Usually, I donít like to work out.


LMD:  Being so creative with your interpretations, have you ever thought of writing or directing your own film?

RSb:  Of course.  Someday, I will write a script and make something like that.  Iím excited by the arts, not only film.  Someday, I wanna try it.  Itís very complicated now.  My life is so complicated now, Iím confusing all things; even my job, even my future.  Someone asked me my plan; no plan is my plan.


LMD:  Some of your characters are really wretched people.  Are you someone who must find something relatable or humanising about a character in order to play him?

RSb:  Actually, I like playing outsider characters.  In my own life, Iím curious about people like that.  Yes, good characters are good, but they donít work as well for me.  So, when Iím reading some scripts, Iím more curious about the outsider, the bad guy, the loser.  Thatís why I choose the outsiders and the bad guys.


LMD:  Is it difficult for you to shed their skin at the end of the day?

RSb:  Of course, itís work.  Sometimes I have problems with it mentally, but I enjoy it.  It makes me more strong.  I enjoy taking over that moment; fighting with my character and confusing him.  But I really like the way I have to fight with it every day; it works for me.


LMD:  It sounds tiring.

RSb:  Yes, itís so tiring.  I know!  Thatís why I stopped my job.


LMD:  Iím curious now that youíre stepping away from acting, if you have some other creative outlet?

RSb:  I really have no plan.  A year ago, I thought just suddenly, ĎOkay, I have to stop all things,í after then, I wanted to have no idea, no thinking.  I had this moment when I wanted to feel like nothing is mine, for everything to disappear.  After that, Iíll find some next way or next step.  To find myself, first I need an empty box inside: To get rid of everything in my mind to find more inspiration.


LMD:  What inspires you?

RSb:  It depends.  Sometimes itís music.  Sometimes itís philosophy.  Iím really curious about philosophy right now.


LMD:  Which philosopher are you reading right now?

RSb:  {Friedrich} Nietzsche.  For me, everything gives some inspiration; walking, art, food, or even water or rivers, but first Iím really curious about humans: My family and friends, my New York friends, my French friends, my human friends.


LMD:  Mr. Choi Min-sik was a guest at the festival last year and he was just wonderful.  I understand he means a lot to you.

RSb:  Choi Min-sik is my best friend.  We meet each other and talk a lot.  Between him and me, weíre such different people, but he always tells me about good ways.  He respects me, I think.


LMD:  Iím not sure if you were joking, but you were quoted as having an idea about making a gay romance film with Mr. Choi.  Has anyone taken you up on that?

RSb:  Ah, the gay film! {Laughs} Why not?  Iím just waiting.  When I stayed in Korea, we met each other and he talked to me and said, ďHey man, I wanna have sex with girls in the films. Why not have sex with you?Ē I said, ďHey, come on man, that would be funny. Weíd make some kind of shocking comedy.Ē  We were joking, but why not?  At that moment, we were talking about a gay film and making something with my friend Hwang Jung-min, and we would share and there would be jealousy, you know?  That would be funny, you know?  We were just kidding. 

But seriously, I wanna act with Choi Min-sik and Hwang Jung-min for a new way thatís not an action movie, or just a human drama.  Weíve already shot some action and true stories, so to really develop, we have to do something in a new way.  Thatís what I want.


LMD:  With all this talk about your taking this break and putting your career on hold, fans might worry that youíre thinking of quitting acting altogether.  Is that a possibility?

RSb:  I donít know yet.  I think itís not my choice, because I think thatís humanís way.  We canít choose.  Art chose me.  Film chose me.  Itís not my way.  Iím just an actor and just a human.  Iím nothing, but if some script needs me or my wayÖ  Iím just waiting for the contact for acting or art, but I canít decide anything right now.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

June 30th, 2013


Click here for our 2011 interview with Ryoo Seung-wan, brother of Ryoo Seung-beom and director of Arahan, The Unjust and The Berlin File


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