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The term “God of Acting” gets thrown around pretty freely these days. However, LMD got to meet the real deal.

In his fourth collaboration with Bong Joon-ho, (after MEMORIES OF MURDER, THE HOST and SNOWPIERCER), South Korea’s superstar, Song Kang-ho, exclusively revealed the common man appeal of the Palme d’Or-winning PARASITE, why the director’s relentlessness keeps him coming back for more, and stops to praise a certain interviewer along the way.

(PS Be warned! Song reveals a PARASITE spoiler midway through the second question.)

 

Dig it!

 

PARASITE

Song Kang-ho

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  I was the first person to interview Director Bong Joon-ho during his first US press for THE HOST ten years ago, so I feel like I have been waiting a long time to meet you.  Please tell us what is special to you about your collaboration with Director, and how it has grown or changed from MEMORIES OF MURDER through PARASITE?

Song Kang-ho: Director Bong has received more than twenty years of love and attention from the industry in Korea.  What I really like about him is his realism; his worldview on the society and the people that we live with.  I feel like his views have become more relentless, persistent, and meticulous over the years, and I think PARASITE is really the concentrated result of all those years of effort.

 

LMD:  Are you an actor who has to find the humanity in, or be able to identify with your characters?  What did you find in Ki-taek that you clung to to create him?  What was the aspect of him that stood out to you most?

SKh:  Ki-taek appears to be a bit indecisive, not very able.  He’s certainly not an able provider for the family; but I suspect that he wasn’t like that from the beginning.  That he, like everyone else, always had hoped to provide for the family, to give them a comfortable environment, just like any average guy.  But unlike his intention, or desire to do so, the world was difficult to fight, so he was sort of left on his own, and the odds weren’t in his favor.

So, I think this pessimism on his part, which you really see in the gymnasium scene, where he tells his son that no plan is the best; I don’t think he’s always been like that.  This sort of pessimism comes from a sense of defeat on his part, because he’s never been able to win in the society. So, from my perspective, Ki-taek is actually very average, very ordinary.  So, he might seem like a strange, special character, but I think there were are a lot of aspects in him that are very relatable.

Even his very sudden violence at the peak of the film, stabbing the owner of the house; that looks out of the ordinary, but even that, I felt that there was a certain way in which his actions made sense.  That when his pride was hurt -- the last remaining bits of his dignity and his pride were hurt by the owner’s words -- it wasn’t really out of hatred against the owner, but it was really out of this desperate sense of trying to grab onto the last bits and pieces of his dignity.  It was an expression of that

 

LMD: You clued in on my favourite shot in the movie: It’s the scene after the flood, in the gym/shelter; Ki-woo and Ki-taek are talking in the dark.  Ki-taek, defeated and depressed, tells his son “There is no plan.”  Ki-woo says “Dad, I’m sorry for everything.”  In that scene, I felt like I didn’t see Song Kang-ho and Choi Wooshik anymore; you had transformed into father and son.

I’ve always been fascinated by your acting technique.  Mr. Choi said you stay in character’s frame of mind pretty much for the whole filming.  Does staying in the frame of mind of the character help you to melt into that character’s skin the way you do so beautifully in your films?

SKh:  It’s a trade secret!  {Laughs}

 

LMD: I’ll write it in English, so nobody in Korea can understand it!

SKh: {Laughs} Just kidding!  To be honest, I’m not the type of actor who really goes out of the way and struggles to try to be the character.  But if I am really deserving of such a positive evaluation, which I thank you for, I think it’s less about absorbing myself into the character, but rather I try to understand the larger framework of the film -- the larger narrative.  And I try to think about what is the essence, what is the message that I need to send across to the audience?  So, I think me looking very natural in the character is sort of like a byproduct of that kind of effort.

 

LMD:  The film has been such a huge success in South Korea.  A lot of times when you have a film that holds a mirror up to society, society doesn’t like what it sees, but people are really loving this movie.  What do you believe audiences are responding to?

SKh:  Actually, I think the respect for Director Bong Joon-ho is really huge.  There is always anticipation, excitement, for any new work coming from him.  And to be brutally honest, I think the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival also helped a lot. 

There was almost this national sense of pride that everyone sort of basked in because it was the first time that a Korean film won that prize.  But of the two aspects, I think the former; the trust and excitement about the director was actually bigger.

 

LMD:  I recall there being an interview show where the idol/actor Im Siwan said that you were very open about giving your opinion of his acting, and scolding him a bit.  In my discussions with Choi Wooshik and Park So-dam, they seem to have had the complete opposite experience.  They said that they always felt that you were very open to discussing anything, but you wouldn’t tell them what to do.  You also didn’t let formalities get in the way of communication. 

When you work with younger actors, what is your approach when they come to you and they say ‘Help me,’ or ‘What should I do?’

SKh:  I am very surprised at your questions.  I’ve never met someone who was this detailed and has such a depth in their questions.  I am very impressed by you. {Laughs}

It’s really a methodological difference, if you will, how I approach these different actors.  It’s not a matter favouritism, or the younger actor’s ability, or my evaluation of that, or even my preference: My goal is always to try to help them acclimate to the film, and just help them approach the film in the natural way.  In this case, in PARASITE, I thought it would be more effective for Choi and Park to sort of work their own way towards the film, whereas with Im Siwan, I thought it was more effective to sort of tell him exactly what this focal point is that he needs to focus on.

 

LMD:  I have interviewed five of your directors; Bong, Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee-woon, Lee Joon-ik and Lee Chang-dong.  They are all entirely different in personality, and I hear from other actors that their direction styles are all very different. 

Is there a “golden set” for you?  Are you someone who on feels more creative in a strict tightly controlled environment or do you prize the ability to improvise and create your character freely?

SKh:  There are certainly a lot of differences in their styles in terms of how they communicate with the actors, how they communicate with the audience; so there is no set model that I try to stick to when I act with these different directors.  I try to sort of work with each, knowing their differences in style, and do what’s most effective.

 

LMD:  Finally, right before PARASITE, I saw a film of yours called THE KING LETTERS, which starred the wonderful Ms. Jeon Mi-seon, who tragically passed away recently.  As her colleague and film partner, could you please tell us what made her special as an actress? 

SKh:
  Jeon Mi-seon, she was also very close to Bong Joon-ho.  She’s worked with him in both MEMORIES OF MURDER, and MOTHER.  She was a beautiful and excellent actress, and the great tragedy that happened to her really saddens us in the film industry, and I’m sure in the audience’s, as well.

But, THE KING LETTERS, that movie was not particularly popular, because of some misunderstanding in the director’s part, and in the audience’s.  It met some critical reviews about some sense of history, and the understanding of history.  So, I think it’s a tragedy that the actors had nothing to do with, but it was a tragedy, nonetheless.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

October 9th, 2019

 

Click Here for Our Exclusive Interview with PARASITE Star, Choi Wooshik.

Click Here for Our Exclusive Interview with PARASITE Star, Park So-dam.

 

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Photos  

Exclusive Photos by LMD

Stills Courtesy of CJ Entertainment/Neon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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