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A star since his bombastic turn in 2001ís legendary action comedy, VOLCANO HIGH, South Koreaís Jang Hyuk has defied categorising; turning in memorable performances in large and small screen dramas, comedies, and romances (And even a hip-hop career thrown in).  With THE KILLER, Jang is transformed into the worldís deadliest babysitter, beginning a brutal hunt after family friendís child goes missing on his watch.

Zooming in the day after the filmís Hollywood premiere, Jang Hyuk chatted with LMD about walking the red carpet, ambitions behind the camera, how much splatter is too much splatter, and the dramatic allure of Rocky Balboa.
(
Mind some minor spoilers about THE KILLER, and...)
 

Dig It!


THE KILLER:

A GIRL WHO DESERVES TO DIE

Actor Jang Hyuk

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Several years ago, I spoke with a young South Korean actor for his first overseas interview.  He had a small role in a film made by a director friend, who set up our talk.  The young actor was very grateful to be interviewed, but before we started, he asked me, ďHow did you know me?Ē  And I told him that I knew him from the rom-com, FATED TO LOVE YOU {aka YOU ARE MY DESTINY}

I had particularly noticed him in that drama because playing against you seemed to bring his game way up.  So, {PARASITEís} Choi Wooshik owes you a lot, Mr. Jang.

Jang Hyuk:  Choi Wooshik?  Ah, thank you so much

 

LMD:  You just had your big Hollywood red carpet premiere for THE KILLER; while on the same day in Korea, your hit drama, BLOODY HEART ended.  How are you feeling about all this excitement around your projects?

JH:  I am so thankful to the responses Iíve received at the premiere here in Hollywood.  I am very excited.  I had never imagined that that many people would come out and support us, and give us positive feedback.  We were thrilled.  I am so thankful for that.

So, I have also had to watch my last episode of BLOODY HEART.  I talked the director of the drama; everything turned out as planned.  That, itself, was very pleasing, and it was excellent.

 

LMD:  THE KILLER is not your first action film.  My first sight of you was in a little movie called VOLCANO HIGH, which gave a big launch to yourself and many other budding superstars.  That film was so far out that MTV dubbed it using hip-hop starsí voices. (With Andre 3000 dubbing your voice.)  Was the action genre what inspired you to want to make movies?  

JH:  The action genre wasnít necessarily the motivation for me to be an actor, but because I became an actor, I had opportunities to star in these action series.  Also, itís not the case that I would be an action movie actor -- I wouldnít call myself exclusively an action actor.  The action genre is something that Iím drawn to, but whatís bigger is for me to be an actor. 

I will balance things out, and I will do other types of acting, along with action.  But one thing I would like to also spend my time on, is developing characters in action films.  So, developing action characters is something I am interested in doing.

 

LMD:  In what way?

JH:  Because in the movie, THE KILLER, I studied from the developing of the movie, developing the action scenes, and acting as the character; so I took part in all these three aspects.  I do have an idea of developing this as a series. 

In Korea, based on these action designs and action film designing, there are so many South Korean actors that are not well-known, but they are great actors.  I dream of developing a project working with these great actors in Korea, who are not very well known.

 

LMD:  You worked with Director Choi Jae-hoon previously on THE SWORDSMAN in 2020.  Was this collaboration different, or perhaps easier?

JH:  Yes, of course, working with him the second time around was a lot easier.  Because when I was developing the script, I thought it would be great to work with Director Choi, so we recruited him. 

We started working together, and I took part in developing the action choreography with our martial arts director.  I was in communication with Director Choi in terms of what kind of colour should we bring out in different scenes?  How we developed different sequences in the movie.

 

LMD:  I love action films and Iíve spoken with enough directors to have learned the maxim of, ĎIf you canít see the actorís face, they arenít doing the stunt.í 

So, either this movie has the best deep fake greenscreening Iíve ever seen, or youíre doing a lot of the stunts, yourself.  How much was actually you?

JH:  99% was me.

 

LMD:  As with Joe Taslim in THE SWORDSMAN, you are working another great action actor in Bruce Khan.  How does working with artists who have real action cinema bona fides change your approach?

JH:  For me, the most important part is how to develop the character.  For me, I need to focus on how convincing the character is to the audience.  And the rest of the performance is to reveal the color of the character.  So, revealing the character, supported by the performances around it.

I have a behind-the-scenes story.  The role that Bruce Khan playedÖ we were actually in communication with the action director for JOHN WICK; his name is David Leitch.  We had a conversation about his appearing in the film, actually, but there was a conflict in his schedule, and he couldnít find time for this. 

Sadly, we couldnít work together for this film.  So, we want to work together with him.  We talked about this again; that we are going to work together.  We donít know when that is going to happen, yet, we were hoping and planning to work together in one frame.  We needed to have another villain for that.  So, to replace David Leitch, we needed to find someone else, and Bruce Khan came in, and fast-forward, it turned out great.

 

LMD:  How did you decide Ui-gangís demeanour?  His heart rate never goes above 80 even when shooting someone point-blank. I donít think he raises his voice one time in the whole film.  Even when being stabbed, heís always calm, no matter what.

Also, I wondered if there was more background on him filmed than what I saw?  Why and how is he the most dangerous person in Korea?

JH:  I think thereís a difference between Ui-gang in real life, and Ui-gang as a killer, because everybody is different in their workplace, and at home.  I thought about what kind of killer he was.  I thought of him maybe like the character in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, a character like that with action performance.  So, I thought he would be very special; very calm and no emotions, with lots of action.  Because I needed to have his motive, we adopted the story about the high school girl who requested for him to kill her.

So, at the end of this movie we tried to have some story about whether the wife knew about any of that?  Well, maybe the wife is the girl in the uniform?  So, we have some of that, with Ui-gang patting her on the back with his hand.  So, it was a big development of mental and emotional growth, too.

 

LMD:  Iím so glad you mentioned that girl. 

JH:  So, do you think that was something that you would have caught... about the girl?

 

LMD: I did!  Before we got on, I actually asked the press team whether or not the girl who Ui-gang was supposed to kill was actually the wife?  The press team was not sure, either, so they said, ďWhy donít you ask?Ē  So, thank you for answering.

JH:  Itís open ended.  Some may think that way, some may not.

 

LMD:  We see Ui-gangís phone when Yoon-ji -- the girl heís looking after -- calls, and sheís listed on his caller ID as ďPunk Ass #5.Ē  His wife explains that this is how he calls their friendsí children, but who are Punk Ass #s 1-4?  Why is he keeping them in his phone contacts? 

Is that the set up for the following films you envision in the series?

JH:  No, it doesnít look as if that is going to be.  The reason that they are listed as Punk Ass #s1-5 is just to show that he has no interest in kids.  Itís like the kind of cold first encounter between Matilda and Leon: In the movie, LEON, you see the lead character always drinks milk, and he has a potted plant, and lives in a weird setting, there.  So, for Ui-gang, he is always drinking lattes, so that was something that we kind of developed.

 

LMD:  In South Korean films and dramas, when someone holding is a knife, threatening someone, the blade is blurred out.  In THE KILLER, when someone gets shot point-blank in the head, thereís blood splatter on the camera lens.  Was there any concern as to how the graphic violence would be received?

JH:  If it was a drama, no, it would be impossible.  Because itís a movie, it is accepted, but if our movie was to be shown on TV, it will be all blurred.  Because it is made for a movie, we focused on just expressing.

 

LMD: Iíve noticed over the last decade or so, thereís been a warm reception to older action stars, maybe even more than younger ones.  Like Robert Downey, Jr. who was close to 50 when he started playing IRON MAN.  Tom Cruise is still making incredibly popular action, and of course, Keanu Reeves starred in JOHN WICK at age 50.  All these men are much closer to 60 than 30.  Despite your youthful appearance, you are in your mid-40s and beginning THE KILLER as a potential film series. 

Do you think thereís a reason why audiences are accepting more mature action heroes?

JH:  I think itís beyond age, I think thatís where it is.  So, Iím not paying attention to how young the character is, but more about how special the character is, or how attractive it is to make the character comes alive.  I think thatís whatís important.  I think itís just the opening of our perspectives of expression; it doesnít have to be a young male hero, you know?  It could be an old guy acting who plays the hero.

So, itís just the opportunity to express that has brought me here.

 

LMD:  Iím still back at the point where you said 99% of the stunts were done by you.  As fans of yours know, you are able to do all types of different genres; drama, comedy, romance, as well of course, as action, but the action in THE KILLER is on another level. 

There are many long tracking shots, or wide-focus scenes where the camera is still while the fighting plays out in front of it.  As we know, quick edits are another trick that filmmakers use sometimes when there stars are not very adept in action, but in THE KILLER, there are a ton of very long tracking shots.  What was the idea behind setting up these long shots, as opposed to shorter, quicker edits that wouldíve given you a break, physically?

JH:  We thought that that was the strength of this movie.  I mean, the CG is well-developed these days, and peopleís eyes are so attuned and accustomed to computer graphics, now.  I thought that the strength that the actor could have is the style of the analog -- excluding the computer graphics.  Thatís like the blue ocean that you see.  So, we it had in mind that we were going to do long shots at different points of the action. 

So, we decided that itís almost like a dance; that thereís rhythm to it.  We incorporated different styles and drumbeats, and all these came together like a dance motion.  I thought it had to be the actor who does it all.  Thatís why we had long shots.

In terms of training, yes, Iím an actor, but Iíve also had training like a professional stuntman.  Because of that background, I was able to show that when we were working on the choreography together.  So, THE KILLER has its points in those things; the long shots, and the real action choreography.

 

LMD: What are some of your favourite action films?

JH: ROCKY!  The reason I like that movie so much is because it was refreshing thinking that a movie like that was made in the 1970s.  That even for a great star like Sylvester Stallone, it was a movie where I could see his desperation.

 

LMD:  He put everything on the line to make that film.

JH:  After the first ROCKY film, I really liked all the other many different movies in the ROCKY series, but I like ROCKY BALBOA.  It was very touching to me, all these years that has passed.  That was the first film that was made after Adrian left.  I really like to see Rocky and his relationship to his child.

 

LMD:  This is a series where the protagonist is a boxer, yet the two films that are your favorites are the ones with more of his character study and the least amount of boxing.

JH:  Exactly!

 

LMD:  Youíre always busy; I have to ask whatís next for you?

JH:  Iíll be shooting a Korean drama called FAMILY.

 

LMD:  Did I hear somebodyís name?  A well-known drama actress?  (I heard Mr. Jang mention Ms. Jang Naraís name, but the interpreter omitted it in her translation)

JH:  Yes, exactly.

 

LMD:  And ending with a tremendously important question; as THE KILLER features a cameo by Mr. Cha Tae-hyun, your longtime friend, who youíve acted with since 2004ís WINDSTRUCK.  Youíve appeared in many of his variety shows.  Iíd like to know between yourself and Mr. Cha, how it is decided who will show up in the otherís projects?

JH:  Itís nothing!  We talk about it.  Iíll just say ďCome over here.Ē  And heíll say, ďOkay, okay, yes, Iíll be there,Ē and thatís it!

 

LMD:  I understand that you will be visiting my city very soon to visit the New York Asian Film Festival.  I hope we can interview again in person.

For this interview I wanted to concentrate more on THE KILLER, but Iíd like to do more of discussion of your career and acting philosophy.  So, please tell the festival, ďI must have a nice long interview with The Lady Miz Diva!Ē

JH:  Ah, yes, I will.  Thank you.

 

~The Lady Miz Diva

June 22nd, 2022

 

THE KILLER: A GIRL WHO DESERVES TO DIE opens in Cinemas in the US and South Korea on July 13th, 2022. Click HERE for US and Canadian Locations.

 

 

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