Korean films boast memorable director-actor combination

September 22, 2016

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) — This fall, Korean audiences will see a host of tested director-actor pairs coming up with new films.

While director Kim Jee-woon teamed up with actor Song Kang-ho for “The Age of Shadows” after three successful ventures, director Kim Sung-soo and actor Jung Woo-sung are getting together after also doing three films together. Other well-known director-actor teams include Yoon Jong-bin and Ha Jung-woo; Ryu Seung-wan and Hwang Jung-min; and Hong Sang-soo and Yu Jun-sang.

“Song is an actor who endlessly challenges his limits although he is already on top,” Kim Jee-woon told reporters after a media preview of “The Age of Shadows.”

Actor Song Kang-ho

Actor Song Kang-ho

Kim said he has always been curious about the actor’s limits since he has continued to show new sides in every film he stars in.

After more than 20 years together, Song said he now feels comfortable working with Kim. “He is matchless in creating original characters,” said the 49-year-old actor.

Their friendship began when then-rookie director Kim hired Song as an assistant actor for his feature debuting film “The Quiet Family” released in 1998.

In the film, labeled a “comical film on cruelty,” Song deeply impressed viewers, appearing as a hot-tempered son with a history of serving prison terms for assault. His excellent performance earned him his first-ever lead role in film as a timid bank clerk who works as a pro wrestler at night in Kim’s second feature film “The Foul King” (2000). The actor filmed the wrestling action scenes without a stunt man. Thanks to his passionate acting, the film was a commercial success, breaking the common notion that sports movies are doomed to failure in South Korea.

Eight years later in 2008, Song returned as Taegu, the weird one, in Kim’s Korean-style Western, “The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” captivating audiences with his unique charms.

Director Kim Jee-woon

Director Kim Jee-woon

And after another eight years, the two put their names together on the credits of Kim’s latest film “The Age of Shadows.”

Song played the lead, Lee Jeong-chul, a talented Korean-born Japanese police officer who is thrown into a dilemma between his duty and supporting a greater cause of helping his Korean compatriots fighting to win Korean independence in colonial-era Seoul. Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 to 1945.

There are several more director-actor pairs boasting long-time ties.

The Kim Sung-soo and Jung Woo-sung pair of the forthcoming crime thriller “The City of Madness” is one of them.

They previously did four films together ranging from “Beat” (1997), a film which made Jung the icon of youth in the 1990s, to “City of The Rising Sun” (1998) and “Musa-The Warrior” (2001).

In the new film set to open on Oct. 28, Jung plays Han Do-gyeong, a cop who engages in all sorts of shady activities for a corrupt city mayor to treat his wife diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“I wrote the script with Jung in mind,” Kim said during a recent news conference for the film. “We met in a film scene for the first time in 15 years as a director and an actor, but didn’t feel any different.”

Director Kim Sung-soo (L) and actor Jung Woo-sung

Director Kim Sung-soo (L) and actor Jung Woo-sung

Director Yoon Jong-bin and actor Ha Jung-woo are well known for their long-held friendship.

Both graduates of Seoul’s Chung-Ang University, Yoon and Ha worked together for the former’s graduate work titled “The Unforgiven” (2005). Ha, who is one year senior to Yoon, majored in drama at the university while Yoon studied film.

The film depicting the irrationalities of the Korean military system drew much media attention in Korea after being invited to the non-competition section of the Cannes Film Festival.

They later did three more movies together: “Beastie Boys” (2008), “Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time” (2011) and “Kundo: Age of the Rampant” (2013).

Last year, Yoon helped Ha in writing the script for “Chronicle of a Blood Merchant,” the second film directed by the actor.

Director Ryu Seung-wan’s latest, “Gunhamdo,” currently in production, is his third film together with actor Hwang Jung-min. Before, they had their names together in “The Unjust” (2010) and “Veteran” (2014).

The names of Hong Sang-soo and Yu Jun-sang together may also sound familiar to most local movie fans.

Yu is called “Hong Sang-soo’s man” as he appeared in six straight titles by the world-acclaimed filmmaker. They are “Right Now, Wrong Then” (2015), “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon” (2012), “In Another Country” (2011), “The Day He Arrives” (2011), “Hahaha” (2010) and “Like You Know It All” (2008).