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To some, ‘Single Rider’ may become life-long favorite: actor Lee Byung-hun
SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) — The forthcoming Korean film “A Single Rider” would provide a rare chance to see an authentic and sentimental performance from actor Lee Byung-hun.
He plays the role of Kang Jae-hoon, a middle-aged “goose father” who heads a regional branch of a stock-trading company in Seoul. Goose fathers refer to men who are left behind to work in Korea to pay for their families to live and study abroad.
After losing everything due to bad loans, Jae-hoon travels to Australia to meet his family there. He, however, gets suspicious of his wife being unfaithful and starts watching her from a distance, only to confront a shocking truth.
“This is the kind of work that I never wanted to miss,” Lee said as soon as he sat together with film reporters for a group interview at a Seoul cafe.
“When I first read the screenplay, I had no expectations that it would be another 10-million film,” he said, emphasizing that his choice of the film has nothing to do with its commercial potential.
In South Korea, average-budget films with more than 10 million views are considered a huge box office success.
Then what elements of the film have shaken the top actor’s mind so much?
He singled out the movie’s screenplay written by its director Lee Joo-young with help from the internationally-acclaimed Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong of “Poetry” (2010) and “Secret Sunshine” (2007). “I was just drawn by the story’s overall sensibility and atmosphere.”
Jae-hoon is an everyman character that is in stark contrast with Lee’s previous roles as a political thug Ahn Sang-gu in “Inside Men” and Jeong Chae-san, leader of a group of Korean independence fighters in “The Age of Shadows” and Chairman Jin, the con artist in “Master.”
In A Single Rider, Lee’s Jae-hoon looked so helpless when he was slapped in the face by angry customers as he was on his knees in a gesture of deep repentance and moved about the neighborhood even after observing his wife smiling at the man living next door.
“I don’t know what I would do if it were me 10 years ago, but now I’m more like Jae-hoon,” said the 46-year-old actor, adding that people change as time goes by. “I let everything go and fall into low spirits when faced with certain situations (of crisis) these days, thinking like ‘What can I do in this situation?’ That’s why I really empathize with Jae-hoon.”
Lee said he finds it more difficult but interesting to do a drama film like A Single Rider that follows a character’s subtle emotions rather than action movies.
“Visual elements take up a lot of spectacle films, but movies like this one lose big if its main actors’ tone of subtle emotions vary depending on their physical conditions. So I get more sensitive than usual when I have to shoot this kind of film.”
Filming of A Single Rider was demanding because it featured many close-up headshots of Lee. He appears in more than 90 percent of the whole film.
“I expected to be able to refresh myself while filming in Australia, but it was harder to work there because I was not given days off.”
The actor praised the film during the entire one-hour interview, showing a strong affection for it.
“I don’t think it would be fun for everyone. But for some viewers, I think it may become his or her life-long favorite,” he said.
A Single Rider opens in local theaters on Wednesday. It is the second Korean-language film produced and presented by Warner Bros.