Actor Choi Min-sik says all of his past films are like ex-lovers. His most recent break-up is the movie "Old Boy," which hits Korean theaters on November 21.
The movie first got public attention because the staff and cast were obligated to sign a contract beforehand, stating that they would be fined if they revealed the ending of the movie. Choi Min-sik stood true to his word and kept his lips sealed. Even when asked what Shakespearian tragedy the movie most resembles, Choi's only reply was, "If I answer that, I might be giving you a hint," and with it an apologetic smile.
"Old Boy" is based on a Japanese comic book of the same name, and is a tragedy about two conflicting men: Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), and Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae). The story begins as Oh Dae-su is suddenly kidnapped while returning home after a drink. Without knowing why, he becomes a prisoner in Lee Yoo-jin's private prison cell, and for 15 years, Oh Dae-su lives on three meals a day of fried dumplings in the cell. Time is the key element to this movie.
"Think how boring it must be," Choi says. "It¡¯s not a prison of beatings or cigarette burns, but of the same repetitive daily experience. That¡¯s what makes Oh Dae-su's life come to a halt."
"People of yesterday and today are victims of violence without knowing who the perpetrator is or why,¡± Choi said. ¡°The movie has limited those 15 years into a little over ten minutes. The pillar of the movie is the after those year, where the focus in on finding the reason for his imprisonment."
Park Chan-uk, the director of "Old Boy" and the films "Joint Security Area (JSA)," and "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," has been Choi Min-sik's figure of admiration. The reason Choi decided to be cast in the movie without even looking at the scenario was because of Park. Choi, who was especially moved by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, said, "I really wanted to work with Park Chan-uk, because he deals with cruelty and cynical humor in a logical and cinematic way in his movies."
On the main character, Choi says, "Jang Seung-up (the key figure of "Chihwaseon") is alive in paintings and historical documents, and Kang Jae (from "Failan") is a gangster figure that could exist in reality. However, I had trouble picturing just what a person would be like after 15 years of imprisonment. Then, I turned the fact over and thought, 'Hey, almost none of the people in the audience will have had the experience of being trapped for 15 years without knowing why.' After that realization, I felt freer in my acting."
Choi Min-sik has been acting for 23 years, making his first appearance on stage in 1981. Asked if he ever feels trapped in his profession, Choi said, "Inside of the works, I feel an unlimited freedom. However, the reality is a prison for an actor. Even if I want to visit the mountains to look at the red autumn leaves, I can't, because people come up to me for pictures. If I ask them to please give me some peace, they call me names and say that I'm arrogant. I can't live my life like a planned scenario."
Working with Park wasn¡¯t as difficult as some might think. "When I'm working with a director, I don't force my own world,¡± Choi said. ¡°A movie is a work of art made by the director. An actor shouldn't try to change the director's world from outside, but rather, the actor must enter the world of the director, like a member of an orchestra would enter the world of the conductor."
(Park Don-gyu, firstname.lastname@example.org)