Actress Lee Jung-eun Talks About Sudden Fame After 'Parasite' Role

  • By Hwang Ji-yoon

    June 22, 2019 08:27

    Until recently, Lee Jung-eun was an actress whose versatility won her many supporting roles in TV series and films, but who could walk down the street largely unrecognized.

    But things have changed since she starred as a housekeeper in director Bong Joon-ho's much-acclaimed film "Parasite," which won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last month.

    Reflecting on her rising public profile, Lee said recently, "I once went to see an eye doctor and he seemed to be more focused on talking about 'Parasite' than treating my eyes. And I also got a text from an acquaintance I haven't heard from for ages," Lee said.

    Actress Lee Jung-eun poses at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 22. /Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

    "Parasite" was Lee's third project with Bong. The first was "Mother" in 2009. She only had a bit part in that film, but it led to her taking on the voice role of the titular, genetically modified giant pig in the film "Okja" in 2017. To perfect her performance, she even spent time at a pig farm, where she practiced making pig sounds more realistic.

    Lee was offered the housekeeper role in "Parasite" at a preview for "Okja." Bong asked her to "empty [her] schedule for the next year," and days later sent her a storyboard image depicting a character that seemed to be "pushing something" while "being hung on the wall horizontally." She recalled, "The character was in a bizarre posture, which had me thinking a lot of things like, 'Should I learn gymnastics?' or 'Is my character locked up somewhere?'"

    Because her character holds an important key to how the story unfolds, Lee had to decline all interview requests at Cannes to prevent any spoilers. Asked if she regretted not having the opportunity to speak about herself and her role while the film was the center of attention, she said, "Not at all." She added that "I did what was necessary for the film. On the bright side, I was able to relax while I was there."

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