Here’s a good thing about having your favourite people in a project: he is literally everywhere, be it on the television screen or in the magazines. Lee Je-hoon’s goodies keep coming at us, especially with his new movie Phantom Detective coming to Korean screens tomorrow. He is also doing around the cinemas doing stage greetings for the movie screening aside for appearing on a number of shows to promote the movie. Who would have thought that he will be getting himself wet in Running Man, making his appearance again on Happy Together, or showing his refrigerator in Please Take Care of My Refrigerator? Perhaps, the most surprising thing was when he actually talked about his love life on public broadcast and in interviews. While waiting for his appearance in the variety shows, enjoy this interview^^
Lee Je-hoon: I do not get bored.
We met Lee Je-hoon on a clear day at the riverside of the Han River. He had a lot to say, continuously smiling without showing any signs of being bored, even he was alone.
“I only wanted to talk about movies while doing interviews in the past. I was afraid that talking about my personal life might have an impact on the project(s), so I tried to steer the focus towards the character(s). Nowadays, I have become more flexible.”
It seems like you have not taken a proper break at all after Bleak Night and The Front Line. Are you the type of person who gives yourself a hard time? That seems to be the case when I am doing a project. It was worse prior to my enlistment. After completing my military service, I have become a little bit more flexible. I think that if I’m going to do this forever, I should get a firm grip on my own self. Hence, after wrapping up the filming for Phantom Detective last year, I went to Europe and East America.
We heard that you always pick your travel destination randomly. Where was the last place you went to? I traveled to Fukuoka (Japan) with my family. I went there once before for a photo shoot and remembered how nice it was to be there. We have been there for 4-5 times so it has become a familiar city.
Are you the type to take a good rest when you are on a break? I just like to stay idly and quietly. I enjoy that kind of silence. Buying CDs is probably the only hobby I have. Recently, I bought the 1975’s album. I’m listening to that kind of music these days. M83 too. I wonder why The Black Skirts isn’t releasing any new album. (He loves rock music! Hehehehehe)
Your taste is surprisingly light. You seem to be the serious type so we expected to hear you talk about classical music or movie soundtracks (my thoughts exactly). The two words that came to one’s mind when seeing actor Lee Je-hoon were fatigue and insecurity. I do not think much of it when I am working on a project but once it ends, the uncertainty of what is coming next is what makes me insecure. If no one comes looking for me, then it means I will not be able to continue acting, so do I have to stop? Still, I have so many things I want to do.
Is it because you still enjoy acting and find it fun? The thrill of going to the filming set is like being unable to find the answer to a question. Acting can be like solving a problem but it is more like falling deeper into a pit.
How does you escape the fall? I asked a lot. I made sure to ask everyone, from the director, assistant director, scriptwriter, to the staff, on how to do better. At that time, I just put behind my pride.
What is Lee Je-hoon’s pride? My acting career is not that long but it has been 10 years. Things like attitude and pride can be seen through my works. My childhood dream was not to be someone who shines on the screen. I wish that the works I leave behind will survive and become masterpieces. It’s nothing other than being careful.
Lee Je-hoon’s acting is, rather than being animal-like (referring to the instinct), more like a deliberately thought movement and the tone gives off the feeling of wanting to be understood. Don’t you envy actors who move solely based on their instincts alone? For that reason, the person I envy the most is actor Song Kang-ho. I also had those moments of not calculating my move and just pushed forward. But then, acting with that mindset for every project will only invite criticism about stagnant acting. That is my thought. My wish is for my character not to stick out like a sore thumb in the story and the viewers will get the feelings I had when I see the script.
Was it originally like that? I think so. I want to be the project’s tool. I am the type who give the answers that the directors want to see. That is why I intentionally leave out the way of acting I have shown in a particular project when I am doing the next one.
Do you wish to become a new tool to be used for every project of yours? I want to leave one kind of acting exclusively to that particular project. But then, it gets harder to be done. Still, it is alright to do so for now, right? I will also get to learn my own strength and weaknesses.
What is that ‘strength and weakness’ exactly? When something unexpected happens, the absence of standard for response is my strength. Somehow I have this tendency of going opposite of what the public wants. But then, I frequently have the thought of willingly submitting myself to the bar (set by public). The image that the public wants to see in a certain project will be likely be included in it.
Does this mean that the once serious and heavy Lee Je-hoon is getting more flexible? I have decided not to fear the outcome, be it a failure or a success in the end. Until when will I be able to show my good and nice appearance to the public? This is the right time to do so, when I have the chance of opening up in my youth like this.
So, the acting tone you showed in Signal was intentional? It felt a bit over the top in the earlier episodes, although it could be understood when we learned about the complicated wound experienced by the character in the past. Yes. It was not just a simple profiler. Plus, the scenes in the flashbacks were filmed first.
That means from the character’s point of view, he grew and experienced everything in chronological order? Director Kim Won-suk thought that it would be great to express the character as being extremely repressed and deep from the get-go. A character who cannot seem to mix with people and keeps lashing at others. That was why the character entered with a very strong energy in earlier episodes. Just like what the description highlighted, the character ended up living like that. He was catching criminals not because of his sense of duty of as a police officer, but for the sake of his struggle to overcome his own trauma. From the viewers’ point of view, they might be wondering why a character with no history has such an exaggerated personality, or that my acting hinted at something happened to him. It was another trial and error process for me.
Trial and error? But that is the eccentric feeling one has when watching actor Lee Je-hoon acts. There is a reason for you to act it out like that. Did you really think so? The director liked it so much, though.
Signal‘s energy lied in it being a clear drama. The actors, be it the leads or the supporting cast, were all powerful. Being able to act in such project made me feel so happy. I gained experience through acting with those people. When my acting partner concentrated on his/her own part, my acting also turned out differently. It varied according to my partner. Actress Kim Hye-soo had amazing energy but she was normally like a girl. It was so great.
How was it like working on the set of the movie Phantom Detective? I had the chance to work again with the filming director and lighting director, who worked for Bleak Night before. It was the first time I met them in a movie production since then. It was an amazing feeling, to be able to meet again the people who didn’t even get paid and gathered only for the sake of doing a great movie, reuniting with them in such a big production. Director Jo Sung-hee at that time (when he was doing Bleak Night) was producing End of Animal at the academy (KAFA). I used to greet him but now, we were doing a project together. I went straight into filming Phantom Detective feeling burned out right after I wrapped up my drama, but I loved how comfortable the set was. Plus, with the trust I had in the director for having a clear direction for his movie, I could be free (in my acting).
Didn’t you need some time to get into your character properly? It surely takes a long time for an actor to get into the emotions for filming(?). That’s right. In the past, I used to think that everything will be fine if I did a good job acting out my part. But now, my sense of responsibility has grown bigger. I feel curious on how the movie production progresses. Now, it is not right to think, “I can take a rest now since I have done my job.”
There are people with that kind of character who don’t turn out well. In the end, it all goes down to why I did it, because I love acting. I feel happiest whenever I watch the movies at the cinema. It is a good way to relax while getting a dose of thrill and wake-up call at the same time. As an actor, I am still thinking of what attitude I should have to go through this path of being an actor. Should an actor wait for the good words/reviews to come once he joins a good project? I am working hard to find it out myself. I also get worried: do I need to take a break when I can’t find any project that will satisfy myself? I do not think my pride will let me choose the one that stands out the most when I am in that situation. Hence, I am finding out for myself. I write down the items and ideas I have to develop my own direction.
What exactly do you write? It is like a scenario study. I think I should gradually build my own ability.
Do you view yourself as a model student? I am more like a plain no-fun person. But I have never thought of why I am a boring and no-fun person like this.
Have you ever thought of taking a good break from your job before it is too late? I have done so, during my early to mid-twenties. This line of work requires one to be careful but at the same time enjoying being thrown into a crowd (?).
How do you find the weather right now? Spring can make people go crazy. Ever since I started acting, I think I have turned into a more reserved person. But these days, I’m more flexible. Back then, I only wanted to put the spotlight on the characters I portrayed on the screen. I only wanted to talk about movies while doing interviews. I was afraid that talking about my personal life might have an impact on my works.
You once mentioned about your wish to join Infinity Challenge. Do you think you can do it now? I think it is not necessary for me to be too reserved. I might have turned more broad-minded, trying to understand the concept of seeing actors outside their line of work. If it can be of help to the project, shouldn’t an actor be more flexible? But strangely, I turn more serious when I have an interview with GQ. Is it because we see each other often? Haha. I can talk more about the trivial things too.
Credit to GQ Korea