Well, it sure takes a long time for me to complete the translation this time, but it’s finally here! CeCi courted Lee Je-hoon for a laid back pictorial and interview which felt more personal than ever, and of course, with less restriction and more fun! He was not promoting anything at the time of the interview, having concluded his promotion for Phantom Detective recently and taking his sweet time going through scenarios, weighing in his next project. He has made his decision to star alongside Shin Min-ah in the time-traveling romance Tomorrow With You, slated for 2017 airing date on tvn. That will be his comeback drama and his return to the Fri-Sat slot on the channel, one year after Signal. Another special thing about his appearance on CeCi this August is he is featured on the cover for Korean and Chinese edition of the magazine. Check out the interview!
The Words Lee Je-hoon Have Never Heard Of
To Lee Je-hoon – who had always got questions related to movies, dramas, and acting directed at him – we threw questions without any limit. Because he is a man everyone want to get know and see more of, also the dream guy of many women.
Lee Je-hoon’s burning popularity at the moment is not something that is like steam which will vaporize in an instant. His last drama Signal lingered in people’s memory like cold breeze; even though his first movie after his military service Phantom Detective brought another wave of acknowledgement that is rather late for him, the public recognition he has earned is thick and vivid, as if it can be held in hands. It is not the time for him to promote any of his new project, but he does not need any justification to pose in front of the camera, doing his role as the cover model of CéCi August 2016 for South Korea and China editions. Although he has never portrayed a tsundere male lead in a romantic comedy who captures the hearts of many women through his sweet image, Lee Je-hoon has become a boyfriend material; a dream guy to many women. Unlike the typical process an actor had to go through to receive love widely, Lee Je-hoon’s current popularity is an even more interesting case. His portrayal of Sung-min in the movie Introduction of Architecture was that of a timid and nerd guy, while Jae-hyuk in the drama Fashion King was a child who did not even know his own feelings. Still, Lee Je-hoon’s pictures have become the choice to be featured on many messenger profiles belonging to women (I’m guilty of this too ^^;), cementing his status as the icon of ‘boyfriend picture’ (namchinjjal). He has the feeling of a boyfriend ‘who cannot be found anywhere, no matter how hard we try’ to him.
After several days of heavy rain throughout the country, it still rained on the morning of the photo shoot day. We greeted each other, meeting each other for the first time after a while, and it was apparent how glad he was from his refreshing smile. One would feel like being crushed under the humid weather just from standing up doing nothing, but his smile is like a fluffy white t-shirt being dried under the sunlight. That was it. The 33-year old man’s boyish smile showed that his nose was not the only thing we have to thank his parents for (HAHAHAHA this editor is so funny!). The actor’s appearance on several variety shows unveiled another side of him – feeble and full of cuteness – that showcased his innocent charms even more. The word feeble does not have a positive definition in dictionary but it could be passed in this case as ‘He is so cute we do not know what to do!’. Although he is not changing his method of communicating with the public in total, he had tasted the joy of letting loose. If his project is regarded as a greenhouse where he grows up with stability, it is like having him taste the fun of playing outside the greenhouse. Although he introduced himself as a no-fun person, complete with the expression of a returning student who learned a new internet slang, he successfully did his part wittily in the program, if we are to look at it from a strategic point. The viewers were also willing to go crazy for it. He had been shown properly how to put down and shake off everything, having conversations freely with smiles. To the actor, who has always given sincere and serious answers, we threw silly questions; and that was also the reason we included personal questions (in the interview).
We were planning to go to various places in the city of Seoul with you so that you could show your personal side better. But the rain changed everything. Do you have any recollection of the moment you were soaked wet because of the rain? During middle and high school, I would play soccer with my friends after school. I can still remember that even if it was raining just like today, we would run intensely, protecting the ball from being snatched by the rival team players, without caring about out soaking wet clothes or the puddles.
We heard that you loved Hong Kong and had visited the place several times. However, won’t you get tired of it if the weather is humid just like today? It’s the same in Hong Kong and in Paris, when I visited there July last year. It was the hottest day in the history and I thought that it was just like going to a sauna when I went out to the streets. But then, everyone went about just like nothing happened. Unlike my usual reaction, wishing that I could go home when it was too hot outside, I didn’t feel like going inside at that time. Maybe I just accepted the situation there.
So you’re not the type who would complain and grumble? I have never experienced something which drove me to express my dissatisfaction openly. I would try to change the situation, like in this case (of the chance in filming plan) and for something that could be changed, but if it couldn’t be helped, I would accept it naturally.
Your scholarly image had grown so strong that you kept mentioning about your wish to let it go and replace it with a corrupted image. (laughs) But then, that kind of transformation attempt might not translate well. Still, as an actor, there was not much exposure on how human Lee Je-hoon was really like outside the images I portrayed through my projects. Hence I did have a thought: would changing my image gradually or living without real goal become a disturbance to my line of work? I would worry whether I would be able to portray a devious and twisted character when I took that kind of project. I think that it won’t be fun to greet the public only with the gentle and scholarly image alone.
You have appeared on several variety programs. Although those were promotional appearances, you have shown another side of you, which was plotting your own changes. Wasn’t it different for you few years ago, when you felt that keeping your real self to your own as something cooler? In the past, I was scared that doing so would affect the characters I portrayed in my projects, hence I was reluctant to reveal the personal side of Lee Je-hoon (as a person). I wanted to be seen as the character(s) I portrayed wholly. But then, when I witnessed how the public was able to distinguish different images of mine inside and outside my projects, I could feel that they won’t link the daily man Lee Je-hoon with the characters I would portray. Even if I used to spare and be constantly mindful of myself, my thought had changed to this at the moment: ‘Just follow the flow. Everything will be okay even if you proceed comfortably.’
Does that mean that you have changed your way of communicating with public? ‘If I continued to live like a flower in a sheltered environment, would it be possible for me to enjoy life as a normal guy Lee Je-hoon?’ I thought a lot on that. Despite the risks, I’m exploring new things while slowly shedding the previous image that I had in the past, and I’m actually enjoying the gradual transformation which feels natural to me. There are famous people who prefer to follow the traditional way of doing charity work in complete secrecy, but it’s different for me; I wanted to share with more people about it (the charity work). Although I don’t have that huge influence, it would be enough if the level of awareness would rise, and I, too, would be able to grow from the experience I gained through the work.
It took some time for you to receive this kind of hot reception from the public after your discharge from military service. Didn’t you have any worry regarding that before? Of course, I did worry about it, not for the short-term goal but for the long-term one. If I pour all the energy I have for the short-term goals, what would I do for the remaining time of my life? Would I break down exhausted despite my wish to continue acting in the long run into my 50s and 60s? I often have these kind of thoughts, even while picking my projects. There are wider choices and a variety opportunities these days, but I will proceed with a calm heart, in order not to let my values be shaken and for me to continue to do well.
So you are not someone who would make hasty decisions then? I always have this kind of thought in the past: those were the times when appearing in a one-act or indie movies would make me so excited, but I also used to imagine how happy I would be if I got to land a lead role in a drama or a movie. I am so thankful for the opportunity I get at the moment. Hence, I have the responsibility to show better acting and story. It is important to leave behind projects people would still watch even in the future and projects that I won’t be ashamed of, so I am being more cautious in choosing my prospective projects.
The relationship between an actor and the public, also the projects is like a recurring push and pull one. Didn’t you feel upset regarding Phantom Detective‘s box office records? You were a hot commodity after Signal. Rather than feeling upset, it was the feeling that I had while filming the movie: I could never guess what would come out from the movie. I treated it as something I won’t feel embarrassed with, and it left me with a sense of satisfaction and excitement. It was a pity that my wish to see more people turning up to see the movie didn’t come into reality, but I have at least carried out the responsibility to choose a project that would someday gain praises from future re-evaluation despite not receiving immediate attention right now. I think this will another important factor for me in considering future projects. We can’t predict how everything will turn out in the end, hence I will need to be colder when looking at reality. I should have better understanding on the cause by not only focusing on acting, but to try learning how to evaluate external factors, like wondering if there are any parts that I can do better. I do consider this: would it be better for me to know general things about how the story is brought into fruition in order for me to get into character easier? Of course, acting it out well is still important.
You don’t have any SNS accounts and we heard that you have an analog dial phone at home. Most people these days communicate through SNS, so how do you do so with your closest pals? Do you often make calls to them? I usually use smart phone so I use messages and also phone calls to communicate with them. When I’m home, I’m comfortable using the dial phone. I love listening to music, so I use streaming service, but it can’t beat the happiness I have when I listen to the CDs I bought. My fans who were aware of my hobby gifted me with a turntable/ LP player for my birthday, and my interest has grown into another. I think I will slowly fall into the charms of listening to LP records.
We asked for a romance movie recommendation from you prior to this photo shoot and you chose Punch, Drunk, Love. Is there any special reason for you to do so? I went to Hawaii for a photo shoot recently and continued staying there with Director Yoon Sung-hyun for a few days after the shooting ended. The hotel we stayed in happened to be the exact hotel which was featured in the final scene as well as on the poster of the movie. I’m a huge fan of Director Paul Thomas Anderson and I’m carefully choosing a love story for my next project, so it felt like I was destined to be at the place (laughs). Director Yoon and I were so ecstatic: we took a lot of photos and watched the movie again while discussing things like how they filmed the scene and wondered how it would be different with different techniques. It was a really fun experience.
Looking back at the movies you have mentioned in your previous interviews – There Will Be Blood, Inside Llewyn Davis, Carol, Whiplash – you seem to have interest in works that go against the norm. Exactly. Somehow, it is also a criteria for me when I’m choosing my projects. I like projects that twist the ordinary. Sometimes, I do wonder why I don’t choose projects that will easily appeal to public.
Well, you don’t seem like someone with a twisted personality or lacking something, so judging from your interest, we want to believe that you are a scholar-like persona with a pure heart (laughs). Yeah. I watched a lot of movies since I was still a kid and they somehow became constant stimuli to me, strengthening myself. My desire to do something was activated. It continues until this day, but I dread the fact that I might lose the mindset one day. “What’s so special about movies? They’re all the same. Maybe if just continue doing it like it is, I will get to meet a good work which will hit it big.” I am worried that I would have that kind of thought and let everything go. I think that I’m fiercely pushing through up to this point, but it won’t be easy to tolerate when I grow older.
Putting it in simple words, you don’t want it to turn into ‘acting to make a living’. Like struggling not to be someone who are acting simply to earn money or having the thought of what to gain through the work coming to mind first instead of the work itself?
But then, the public feel that your acting is strange only when you are acting in dramas. We are curious of what your approach is; is it different from the usual? I think that I still need more experience in order to familiarize myself with dramas. There are people who can sense the difference he has between different mediums like movies and dramas. Of course, there are senior actors who can make the transition effortlessly and seamlessly that I’m in awe. I’m making an effort to make people comfortable while watching me act. Still, it’s not to hear compliments like, “You fit so well with movies.” I have done three miniseries so far and I can feel that I will do better in the future.
When your interpretation of your acting and the viewers’ acceptance clashes, what are your tips on not losing your mind balance? The viewers are right I think. Of course, there are diverse views across the board but I heard lots of things in various places. There were times that I felt unfortunate for the clashing views, but it is a chance for me to gather my thoughts and aim to do better. I’m amazed yet scared at the same time, but knowing that viewers are always right, it serves as a reminder for me not to fall into idleness.
The talk of you being serious can be put in a closet now. Is there any surprising fact about you that we can never predict? Like you being an active club goer in reality? (laughs) “Please welcome me when you see me around at a club!” Should I say it like that? (laughs) Actually, I do want to step out a bit from myself but this career is like being a cube; I have to be cautious, since it receives the attention of many. I always stay home to watch Show Me the Money and enjoying the show. I have watched Unpretty Rapstar Season 2 so I’m following Season 3 faithfully too (laughs). (Awwww he’s living vicariously through his television screen!) In the past, I used to put a lot of effort when it comes to getting new and pretty things I saw (I wonder what those are), but nowadays that possessive side of mine is slowly disappearing. They’re stacked in the garage, plus I have to think of ways to get rid of them after the effort I spent for them and it doesn’t feel right. I have changed my thoughts regarding them: I won’t feel disappointed if I can’t get my hands on fashion items, props, paintings, and other things (I see..), and I shouldn’t be tempted of limited edition things. These days, other than fan gifts and my collection of CDs and DVDs, I don’t really have things I want to get my hands on.
Oh, do you mean the 60 DVDs you have collected in the past five years? (DEAAAADDDD HAHAHAHA) It is hot these days, so what do you wear when you’re sleeping? Please don’t think too much about it (laughs) Ah, t-shirt and underwear? (laughs) It would be long sleeves and long trousers like track bottoms during the winter.
What kind of son actor Lee Je-hoon is to his parents? ‘You’re my son but your body isn’t yours; it belongs to the public. It’s natural for an actor to show good acting through his projects, but you shouldn’t commit actions against the expectation of others. Hence, please be more cautious in your actions.’ I wish they would say this to me, but since I stay in my room most of the time, they’re mostly telling me to go out more (laughs).
What kind of woman that makes you curious? A pretty woman? Or a woman you see for the first time? It can’t be denied that physical appearance plays an important role in sparking interest, but it’s something that won’t last long. Rather than that, my heart goes to someone who is curious on how the world goes on and has positive take on the future and her dreams. We can never predict things as we go on living in this world, but I think that kind of person will be a great source of strength to me. I’m not the type who’s good at small talks and having fun, so I like someone who is a pleasant and smooth at talking. Rationally speaking, one should express his feelings to the one he likes but I don’t have the confidence when I think whether I will be someone that person can depend on.
You have you cuteness and self-ruining jokes. The cuteness is just a one or two-time thing. I am not fun, after all (laughs). It’s not easy to find someone whom you can have a long, undisturbed conversation as you work in this industry. It’s an unfortunate thing but there’s no way I’m giving up. (Ohhhhh he does sound like he has someone on his mind~~~)
We heard that Signal is well-received in China as well. Did you get to experience the newfound fame there firsthand? When I went to China for vacation right after the drama ended, I was amazed that there were people who recognized me, so I thought that I shouldn’t go on a vacation with the same appearance in the future (laughs). I am anticipating the chance to greet the fans in China so I’m working diligently for it.
What is a cool guy in your opinion? Someone who has a positive influence in his line of work. It’s not about knowing everything in his area of work and feeling confident about it, but rather someone who thinks deeper and develops greater will to do even better is a more attractive person. I was clumsy in my 20s and committed lots of mistakes, but I think I’m maturing when I entered my 30s. I want to be someone who does things not only to be seen, but to become an influence through my words and actions.
Aren’t you already a cool man then? I am a man who is just working diligently to reach that level.
Last but not least, is there any words you want to leave in this magazine? There’s no restriction to it. These days, my family is entering the healthy mode, as we pay more attention to what we eat and what we do every day, plus discussing it frequently. We’re controlling thoroughly what we eat, and I’ve come to respect people who exercise control for the sake of their health (laughs). There are so many delicious things in this world; to give up on them in place of healthy food for the sake of healthy body is not easy at all. I am proud to be able to do so, and I want to tell everyone to stay healthy and live for a long time.
Please excuse all the errors! m(_ _)m
Credit to CéCi Korea