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At the moment, in Korea, there arenít many stars that shine brighter or hotter than Gang Dong-won {가려진 시간}.  The leading man of more than 20 features, creates frenzies everywhere he goes, as proven by his appearance to receive the Star Asia award at the New York Asian Film Festival

Gang spoke with me about his featured film, VANISHING TIME, and his upcoming films, Director Kim Jee-woonís JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE and Director Jang Joon-hwanís 1987.

Dig it!



Gang Dong-won


The Lady Miz Diva:  VANISHING TIME is a very interesting film with fairytale-like qualities.  What was your sense of the projects when you first read the script?

Gang Dong-won:  The first time I read the script, I was making a movie called A VIOLENT PROSECUTOR.  When you read the script, it doesnít look like a very commercial movie - of course, I felt like this was a commercial movie - but this is a new kind of genre in Korea.  We donít like fantasy kind of movies that much.  So, I felt like it was going to be difficult again, because when I made a movie called HAUNTERS, I felt a very similar feeling.

So, I needed to know about the director, get his information.  He came to my shooting place and I talked with him for an hour, and then I could believe him.  {I said,} ďOkay, letís shoot the movie together.Ē


LMD:  I loved watching the vulnerability of your character, Sungmin, once heís back in the world after so long, which is exactly the one he left, but is now alien to him.  What were some of the things you looked at to create those gestures and reaction? 

GDw:  First, the reason why the character felt so scared of the environment was because he lived for almost 15 years alone and everything had stopped, but when he came back, everything started to move.

I had a kind of a little bit similar experience in reality in New York, in SoHo; because it was too busy, and then in SoHo, everybodyís rushing.  Then, when I was walking in SoHo, suddenly I became totally covered in sweat and I got panic disorder.  I couldnít walk, so I sat down on the street, and then I took 10 minutes break and then I could walk.

So, maybe, I thought this character would feel extremely the same feeling like my experience.


LMD:  What are older Sungminís feelings toward Su-rin?  You have a walk a strange line there, because all this time has passed, but is Sungmin still a young boy in his head with his first big crush on Su-rin?

GDw:  That was a pretty difficult point, so the director and I, we talked about the kind of love, or friendship, we talked about a very deeply.  We felt, of course, that Sungmin would still have some feelings toward her, because she was the only one who believed him.  But he became older, he knows, because he studied a lot alone; so, heís not a very social person, but heís still a little bit of an adult, already. 

Yet, he knows that this cannot happen, so heís controlling his feelings.  There is that scene in the bathroom where sheís cutting his hair and then theyíre looking at each other; both of them felt something, whether it was friendship or love. 

Anyway, they are still friends; the little girl and the strange man, although they have this very confusing situation.  They cannot be lovers, but it is still very pure.


LMD:  Tell us about working with your VANISHING TIME leading lady, the amazing Miss Shin Eun-Soo?

GDw:  Actually, this movie, since this is the directorís first movie, we talked about the casting so many times, because he was not very sure about the casting.  Casting is so difficult, itís the most difficult thing in movies.  And he showed a picture Ė we had a lot of discussions about this boy or this girl Ė and then when I saw Eun-sooís picture Ė Director Uhm Tae-Hwa had sent her photo by messenger, and when I saw her picture, I texted him to say, ďSheís the one.  Sheís the girl.Ē


LMD:  VANISHING TIME and another film you made called ďMĒ both have a surreal quality.  Is it more freeing as an actor when youíre working in a fantastic premise, or more Avant-garde elements?

GDw:  I feel like in my 20s, I actually really enjoyed exploring, sort of putting myself in extreme situations, and that I feel sort of attracted me toward the genre of fantasy, and also for some reason, I was offered a lot of roles that involve the fantasy genre.


LMD:  So, do you prefer that genre?  Do you seek it out?

GDw:  No.  Actually, when I choose a script or movie, I always just think about the script and the director.  I donít care about the genre.  I donít care if itís fantasy, or even if itís documentary film; I donít care.  If itís good, Iíll do it.


LMD:  When I watch your performances, I feel tired in a good way.  I can feel the energy you give to a role in every performance.  When you put so much into a role, can you leave the character on the set?

GDw:  I never do.  In my head, I always live as the character, because I donít stop thinking about the movie, but in my real life, Iím just me.  Because ďcutĒ means the end.  I just come off.  Before a very sad scene, I always think of something funny, and then at the end of the shoot, Iím just like, ďOh, okayĒ


LMD:  That seems quite rare, but much healthier.  I speak with so many actors who do live in the skin of the character, and tell me how the character stays with them even after the movie has finished filming.

GDw:  Yeah, thatís not my style.  But, still, Iím wondering about that style, as well.  Iím curious about that kind of style.


LMD: In your film, HAUNTERS, you played someone with an almost full prosthetic leg.  Do you spend a lot of time researching about how someone would work with such a physical challenge, or are you just able to sort of feel it from the script?

GDw:  For me, most of the time, at the first reading of the script, I design the character, and then the rest of the time is just developing.  Once I read and I have designed - I think, ĎOh, this characterís like this.í  Then I just go.

I will say, that yes, initially, I do do a lot of research.  According to one of the directors Iíve worked with, my nickname is ďdapaĒ {다파}, which I would translate as ďdigger,Ē or, ďdigging into everything,Ē because I just dig into every single character that I play.  I am open to a lot of things to a lot of things, but I sort of make the decision about my character in the first take that I do. 

Like, I do a lot of research, I prepare all the things, but Iím also open to different ways and different directions that the character might take, but initially I make a decision on the first take, and then maybe in between, it does sort of differ from time to time.

I am the sort of actor who puts more trust in what Iím seeing on the monitor, when Iím monitoring my work, rather than just my thoughts and my own instincts.  When I see the monitor, I more believe the appearance than what I feel.  I believe the monitor more than me.


LMD: When I interviewed Ms. Han Ji-min for MILJUNG {AGE OF SHADOWS}, she said she felt free to approach Director Kim Jee-woon with suggestions about her character.  It was another question as to what he would use, but she seemed happy to have the freedom to offer some input. 

Are you someone who prefers to have that sort of contribution on a film, or do you prefer to be directed more strictly?

GDw:  For me, I am open-minded, I donít care.  I just do my job.  If the director wants me to do something, Iíll just do it, and then Iíll put my style, as well.  ďOkay, okay, I will do that, but in the next take, I will do my style. ď And then we deal, and then we do.  Because in the editing room, who knows which one is better?


LMD:  With Director Kim, youíre doing JIN-ROH: WOLF BRIGADE and one of your first successes was called TEMPTATION OF WOLVES.  I sense a theme.  Please tell us about JIN-ROH.

GDw:  Of course, the movie is based on the animation story.  We have changed it a little bit to a future story.  It was a story that took place in the past.  Not me, actually, the director and the producer and everybody discussed about which would be better; the past, or now, or the future, and then we decided to set the whole film in the future. 

I cannot give much information, because we havenít even started to shoot, but my character will be the strongest character Iíve played in my career.


LMD:  It has taken a very long time for Director Kim Jee-woon to bring JIN-ROH to production. Is it extra pressure to collaborate on something that has been gestating in an artistís mind for so long?

GDw:  We talked about JIN-ROH from maybe five years ago, when I was in the military service.  He asked me, ďAre you interested in JIN-ROH?Ē ďYeah, of course, itís good.Ē  And then he said, ďOkay, letís make it.Ē


LMD:  Today, he put up what looked like a costume test on his Instagram.

GDw:  He did?


LMD:  Yes, he did, it looks really cool, this really sharp-cut military uniform in green.

GDw:  Thatís me!


LMD:  Iím very interested in your other upcoming film, 1987, directed by Jang Joon-hwan.  He is not only a great director and nice man, but he is my drinking idol.  Tell us about that film.

GDw:  He is one of my best friends. We made a film called LOVE FOR SALE, and we became pretty good friends.  But actually, in Korea, we donít call it friends; because we have senior and junior, and we are very strict, but he is not a person like that.  He is not strict, he is very open-minded and I think we became pretty close after doing the film.  And now, we talk about ďLetís make this,Ē and ďLetís make this,Ē during our drinking sessions.

This movie, called 1987, when he finished the script, he first addressed it to me.  Now, itís not a good timing to talk about the story.  Maybe he will announce it later, because we have some kind of schedule.


LMD:  So the film is not in production yet?

GDw:  No, we are starting around October 3.


LMD:  I didnít know that you spoke English.  And I certainly didnít know that you spoke it so wellÖ

GDw:  Me?  My English is from textbooks, and I always read the books maybe five or six times from about grades two through four, but I couldnít read the middle school-level books; it was so difficult.


LMD:  Director Kim famously directed an American movie {THE LAST STAND}.  Considering how well you speak English, is there any thought of your doing an international production?

GDw:  Me, I donít care.  I would be happy to work with good people.  I can go to Africa.


LMD:  Youíve worked with some of the finest Korean directors.  After more than 20 features and a few dramas, do you ever feel like you want to direct, perhaps produce a film?

GDw:  Ohhh, I think directing is impossible.  Itís maybe, maybeÖ No.  {Laughs} It would take too much time and too much stress; I donít think itís very practical as an actor.  And of course, I donít think I could make a good movie as a director.  But now, Iím interested in producing.  Iím talking about so many projects with people.


LMD:  Many people are excited about your appearance here.  I asked Ms. Han Ye-ri who you starred with in KUNDO, and who is also here for NYAFF, this same question: What would you like to see take place with regard to promoting Korean cinema in the west?

GDw:  Of course, I really hope the Korean film can be successful in the international market.  And I feel like Iím very responsible for that as an actor, because when you make a film - of course, a famous director can be attractive to the audience, but most of the time, the audience thinks about the actor or actress.  So, as an actor, I want to make a more bigger, bigger market to show people.

Now, itís changing, the platform is changing a little bit, and we have more chances to work with international film industry people.  So, Iím very open-minded, Iíd be very happy to work with them, wherever.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 13th, 2017


With Special Blessings to Mr. Min Ree of BESFREN/BESFREN BEAUTY for his invaluable assistance.


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