[Interview] Actress Han Hyo-joo

Korean actress Han Hyo-joo poses during a photo shoot with TenAsia in Seoul, Korea on June 27, 2013. [TenAsia/ Gue Hye Jung]

Actress Han Hyo-joo gained favor with the public as soon as she debuted through MBC’s sitcom “Nonstop 5″ in 2005. She then rose to stardom by playing the main female character to drama “Spring Waltz” and has seen a successful career since. All the dramas she took on, including “Shining Inheritance” and “Dong Yi,” were hits and scored high ratings. She also became the youngest actor to win the runner-up prize for best acting at MBC’s annual awards ceremony. Regardless of genre or time period, she pulled off all the characters she played in a style of her own.

After leading the success of “Dong Yi,” Han turned her full attention to movies. After starring in melodrama “Always” with actor So Ji-sub in 2011, she took on three movies within a span of a year including “Masquerade,” “Love 911,” and the recently released “Cold Eyes.” “Masquerade” saw over a whopping 10 million viewers and through “Love 911,” she showed another charm to her. Hence, it could be safely said that she has charmed everyone in both dramas and films. And “Cold Eyes” is good enough to allow her to continue to do so. She definitely didn’t get to choose her projects knowing what the outcome would be but almost every actor probably envies her good eye for choosing projects.

Q. First of all, the response [to your movie] is good. You all seemed very excited on the day you met with media after the press preview.

Han Hyo-joo: It’s exciting. And I think us actors are excited because the movie has gotten good reviews. Jung Woo-sung has already pledged he will do something if the movie sees 10 million viewers (laughs).

Q. It seems that you have a really good eye for choosing projects. Everything you do is a hit. And I guess you could call it luck but it’s actually a great ability to have. Where on earth do you get that ‘good eye’ from?

Han : (Han’s agency BH Entertainment’s) CEO Son Suk-woo (laughs). I think I’m lucky. I really have a lot of good people around me. I think that once you have good work, good people, and just positive things going for you, it all builds up quickly. Good people help you meet other good people. And I think I’ve received a lot of help through such connections. I wouldn’t have been able to do it by myself. Of course, I do make the decisions but it’s definitely not just because I have a good eye.

2013070313103618480Korean actress Han Hyo-joo poses during a photo shoot with TenAsia in Seoul, Korea on June 27, 2013. [TenAsia/ Gue Hye Jung]

Q. But you still make the final call. So what is it that is most important when you look at a project?

Han: The script. I think the first thing I do is to look at how complete is is, what story it’s trying to tell, and what effect it would have once it turns into a movie. Then I look at the character.


Q. You’ve repeatedly seen success with everything you do – from dramas to movies. But you may also end up forgetting about ‘failure’ once you keep succeeding although it’s impossible to succeed every time. Do you have any thoughts on ‘failure’ and what you’d do if you did fail in the future?

Han: I think I’m always telling myself that I shouldn’t be too disappointed even if that were to happen. And I think that’s why but my life has come to be about ‘Live by enjoying the moment.’ I’m all about trying my best to enjoy myself when I’m working on a project, regardless of the outcome. So I’m having fun with work right now too (laughs). It’s sort of a sense of ease I’ve come to have with life these days. And of course, I’m happy when I get complimented [for my work] but in a way, it feels very awkward. I don’t know how to react when I get complimented and I just get very embarrassed. Like you say, I get complimented everywhere I go these days, so I’m scared it may get into my head. It’s good to stay grounded. But nonetheless, I’m going to enjoy this moment to a moderate amount while it lasts, to the point it won’t hurt me, and return to where I was afterwards.


Q. “Cold Eyes” is a movie for you. That’s what the directors and all the actors said. But your harmony with everybody actually caught my eye more than just you. Does that mean you got emphasized less than you were supposed to?

Han: That’s not true. There was no more or less emphasis on me. It turned out in the way it was supposed to and I think it turned out to be a movie with good balance. In terms of the style of each character as well. It’s a movie that mixed in the characters well, with nobody standing out. That’s why I was very satisfied after seeing the movie. And I’m someone that likes balance (laughs).


Q. In the beginning of the movie, you showed an action sequence using a mobile phone. So I was hoping there’d be more but there wasn’t so I was disappointed. Nonetheless, I think it’s the first time you’ve done an action sequence where you strike a guy directly.

Han: I practiced at an action school for about two to three weeks but I want to show more [action]. I like using my body. Although of course, I don’t like to dance. Nonetheless, I have fun doing things where I get to use my body and I’m pretty competitive. But it wasn’t easy. It’s okay when I’m the one that’s having a hard time but there were times that I would actually strike a hit, no matter how much I had practiced. Plus I’m a newbie [with action sequences] so I ended up hitting for real while shooting the scene. That scene actually wasn’t even originally in the script but after reading it, I suggested it might be good for me to do an action shot in the beginning of the movie to give my character more impact. And that’s why we decided to do it but then I started worrying because a woman takes a man down, and it’s not worth doing if I won’t do a good job of it. However, one day, the martial arts director came up with the thought of using a mobile phone for the scene and I felt it would be perfect. It actually hurts a lot when you get hit by a mobile phone. I recommend women use it for self-defense.


Q. Your character Ha Yoon-joo in “Cold Eyes” doesn’t necessarily have to look pretty yet she still does. Of course, there’s some personal opinion involved in me saying this.

Han: I’ll probably get hated for saying this but after watching the movie, I thought to myself, ‘Director, why did you shoot me so prettily? You didn’t have to.’ But I’m still thankful. It shows his love [for the character]. But I don’t like being made to look pretty when it’s unnecessary. I also don’t like how female cops needs to have more masculine personalities. My character is someone with passion for what she does so I wanted her to look professional when she’s working yet seem a bit feminine when she’s not working. I also made her tone of voice seem slightly different for when she is working versus when she’s not. I wanted to bring out such details.


Q. But there were still some slightly excessively ‘pretty’ scenes to the movie.

Han: (Laughs) When director Kim Byung-suh shot it, he was very precise in calculating the angles to make sure I’d look pretty.

Q. What sort of actor is Jung Woo-sung? He was beyond our imagination when his movie “Beat” came out. Of course, I’m sure he’s not like that anymore but he still looks cool in the movie.

Han: The funny thing is that I noticed that the staff to SBS’s “Running Man” waited to take photos with him after we were done filming the show. And that’s when I realized he’s a celebrity that even members of filming crews want to take photos with. To me he’s just a senior actor, and we’re sort of like brothers (laughs). But of course, he’s definitely a movie star. It was like he was in a movie even when he was just walking around or not particularly shooting a scene. To the point I wondered what he would’ve done if he didn’t become a movie star.


Q. I’m sure that Seol Kyung-gu and Lee Junho (of 2PM) will be sad if I don’t ask you about them when I’ve asked about Jung Woo-sung.

Han: Yes (laughs). Personally, it was great getting to act with Seol. He reacted to whatever I did and brought out my acting in a way that made it seem better than it actually was. I really think I benefited from him a lot in this movie. Junho was definitely the youngest member of the cast. It was his first time acting so it would’ve been a problem if he turned out to be awkward and poor at his acting but he really pulled off his role perfectly. And he was also very pleasant and extremely hardworking. So it gave me an even better impression of him. The CEO to film production firm Zip Cinema said we look like four brothers and sisters. The oldest son, second-oldest son, the third daughter and the youngest. I think that sounds about right.


Q. Your film was a bit unique in the sense that it was directed by two people.

Han : It felt more reassuring. At first I wasn’t sure of who to talk to [when I got stuck] because there was a director here and there. But there was no cause for problem once they made their roles clear. And it rather felt reassuring to have two directors.


Q. The image you had in “Shining Inheritance” and “Dong Yi” are fading away. And at the same time, you’re showing different sides to you in movies. That’s why I’m looking forward to what new you’ll do next time but also want to see the sides to you that I saw in dramas. Yet there’s only one of you so it’s up to you to balance out the two for fans, no?

Han : I know that I came to be loved by many because of those dramas that you just mentioned. And I’d like to play the cheerful and friendly characters I played in those dramas again. But I’d like to challenge myself with different types of characters for films. This makes me seem like I’ve thought about this a lot, right? I actually haven’t though. I’ve just come to want to. Not that I can have things the way I want.


Q. Then it seems that your thoughts have changed a bit. You were asked a similar question when your movie “Love 911″ came out and your answer was, “I’m a devil. I’m going to do dramas if people say they like me in movies, and play soft characters if they say they like me playing strong characters.”

Han: (Laughs). I’m still a devil.


Q. Weren’t you into indie films at first? You started building on your filmography with small films such as “Ride Away” (2008) and “Ad Lib Night” (2006). 

Han : I like both art films and commercial films. I don’t think I’m more focused on one more than the other. There are a lot of things I realize through art films. And more than anything, I’m just scared of leaning on one side. I don’t want to seem too commercial nor too artistic. And this applies to my work but also to my life – I try to balance things. That’s why I sometimes envy people that go crazy over a single thing. Those types of people have aimal-like instincts and feelings. I lack that. And at times I wish I could go crazy, in an animalistic way, without thinking of this and that. But I don’t think I’m there yet.

Q. You even wrote the lyrics for the theme song to “Ride Away” and it made me suddenly wonder whether you’d want to try directing a movie someday.

Han: I actually do. But I think I’ve somehow turned myself into more of an actor. In the past, I wanted to try this and that out, like a curious kid. But I’ve gradually come to think I want to walk on the path of an actor. There are many more things I want to do as an actor now. Yet I’d like to take part in the musical aspect if I were given the chance to. It’s not like I’ll debut as a singer but it’s something I could do once in a while. And I’d like to appear in small films as well if they were good. [Q. What about money?] Of course I can’t ask for a lot (laughs).

Reporter. Hwang Sung Un jabongdo@tenasia.co.kr
Photographer. Gue Hye Jung photonine@tenasia.co.kr
Translator. Jessica Kim

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