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Just a touch of femininity perfects a villain: actor Cho Jae-hyun

All Headlines 14:52 January 05, 2009

By Shin Hae-in

SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- To many film buffs outside South Korea, he is known as the "Bad Guy" in director Kim Ki-duk's controversial movie of the same name who sells off the woman he loves to a whorehouse.

But to audiences here, actor Cho Jae-hyun is a man of many faces. Slipping into roles as various as a stepfather full of the spirit of self-sacrifice, a level-headed doctor or a fearful psychopath, he can actually convince audiences that he is all of them.

The 44-year-old actor, often dubbed Korea's own Al Pacino, will meet his movie fans next month via "Marine Boy." This time, he plays the role of an ultimate bad guy who blackmails a former national swimmer to transport drugs via sea.

"As strange as this may sound, I take pleasure in playing the villains," Cho told reporters at the production conference of the movie to be released on Feb. 5. "What is important, though, is not the masculinity, but the one percent of femininity that is hidden in these characters."

Cho, who made his movie debut in 1990 through a supporting role in "Portrait of the Days of Youth," earned the nickname "Kim Ki-duk's man" in 1996 after playing the taciturn macho man in the director's low-budget debut film "Crocodile."

Despite the renowned director's success aboard, which led him to the best director's awards in Venice and Berlin, Kim is considered a maverick in the local film industry and has a hard time drawing more than 100,000 fans to his movies at home. Female viewers are especially less enthusiastic toward Kim's works, which have been criticized for their oppressive depictions of women.

"Gosh, I spent many broke days working with Kim Ki-duk," Cho reminisced with a chuckle. "This movie is treating me well and all actors including me have been at our best. You can count on my words."

"Marine Boy," the debut film of director Yoon Jong-seok, is a movie that "involves a lot of battering," actors say.

A former national swimmer (Kim Kang-woo) is forced by a gangster boss (Cho Jae-hyun) to transport dope to Seoul from Japan. "Marine Boy" is a secret code referring to the drug transporter who has to swim across the sea to escape a police dragnet.

Hiding the fact that all marine boys are slaughtered after their missions are complete, the cruel boss played by Cho trains his swimmer to become a hard-hearted transporter as well as a class A assassinator. Things begin to get out of hand, however, when the training goes "too well."

"This is a movie that relies 100 percent on the characters," director Yoon said. "I am especially satisfied with the character that Cho Jae-hyun and I managed to create together. We agreed that there will not be any grandiosity and came up with a somewhat realistic gangster boss."

The partial preview of the movie Monday was too short to tell whether it will succeed in becoming South Korea's next blockbuster, but fans may at least look forward to seeing Cho in the bad guy's clothes again next month.


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