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(Yonhap Interview) Actress Bae Doona proud of her roles in 'Cloud Atlas'

All Headlines 11:46 January 07, 2013

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korean actress Bae Doona's filmography is full of names of celebrated directors -- Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Nobuhiro Yamashita, Hirokazu Koreeda, the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer.

Unlike other fashion model-turned actresses, she wasn't bothered by playing an insensitive apartment management worker in a yellow-hooded T-shirt with almost no make-up in the Korean film, "Barking Dogs Never Bite" (2000).

In the Japanese film "Air Doll" (2009) by director Koreeda, Bae starred as an inflatable life-size sex doll, a role which made her the first foreign actress to win the best actress in the Japanese Oscar Awards. She played a North Korean table tennis player in "As One," the homegrown sports movie released last year.

The 33-year-old actress says she was simply lucky to get the chances to join in such good movies and believes her steady pursuit of acting rather than money or popularity led her to the opportunities.

"Strangely enough, I found myself feeling a kind of proudness when I finished this movie. I learned a lot," Bae said of the Hollywood blockbuster "Cloud Atlas" in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Friday.

Bae acted as Sonmi, a genetically engineered clone, in the film adaptation of David Mitchell's 2004 best-selling novel of the same name with a unique structure where multiple stories in different time periods are told chronologically from past to future and then back again.

The movie, already released in the U.S. and European theaters last year, was co-directed by the Wachowski siblings, best known for "The Matrix" series, and their close friend, German director Tom Tykwer.

Because it was her Hollywood debut film, she had to act in English and Spanish, both not her mother tongue of Korean. Despite her limitation in conversational English, she flew to Chicago for an audition and was chosen for the roles. Without a manager or an overseas management agent at that time, Bae had to do everything, ranging from exchanging e-mails with producers to writing terms of a contract, all in English.

Sonmi is one of many fabricants grown to work at, among other places, a fast-food restaurant called Papa Song's, and treated as slave labor by the "pure blood" society. Becoming self-aware thanks to individuals from a rebel underground, she later leads a revolution against those "pure blood" people for freedom.

The actress has spent a significant amount of time learning English from a British dialogue coach while preparing for the movie because the director asked her to speak in a British accent throughout the film.

"The directors told me that they wanted to describe the future through the characters' looks and language," she said. "They probably thought a clone should speak in a unique accent mixing Korean and British styles."

She also surprised local movie reporters by playing an American woman who is the wife of a novice sailor and a fat Mexican woman in the same film. Being three different characters in a movie was a thrilling experience to her even though it was physically difficult to undergo four to five hours of heavy make-up and wearing a fat suit for the Mexican woman role, she says.

"I acted in the thought that it would be my first and last chance to do this. I tried to enjoy every second because it's rare to act multiple characters of different race, gender and living in different time periods in one movie."

"As an actress, I hate repeating the same roles in different movies."

To play the role of the hysterical Mexican woman in Spanish, Bae says, she repeatedly watched scenes of other movies in which Spanish women go hysterical.

After spending many years away from home, the actress says all she wants for the new year is to work from home. She has said in other media interviews that seeking another role in Hollywood is not an option.

"Even 'As One,' the latest Korean film I acted in, didn't have a single scene shot in Seoul, so I had to spend most of the time in provincial locations. I was in London until August where I directly flew from Berlin. I want to work on a film in which I can commute from my home in Seoul this year."


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