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(Yonhap Interview) Actor attracted by dullness of 'The Long Way Home'

All Headlines 17:44 September 22, 2015

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) -- Seol Gyeong-gu, one of the top actors in South Korea, said Tuesday that his new film "The Long Way Home" is quite attractive ironically because it lacks in polish.

"The film is a B-listed comedy," he said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at a cafe in central Seoul. "The film itself is unpolished and so are its lead characters, which I think are a good match."

It is the directorial debut for scriptwriter Cheon Sung-il, who wrote "The Pirates," a 2014 box-office hit that drew 8.66 million viewers and "My Girlfriend is an Agent" seen by 4 million people in 2008.

In the forthcoming film, Seol played Nambok, a 40-something ignorant farmer conscripted to the war and assigned a mission to deliver a classified military document that may decide the fate of the war. After losing it while under attack from the enemy, he then faces a young North Korean soldier named Yeonggwang (played by Yeo Jin-gu) who happens to acquire the secret document on his way to the North.

Their goofy episodes and idiotic conversations reminiscent of "Dumb and Dumber" give unexpected humor for those who only expected a touching war drama.

The movie poured most of its 8 billion won (US$6.7 million) in production cost into filming the battle scenes that appear at its first and last parts. But most of the interaction between the two actors happen inside a full-size replica of a North Korean tank used during the 1950-53 Korean War, which cost the production company 150 million won to make.

"I received a call on the first day of the filming that I don't have to come because the tank won't move," Seol said, recalling the day.

Even after it was fixed, the tank kept making noise, so the actors had to work in constant fear.

"I probably would have gotten my dander up in such circumstances, but the funny thing is that I could not hate them," he said, referring to the filmmaker and the crew.

That was not all. As the shooting took place in the middle of the routine annual joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States, the noise of scrambling jet fighters interrupted work, according to him. "I had fun while filming the film though, not because I worked in perfect harmony with the cast and the crew but because of those happenings. It was an odd experience."

Questioned about his favorite roles on the silver screen, he selected Yeong-ho, a distraught middle-aged man in "A Peppermint Candy," a 1999 film by Lee Chang-dong, and Cheol-jung, a cop in director Kang Woo-suk's "Public Enemy" (2002).

"It was hard to portray the two characters the most, but I think they will remain long in my memory."

The 47-year-old actor shot to fame with the 1999 film that was the opener of the 4th edition of the Busan International Film Festival.

But he said his worst character also was Cheol-jung who turned into a prosecutor in "Another Public Enemy," the sequel to the 2002 film. "I had the prejudice about prosecutors as those in power, so I hated his formal and high-handed way of speaking."

Seol is known for gaining or losing a lot of weight in a short period of time through intensive exercises and diet to prepare himself for his next movie characters.

He weighed over 100 kilograms when he filmed "Rikidozan: A Hero Extraordinary," a 2004 Korean film about a legendary Korean-Japanese pro-wrestler. In comparison, his average weight is around 80 kilograms.

After shooting the latest film, Seol said he lost about 10 kilograms for the next role in the big screen: a serial killer suffering Alzheimer's in director Won Shin-yun's "Murderer's Guide to Memorization."

Based on Korean author Kim Young-ha's best-selling novel by the same name, filming is scheduled to begin late next month.

"I'm gaining weight again. I have to slim down," he said with a laugh.


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