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(Yonhap Interview) Choi Min-sik opens up about struggles in shooting 'The Tiger'

All News 10:53 December 11, 2015

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- Actor Choi Min-sik is no stranger to computer-generated imagery (CGI) in movies.

Most recently, the 53-year-old "fought" on the set of "The Admiral: Roaring Currents," in which he plays Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) naval hero Yi Sun-shin.

Yi famously defeated hundreds of Japanese vessels with a dozen of his own. To be a convincing Yi, Choi had to shoot arrows into a blue-screened void and successfully command an army of vessels that didn't exist except as a figment of his imagination.

But shooting "The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale" has been a much different story, says Choi, who is South Korea's best actor according to the nationally renowned Grand Bell and Blue Dragon Film Awards.

In the upcoming film, Choi portrays Mandeok, the once-unrivalled Joseon Dynasty tiger hunter who kills a family of tigers but saves one cub in a sudden change of heart.

A decade later, Mandeok re-encounters that tiger, known among villagers as "Daeho," as the Japanese imperialists try to hunt what has become last remaining tiger on the Korean Peninsula.

"At first, I didn't know what the heck I was doing," Choi told Yonhap News Agency in an interview at a cafe in northern Seoul. "It was frustrating but I tried to enjoy the process as time went on."

To fight the awkwardness on set, Choi said he tried to paint a vivid picture of the tiger in his head. He named it "Kim Dae-ho" and imagined it retreating into domesticity when the director shouted "Cut!"

"Realistically, we couldn't just borrow a tiger from a zoo. It was something I had to somehow overcome," he said. "But I don't think I'd be able to do it again. I need 'something' to work with!"

All that work seems to have paid off, as Choi gave hearty praise to the film's CGI team.

"I was worried about how the CGI would turn out, as any actor would," he said. "But not only did it not interfere with the flow, it gave the movie a positive, synergetic effect. If the movie becomes a success, it'll all be due to our CGI team."

But Choi said he is trying not to think about the results.

"Once the movie comes out, I know I will monitor how many people have watched it," he said. "But that shouldn't become the arbiter of success. Actors should live on the fun we have on stage, not on the number of people who watch our movies."


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