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By Chung Joo-won
BUSAN, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korean actress Son Ye-jin, one of the strongest ticket boosters in the local box office, on Saturday discussed the tremendous emotional pressure that befalls actresses, calling acting "a marathon of consuming emotions."
The 34-year-old actress gained her top-tier status mostly through romantic films, including "The Classic," "A Moment to Remember" and "The Art of Seduction." However, she broke the typecast of rom-com queen by widening her acting portfolio to include action, comedy, mystery and historical films with success. Now, she is recognized as one of the most prolific actresses among her generation.
"As time goes by, it strikes me ever more that acting is like running in a marathon," she said in an open talk session for visitors of the 21st Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), held in the South Korean harbor city of Busan, some 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. An actress cannot become too emotionally bound to a single work, because it wears out her energy, the experienced actress said.
As an acting major in university, she had a vague dream of becoming an actress. Then, she did not have a specific plan to develop her profession or keep track of what opportunities fell into her hands. Son said she was "very lucky" to keep acting, especially when compared to the fierce competition among the young acting talent of today.
Although her start may have been lucky, living an actress's life has not been easy, according to Son.
"Sometimes, acting becomes so painful that I wonder how long I will be able to continue. There are even times when I feel a big part of me disappears every time I finish a movie," she continued.
"In my recent works, I consumed too much emotional stamina that I wonder if I'd be able to give my all to the next work -- I feel like I consume energy (with limits.)"
In the open talk, Son received a myriad of questions about her two latest works, "The Truth Beneath" and "The Last Princess," which premiered in 2016.
Among the two, Son suffered immense emotional exhaustion while shooting "The Last Princess," because the biographic film embraces the theme of "sewol," meaning time in English. Playing a historical figure added to the pressure.
"It was the most painful work of my entire career. Since I acted as Deokhye from her teen to senior years, I had to go through a lot of questions that someone of my age would not normally have."
"The Last Princess," a historical film based on the best-seller "Deokhye Ongju" by South Korean author Kwon Bi-young, unravels the tragic life of Princess Deokhye of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) during the Japanese colonial era. After being forced to leave her mother country at the age of 13, she desperately attempted to return but failed. Even when her country was liberated from colonial Japan, she was denied entry to Korea as then-President Rhee Syng-man feared returning royalty might undermine his authority.
Directed by Hur Jin-ho, the film flew high in the box office and drew about 5.6 million viewers.
Even to an actress as successful as Son, opportunities to star in a film are too scarce.
Domestic films that premiere in giant cinema chains mostly involve an ensemble of actors, not actresses. For that reason, the success of "The Last Princess" meant a lot to the actress.
"I think it'd be terrific to see a film with an ensemble of actresses," she said, picking two other star actresses, Kim Hye-soo and Jeon Do-yeon, as her dream co-stars.
In 2000, Son had her silver screen debut with "Secret Tears," in which she played a supporting role. After reaping great success with "The Classic," she emerged as the icon of first love.
Following the continued success of her films including "White Night," "Shark" and "The Pirates," Son has swept a number of best actress awards at mainstream South Korean film awards ceremonies, including the Blue Dragon Film Awards, Baeksang Arts Awards and Grand Bell Awards.
With the success of "The Last Princess," Son said she is now ready to add more new genres to her filmography, such as horror and noir.
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