By Shim Sun-ah
SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korean heartthrob Hyun Bin soared to stardom here and in other Asian countries for his roles in the popular TV series "My Lovely Sam Soon" (2005) and "Secret Garden" (2010).
But he has tried to expand his acting career by going for "something fun and new."
That mantra has led him to taking all different roles, ranging from a distressed king of the Joseon Dynasty in "The Fatal Encounter" (2014) to a North Korean detective in "Confidential Assignment" (2017) to a con artist in "The Swindlers" (2017). He was a hostage-taker in "The Negotiation," which was released a month ago.
He's now starring in the period zombie action thriller "Rampant," set to open in local theaters Thursday.
It is about a Joseon prince and martial arts expert returning from captivity in the Chinese Qing Empire after the death of his crown-prince brother. The handsome womanizer with no desire to take the throne gradually changes over time as he witnesses his people helplessly attacked by zombie-like creatures known as "Night Demons." He chooses to fight for the people against the murderous creatures.
"I like movies that can give you a strong message and much to think about, as you know," Hyun said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at a cafe in central Seoul on Monday. "But many of my recent works have many entertaining elements. For now, I just want to constantly show something new."
Hyun said he doesn't want to repeatedly use his trademark image as a sweet and romantic guy if he cannot find something different in new roles.
The 2017 box office hit "Confidential Assignment" was a turning point in his career.
"It had the biggest influence as far as my path as an action movie star is concerned. I think it proved that an actor named Hyun Bin can do the action like this and that. I received much love from the public for the film and it gave me a chance to work again with its director, Kim Sung-hoon. Now looking back on it, I think I really had fun filming it."
The 36-year-old actor said "fun" was an important driving force for progress in his life.
"Work should be fun. If not, it would be really hard," he said.
But with "Rampant," he said, he couldn't instantly accept the offer to be part of it because the screenplay had "too many comics-like elements."
"I had no idea how the Night Demons in the screenplay would be materialized and couldn't imagine how I should deliver certain lines or situations."
What drove him to eventually do the film was once again his inner desire to challenge himself with new roles.
"I thought I should take this level of challenge because I can show new creatures and a kind of action different from 'Confidential Assignment' through this movie, and I'll be able to find a solution if I take a step-by-step approach."
The movie ultimately gave him the fun to fill the blank in the script piece by piece, whether the pieces were the protagonist's emotional expression or the action scenes, he recalled.
Hyun did a wide range of his own stunts without a double. The film sees the prince race on horseback and slay the endlessly swarming zombie-like creatures with his long sword.
"If an actor does his own stunts, the camera can shoot him more closely. So, this can offer a variety of different camera angles, even revealing the face of the actor doing the action."
However, even Hyun conceded that the Night Demons were scary.
"The open-air film set was spooky itself, and we often filmed at night. So, I was frightened whenever I bumped into them on the set."
What really surprised him was the sophistication of the creatures' designs. It took two to three hours per person for the movie's two makeup teams to turn actors into the monsters, he recalled.
These days, Hyun divides his time between the film set of a new TV series and promotional events for "Rampant."
"My biggest goal right now is to successfully finish the drama without getting a cold," he said, chuckling.
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