Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Interview: Actor Won Bin

There are actors other than Won Bin who are good-looking. But very few can make one think during an interview, 'How could a human being be so good-looking?' And there are even less actors who can melt in the appeal their looks has into their acting. Won Bin in film "The Man from Nowhere" is such an actor.

Him appearing as the man who lives next door to girl Somi (played by Kim Sae-ron) may seem like fantasy but Won Bin knows how to utilize his looks and star quality in "The Man from Nowhere." He is precise in selecting the moments he will let his charm shine without harming the vibe of the movie. His ability to find that delicate point comes from his experience he has slowly been building on since his debut in 1997.

10Asia met with the actor to talk about how he became from the pretty-faced actor to the man next door.

10: I heard that when you debuted, you had wanted to become an actor after watching Choi Min-soo starer "The Terrorist." "The Man from Nowhere" also revolves around the action sequences of a single man. How did it feel?
Won Bin: It was fun. Many people worried that I might get hurt since there was so much action in it but I like moving about and sweating. I felt like I was playing a game doing the action scenes. I hadn't done this sort of action movie before so it was tough physically but it was also new so it felt like I was learning something.

10: It seemed like the style of action in particular in "The Man from Nowhere" was important. Like the blade Tae-shik uses to cut his hair, it was brief, simple and sharp. And it seemed that a lot of attention was paid to the fight scenes.
Won Bin: Director Lee Jeong-bum modified and combined three forms of Southeast Asian martial arts -- Silat, Kali and Arnis -- in a way that it would suit the movie. Cha Tae-shik used to be a special agent so he had to be swift enough to pin down his enemy instantaneously when he's attacked and we thought it was important that it be martial arts that can be put into practice.

10: What did director Lee say about your action moves?
Won Bin: Not once did he demand for something to be done a certain way. All he did was tell me about the emotional aspects of Tae-shik and he asked me to express Tae-shik's anger through the action sequences. He said he wanted me to express his outburst of emotions rather than just try to show a cool action scene.

10: I think such emotions stoold out the most in the last action scene where he becomes extremely agitated. How did you try to show those emotions?

Won Bin: Tae-shik had no reason to live in that situation if he didn't have a child to save because he has already lost everything he ever had in this world. That is why I decided to portray him as an even more cold-hearted and composed character. And if he's someone in such a state, I thought he would take down his opponent as quickly as possible by fighting cool-mindedly rather than out of rage.

10: You must've had to make your body look like that of a special agent to act one. When the camera got you full shot, I got the feeling that your body is very stiff.
Won Bin: I thought that Tae-shik must be able to move as swiftly as a cat because he's a special agent. And that his movements or walking should be stiff. I got into shape concentrating on making small and lean muscles rather than bulking up myself.

10: It really seemed like your body became perpendicular to your legs when you walk or run. (laugh) But Tae-shik is a special agent who has been through every hardship you can imagine and is very brutal to his enemies. Yet he risks his life for a child. What was your take on this?
Won Bin: I don't think he was doing it just to save that one child. I think he did it to free himself from his own pain from the past. He currently lives alone without family but I think he has a sense of guilt when it comes to his family. That's why I regarded him as someone who is trying to break free from his past by saving the child.

10: So is that why he was at the pawnshop alone? It was funny to see how he sets up a pawnshop in nowadays Korea. (laugh)
Won Bin: A pawnshop is a lonely space that is cut off from reality and also seems like a prison because of the bars. The child says it too at a point in the movie but it's as if Tae-shik is in a prison. I think he might've locked himself in a prison from an extreme sense of guilt.

10: How did you feel about there being almost no change to his expression? And him saying very few lines? He showed most of his emotions through his eyes.

Won Bin: I think it's inevitable that someone who hasn't been outside for three years would become quiet. He hadn't spoken to anyone and must've held a great amount of grief in his heart. Hence I thought that it was only natural that there would be little change to his expression because of who he is.

10: Wasn't it difficult trying to express your emotions through subtle expressions or looks?
Won Bin: It was but that was what was more appealing. I think the sadness he felt in his heart was delivered more effectively because he kept himself from saying useless things by pushing down his emotions rather than expressing himself through exaggerated expressions or shouting out loud. That's why I said my lines in a low tone and cut the words short. Because he is someone who is making conversation for the first time in several years.

10: You too are seen by many people as the type that doesn't talk a lot. Do you think you're similar to Tae-shik in that sense?
Won Bin: Every role I have played has been similar to me in some way or another and it was the same with Tae-shik too. Well, rather than being similar... Spending time alone? (laugh)

10: Do you feel more comfortable spending time alone? (laugh)
Won Bin: I don't always spend time alone (laugh) but I think that's how people see me.

10: What do you do when you're alone?
Won Bin: I draw or take photographs. That's my lone time and that's when I feel that most comfortable. I like doing things with other people too but I also need time to do my own things. Drawing stabilizes me emotionally when my mind is tangled.

10: I think people may feel distant from you because you mainly appear in movies so that makes you more difficult to approach. It's not like we get to see you often either.
Won Bin: Isn't that the case with everyone else too? (laugh) I actually do wish I could meet everyone more often through more acting roles. But some movies get released two years after they've been filmed -- even with "The Man from Nowhere," I decided to do it two months after I got done shooting "Mother" but it took a year to get released. That's why people may feel a distance from me but it's also that it has taken a long time for some of my work to reach the audience. I actually do want to take things slowly though.

10: Well it doesn't seem like you're impatient.
Won Bin: It would be good to show the audience many sides to me in a short time but I'm going to stay an actor for a long time. So I think it would be good to accumulate gradually [on experience].

10: Has such an attitude had an influence on your decision to take on "Mother"? It ended up being a good choice but it could've also ended up being an irrational decision.
Won Bin: I felt reassured becaused I could depend on director Bong Joon-ho and Kim Hye-ja and I thought there would be something I could show through the movie. Before "The Man from Nowhere," people saw me as the roles I had played before, for example, many roles that I was offered were ones where I had a soft-hearted image. But I chose "Mother" because he recommended it to me seeing the possibilities I had. I wanted to go for it with the mindset that I'm taking on a new challenge.

10: What do you think you gained as an actor through "Mother"?
Won Bin: I was extremely nervous while filming "Mother" but I also felt a sense of freedom at the same time. I think I was able to become more familiar with acting and stand in front of the camera more comfortably while feeling that I'm having more fun.

10: It wasn't fun from the start?
Won Bin: I still don't think it's fun. It's difficult rather than being fun. But I think I keep doing this because of the disappointment. I keep thinking that I could probably do better in some way with my next role. Of course, I do feel catharsis from acting. I feel a joy from that and tell myself that I want to do better next time.

10: Where do you think you felt catharsis with "The Man from Nowhere"?
Won Bin: I think I'll become sure of it when I see how the audience responds.

10: Have you ever watched it with the audience in the theater?
Won Bin: I couldn't because of the stage greetings. And it's difficult to watch movies with them because I don't have enough time to when a movie is being released. And it somehow still feels awkward to watch my own movie in a theater.

10: What sort of movies do you like to watch as an audience?
Won Bin: I'm not picky when it comes to genres. And I don't think I should be, since I'm an actor. I try to act in as many genres as possible.

10: Then do you have a picture for what kind of actor you want to be in the future?
Won Bin: I just work hard. It's my desire to do my best to make the best movie possible so that I don't regret it, and if the results are good, I hope to become an actor that someone wants to become like in the future.

10: Then you must be that much more cautious about choosing new roles. What do you consider most important when choosing a role?
Won Bin: The first thing is that the scenario has to be strong and it's also important what story it tells within it. And it was never on purpose but I think the roles I've played till now have been humane. They have always had an affinity for other people. I think it's the case for "The Man from Nowhere" too, containing a form of love between a man and a child, so I wonder whether I would've taken on the movie if there wasn't such form of communication.

10: Are you saying that how your character communicates is more important than the action?
Won Bin: The action is important as well but both I and the director don't think it's more important. You can't move a person's heart with just the action. I felt that the action scenes would be convincing only when my character's emotions are delivered to the audience so that's what I focused on.

10: Is that why you wanted to take on "The Man from Nowhere"? The 'man' was supposed to be an older guy in the original scenario but I heard that you explained to the director why you wanted to play the role.
Won Bin: I first read the script without having any other information about it because I became curious of why it was named "The Man from Nowhere." I had thought it would be about someone who has lived a good amount of his life and would have been through a lot. But when I opened the script, I realized he wasn't the man I had imagined him to be. I became extremely attracted to him, thinking that he's very cool. Nothing other than his age changed about him, neither his lines nor the action sequences because I got cast for the role. I wouldn't have done the movie if he was an old guy who just puts on cool action moves and had no pain.

10: But unlike in your previous works, you play a huge role in "The Man from Nowhere," to the extent that it could be called absolute. Did you feel any pressure in having to lead on a whole movie?
Won Bin: I didn't feel too much pressure about that when we were filming because it was the first time I was experiencing this. I had never been in a movie where I was so busy that all I thought about was that I should resolve the situation that has been placed in front of me as quickly as I can. I didn't have time to feel any sort of pressure. The director told me I could have a hard time having to do this sort of movie alone but I forgot about it, telling myself that I've acted in other movies before so how hard could it get? (laugh) But I had actually been trying not to accept it because I knew the product wouldn't be good if I let the pressure get to me. I only realized what he had meant after we finished filming the movie.

10: But it doesn't seem like you're ambitious to become more popular or anything of the sort. It's not like you're interested in building a career overseas.
Won Bin: I think it would be good to be give such an opportunity as an actor. I've never had the opportunity to, rather than not being interested. (laugh) I'm actually not the aggressive type. I'm rather the type that does his best at what he's been given.

10: Is that your personality?
Won Bin: I have not been that type who takes the first step in doing something. I think I've always felt a big responsibility in having to do the best I can with what has been handed to me, that I shouldn't let people down. I think a lot that I should do well at what I'm in charge of.

10: Then do you think your personality has had an effect on the path you've taken till now? It feels as if you create an image for yourself through your choices.
Won Bin: That's not true. Just because I took on the role that I did in "Mother," I didn't think beforehand that I should take on a role like I did in "The Man from Nowhere." I'm actually not picky about anything. I just go with whatever touches my heart so what role I play isn't important. What's important for actors is how well they do on a stage that has been created for them and what stage it is, along with being able to act with freedom within that stage.

10: But you can't always take to a stage that you like. For example, you look more comfortable making fun of director Bong Joon-ho in a commercial for a beer. (laugh)
Won Bin: I'm sorry director. (laugh)

10: But it seems that people want to see more of the Won Bin from the recent coffee commercial. Do you ever worry about this?
Won Bin: What they want to see and what I want to show them... Maybe "The Man from Nowhere" is where that point meets?

10: I think that's right. In that sense, it seems that "The Man from Nowhere" is a movie that is important for you timing-wise and it also seems like you take control of the roles you play.
Won Bin: I'd be thankful to be regarded in that way. I think it was even more possible because of "Mother"?

10: What kind of person do you regard yourself as?

Won Bin: I try to devote myself to the moment that I'm in as best as I can. Because it's a time that doesn't come back and you can't go back to it once you've passed it... Of course, there are going to be moments I look back on and regret but I want to live it so that I don't regret it as much as possible.

10: You don't have any regrets?

Won Bin: It wouldn't make any difference even if I did. The best thing is to be able to live every moment and hope there won't be too much that I regret about that moment. Of course there'll be things I regret but I want to minimize that.

Senior Reporter : Kang Myoung-Seok
Photographer : Lee Jin-hyuk
Editor : Jessica Kim, Lee Ji-Hye
<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>

What Do You Think?:


  1. He's such a terrific actor in every film or role he's in. He is also very intelligent and possesses great depth of character. As he said, he will be an actor for a very long time . . a truly successful one at that. More power to all your endeavors Won Bin!

  2. Would love to see Won Bin in more movies here in the us. LOVED "The Man From Nowhere" Awsome action, and emotion. I cried thru most of the movie.

  3. I just watched again 'The Man from Nowhere' in Sydney - they showed on TV for the 2nd time. I saw even more emotion from Won Bin and studied his character more closely. He's ready for big international films. He is one of the most handsome and talented actors I have ever watched. I agree with comments - "how can a human be so perfect?" Won Bin is that man! True perfection 100%!